Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Giving the Muse a Jolt

I'm a little bit behind on my stack of brand new shiny books, because I'm currently working on David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, which is as excellent as it is dense. And I'll admit, I'm savoring it, even if it means that the new Chip Kidd book will have to wait until next week for a review.

As I was having trouble thinking of something to blog about in lieu of review, I was reminded of a question someone asked me at the library the other day. The patron had heard there was a writer who, when struggling for the right word or turn of phrase, opened his desk drawer and took a whiff of the rotten apples he kept there for just that purpose. Something about the aroma gave him just the right jolt.

Turns out, this was the German poet and playwright Freidrich von Schiller. During last summer's Zombie Summer Reading Program, I learned that pulp crime writer Edgar Wallace couldn't write without gallons of hot tea with cream and sugar and about 80 cigarettes.

An interesting article by Diane Ackerman, published in the New York Times in 1989 details some other peculiar habits of writers.

D.H. Lawrence indulged in naked tree climbing, while Colette picked fleas off of her cat before sitting down to write. Another cat lover, Poe, is alleged to have written with his cat perched on his shoulder. Truman Capote described himself as "a completely horizontal writer," Virginia Woolf wrote standing up, and Benjamin Franklin wrote in the bathtub.

When you have to write, and nothing comes out, do you have any tricks you use to get yourself going?

6 comments:

Larry said...

I just look at the clock. Daily deadlines are a wonderful cure for writer's block.

mary_m said...

I usually work pretty well with a deadline, too. But when it's something I'm working on for myself, I find that writing longhand is pretty effective.

For some reason, I don't mind sucking on paper, but can't bear to suck on a computer screen.

Larry said...

I couldn't work with paper and pen anymore... or even a typewriter. For me, a computer is the only way to polish what I've got.

smashing blouse said...

I just found your blog today. I can't wait to waste time at work reading it.

Another topid to ponder: How to do you read? Standing up, laying down, on the john? lol.

mary_m said...

I'm glad I can contribute to your on the job delinquency!

As for how I read, my preference is to be reclining. Also, I am told that I get a very intense look on my face that is unintentionally hilarious.

Audrey said...

Vodka.