The places where I get most of my ideas, where I’m most creative, are not very conducive to writing. The shower. In bed, in the middle of the night. (No notepad on the nightstand for me–my husband sleeps next to the nightstand so I can’t turn the alarm off in my sleep.) In staff meetings. During movies. Sitting in traffic. And so on. Just like probably everyone else, my ideas flow best when my brain is drifting most.
When it comes to actually getting ideas down on paper, (or the computer, really) writing works just like everything else for me: I have my own insanely organized, insanely-unorganized-looking system that no one else could possibly understand. Think separate, single-spaced paragraphs that function in place in of the index cards I used years ago. Then think cryptic notes with no key, some consisting of sentences or words, some only of single letters or numbers. Paras separated by dot dot dash lines mean something different than paras separated by dash dot dash lines. I write full of nervous energy, and so it’s probably no surprise that I haven’t got any fingernails, as I bite them down to the quick while I write, rewrite, consider, edit, make more notes.
In short, I suppose the way I write is weird, but I suspect it’s not any weirder than any other writer’s ritual. Nabokov’s notecards? John Cheever’s underwear? None of these examples seems particularly strange to me. I read somewhere that Nicholson Baker gets up before he’s fully awake, doesn’t turn on the light, just sits down at the computer and writes, to try to maintain the dreamlike state. I don’t know where I read that or if that’s really true, but I’d like to try it. Some of the best stuff I’ve written has happened when I’m dead tired and drifting in and out of sleep.
How do you write? What “weird” habits do you have? What little things have to be just right for you to be at your creative best?