As a tremendously successful novelist (and beloved personality), I have a very specific routine for when I to write. I’ve often found a routine helps trigger the “artist’s mentality” in one’s brain. I’ve transcribed the lecture I normally give on this subject alone in my bedroom and offer you the text version here.
I begin my routine early, ‘round 5am. It’s the early bird that catches the massive book deal and multi-media royalties package plus international rights. After rubbing the sleep from my eyes I sit at my massive writing desk hewn as a single piece from a 150-year-old oak I fell myself. You see, this was the tree under which my (original) wife and I first met. This tree held a lot of sentimental value to me, which is why I killed it and now write on its dead hide. That wife and I are no longer married, but true to our first meeting under that mighty oak, I still keep her under the desk.
Once I’ve reached the desk, I sharpen every pencil I own to a point of .0056 mm (I measure this with a vernier caliper. You want to be a writer? You better get yourself a caliper!
I set everything on the desk, the calendar, my mug of tea, etc at a perfect 90 degree angle with a T-bevel (once again, you want to be a writer? Get one.) Then I write a couple of letters to the Black Entertainment Network regarding my daily report of what I found on their network to be “minstrely”. I take a sip of tea, now perfectly cooled, and look down at my legal pad. Then I begin yelling. I yell at the legal pad until the words of my next blockbuster novel appear on it.
After two or so hours of yelling, I look up to the “Hang in There Kitty!” poster I keep for inspiration above my desk. “Yes,” I tell myself, “you hang in their kitty.” I think the kitty represents the inner resolve within all of us and I believe “hangin’ in there” represents writing New York Times bestselling novels. Of course, your “hanging in their” may differ from mine. Perhaps your “hang in there” is more prosaic. Perhaps yours is building a rather good ham sandwich or resisting stalking your ex-girlfriend on facebook for an entire day. Whatever your “hang in there” may be, I think we can all learn a lot from this brave cat.
(I do realize there is a certain contradiction in choosing this hanging kitty as my mascot of endurance as the poster is very old and the cat on it is most certainly dead by now, having endured a cruel lifetime of hanging outside that photographer’s window – but don’t tell my inspiration that!)
When the legal pad resists conjuring the words, I shame it, chide it, and even use passive aggression on it (“it must be nice to be such a distinct color of yellow. If I’m not mistaken, that is the color of cowardice, yes?”) If the pad still resists, I give it the cold shoulder treatment. We don’t talk for a half hour or so. If I’m feeling particularly vindictive, I’ll stoke its jealousy by parading about with another, newer legal pad, gallivanting about my writer’s room and acting like I’m having the time of my life.
(Laughing as though the legal pad just told a hilarious joke)
“Oh new legal pad, you’re funny! You always know how to make me laugh. With you I feel so young!”
If all else fails, I finally pick up a pencil and get to writing. And by “writing” I mean I repeatedly stab the pad until it creates the words. After all, its paper–a substance over which man holds complete dominion. We made the paper by pulverizing trees with our claws and fangs, it should obey our commands. Are you gonna let some measly tree pulp tell you that you can’t be a writer? Than get out of the writing kitchen, because it’s too hot for you!
You see, life is all about seizing opportunity. For example what a boon it must have been for that “Hang in There Kitty!” photographer to awake one day to find the hope and motivation for an entire generation symbolically clutching for dear life just outside his bathroom window! This is what I am talking about with seizing opportunity. Some people in this situation might see a desperate animal, while those of us more attuned to seeing the breaks life throws us can practically smell the novelty calendar.
If words still fail to appear, I return to my muse: alcohol. I usually keep a fifth of spiced rum in my writing lair. Here’s a tip, I spice the rum myself by taking regular rum and adding whatever spices happen to dwell in my spice rack at the moment: sage, thyme, nutmeg, what have you. What, did you think I buy the “pre-spiced” rum? I’m an internationally beloved author, not a steel baron!
How much muse is enough muse? That’s particular to each individual writer, but as a rule of thumb I find once I start “losing time” the creative pump is adequately primed. What happens next is the magic of the craft. No writer can truly tell you what happens once they “get into the zone” but I can tell you I usually wake up in my underwear, shivering under my writer’s cot, my fists clutching glow wand and lottery tickets. When I stumble over to my writing desk I find a brand new, award winning chapter of my next book waiting. Resplendent in my success, I spend the rest of the day on the Internet spreading rumors about Maya Angelou running a human trafficking/sex slave operation.