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Hey! Who Took My Apples?

July 12, 2010

Something I’ve heard a lot of writers talk about is the need for particular conditions to inspire them to write. I myself once proclaimed that I had to be depressed to write anything at all (this is when I was maybe 14, and desperately trying to be Sylvia Plath).  I’ve imposed other ridiculous limitations on myself, all of which have been disproven, such as “Oh, I can only write at night” (funny how the sun is shining, this must be a strange new variety of night), and “I need to be able to smoke cigarettes to think clearly and write well.” (Ok, so I’m still working on that one.)

I understand that some writers cling to rituals that help them gather their thoughts and get ready to work. Desk-cleaning is a pretty common habit, and one I kind of wish I had. I’m much more likely to stack books until the pile sways and topples, and I place dirty coffee cups under my desk (ahhh, out of sight, out of mind). I’ve read that the poet Schiller needed to fill his desk with rotting apples in order to write, but that might just be a rumor. I can’t find a trace of evidence for it on Wikipedia, and as we all know, if it’s not on Wikipedia it probably isn’t real (wait…there’s no Wikipedia article about me. Uh oh…).

Ok, now that I’ve recovered from a brief moment of existential angst, back to the subject at hand. I think that it’s fine for a writer to have a customary work schedule that begins with an activity like clearing clutter off her desk or making a cup of coffee. There are rituals that help one to focus and get ready for the day ahead,  and then there are excuses and superstitions. Although writing is a creative endeavor, it’s also just a job. What if a schoolteacher decided that her desk must be full of rotten apples in order for her teach? What if a nurse refused to work one day because his first patient was wearing a green shirt? What if every other schmo in the world got up in the morning and said, “Oh, I’m in a really good mood today. I can’t work when I’m happy, I better stay at home.”

My point is, that choosing not to write because one is too happy, or too sad, or too tired, or whatever it may be, is a choice. It has nothing to do with the external factors, and blaming one’s inability to write on the heat (yeah, I never do that) or the lack of fermented-apple-smell wafting upwards from one’s desk drawers isn’t  a valid excuse (I wonder if Schiller had a maid? Did she ever try to empty his desk? “I KNOW they’re rotten, I LIKE them that way!”).  It’s my prerogative if I make the choice not to write, but I really shouldn’t blame it on the weather or my mood. I have a  responsibility to keep on keeping on in spite of all those things, or at least to try, or I can’t really call myself a writer. Whoever heard of a writer who doesn’t write?

Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule. There always are. I think that “I can’t write because I am on fire,” is an excellent excuse to take the day off. “I can’t write because I have been abducted by aliens,” on the other hand, is iffy. Seriously? There’s no word processor on the mothership?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2010 10:14 pm

    I love reading your blog! LOL I can’t write I’m too busy laughing!

  2. claire2 permalink
    October 15, 2010 5:18 pm

    Hilarious! And so true…
    My latest one: I’m too wound up…I’m sticking with it. It sounds more plausible than the previous ones!

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