Writing, do you do it standing up, sitting down, in bed, or in the loo? It’s up to you.

 On the heels of a Freshly Pressed post about writing in cafes, The Guardian (a UK paper) recently ran an article on the Advantages of Writing in Bed.

In a recent interview promote her new book, Untold Story, about the alternative life of Princess Diana, Monica Ali revealed that she preferred to write in bed. This isn’t really so strange, in fact, it puts her in some interesting company: Edith Wharton, Winston Churchill, Colette, and Mark Twain all wrote in bed. Not to mention many composers such as Rossini and Handel to name but a couple.

George Orwell in a haze of cigarette smoke, knocked out a draft of 1984 between the sheets. Though one suspects pounding on a typewriter  was a good deal more difficult than using a laptopMarcel Proust, famously, always wrote in bed. He even went so far as to line his walls with cork to act as sound proofing.

If you read the article, you’ll be treated to all manner of psychological reasons why one might right in bed, such as you prefer writing early in the morning to be in touch with your subconscious.  But truthfully, most bed writers do so because they are bed bound (ie, too physically sick or depressed to get out of bed, too hung over from the night before), or have lives so filled with chaos makers, that they find it’s the only place people will them  you alone  (because they think your sick or sleeping).

Writing is always a crime of opportunity.  Repeat that to yourself multiple times. “Writing is always a crime of opportunity. Writing is always a crime of opportunity. Writing is always a crime of opportunity.” Sometimes the crime you have to commit is creating your opportunity, by locking yourself in your bedroom and pretending to be asleep!

Mozart and Schumman both composed bouncing along in a horse-drawn carriage. If you think that was easy, just try it.  But when you’re traveling, you don’t have a lot to do and few people to distract you.

Churchill, who wrote in bed, also wrote standing up. So did Hemingway. Sometimes ideas won’t wait. Writers know this, so the smart ones stand there and write it down.  Deep thinkers also share this trait. Aristotle used to stop in the street when he had a thought and just stand there, thinking, sometimes for days, till he was finished (or his wife came looking for him).

Writing is something you do when you can do it, because you need to do it. It’s important to you. If something stops you, you probably aren’t really ready to write. If you were, you’d find a way to do it.

Many people commented on the idea of writing in cafes last week. The dialog was mostly “I can write in cafes” vs “I can’t write in cafes.” It was the sort of dialog people who don’t write for a living have. If you depend on writing to live, you crank it out. A lot of people who want to write don’t really understand what it is to be so poor, so cold, and living in such dire circumstances that a cafe is a like a godsend.

Someone that does?  JK Rowling. Yes, she of the Harry Potter fame. Too poor to pay for heating in her flat, she took her child, in a stroller, to a cafe where they could keep warm. For the price of a cup of tea she could nurse for a number hours, she could claim free use of a table to write, while being a good parent to her child. That was a person that wanted to write. That is a writer.

So, alone, or in groups, in bed, at the cafe, standing, or riding along in a bouncy carriage, while giving birth, in between burying your parents, sitting a soccer game, after your day jobs end . . . . if you really want to write, you’ll seize the opportunity and  find a way to get your words on the page. If you don’t, you’ll just post comments about how hard it is to block out the distractions that surround you.

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Published in: on May 11, 2011 at 8:08 AM  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I will write anywhere! I prefer cafes or a place where I can sit without being bothered, but sometimes an idea just won’t wait. Just recently, I installed a memo app on my phone and it is my new favorite thing. I’ll be standing in line at the grocery store and writing at the same time on my phone. Ideas are fleeting and they will escape if you don’t seize the opportunity to catch the – wherever you happen to be! 🙂

  2. Writing in bed is something I do, but never intentionally. It’s usually done on my iPhone and tends to be late at night when an idea sparks in my mind and demands attention. I’ve many times found myself knocking out 1000 words in the wee small hours completely unexpectedly. I also write on my phone as I’m walking along, which can be very productive. This is opposed to breaking my nose on a lamp post, which is not.

    Great blog by the way!!

  3. It’s just amazing what people can do on an iPhone these days! Kudos to your writing fortitude! And creating that opportunity for your words to flow free.

  4. The Memo App? Awesome idea! We FAB folks still live in the pre-iPhone world. We phone ourselves and leave ideas on voicemail. It sounds bad, but on the plus side, really cheap cell plan!


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