The three things I need in order to write

During #writechat yesterday, there was a lot of discussion about how to get into the zone. Items, conditions, tools, equipment, states of mind - lots of things were mentioned. Here are my top three.

1. COFFEE It's not just that I'm a caffeine addict. It's that a cup of coffee has a talismanic power. It says, "I will be here, in this spot, for at least as long as it takes me to drink this scaling hot coffee." The ABC method of writing (Apply Butt to Chair) demands this; to make ABC work, I demand coffee.

2. QUIET Oh, how many times have I read people's Top 10 playlists for writing. I've seen the endless debates about what is best to drown out the outside world: jazz, classical, easy listening, oldies that you know by heart, talk radio, a TV with the sound off, a TV turned to the weather channel, etc. My favorite music to write to? Silence. I've tried all kinds of sounds, but find them all too distracting. Unfortunately, silence is sometimes hard to come by. Earplugs were suggested yesterday; I've got some OSHA-quality ear protectors in my shop. I'll have to try them.

3. A DEADLINE Yes, I envy the self-motivated writer who turns out 2K a day, with no external pressures driving them. No, that's not me. When I'm writing to a deadline, the words come as they should. The weekly deadline of FridayFlash, the daily wordcounts of NaNoWriMo, the submission dates for contests or committments - these are easy to work within. The nebulous "I'll get it done someday" stuff? That turns into "never". How many times I've thrown my hat over the wall in order to set up an externality for myself! I know I need to be stronger about being internally motivated, about setting firm deadlines for myself - e.g. novel revisions finished by April 30 - but I'm not. Rather, I haven't been up to this point; I've got a few notions about how to change that.

Those are my three writing essentials. And you? What are you three essentials?


  1. I need quiet, too, but in the absence of that (which is nearly constant), I use white noise or ambient music. I can't listen to music with lyrics... too distracting. And if I do use music, it has to be an appropriate soundtrack to whatever I'm writing. Have you ever listened to They're on iTunes radio or you can stream them. Aside from silence or white noise, I like them best.

    Deadlines help, too, but I'm getting better about that.

    Coffee? Hmmm, not really. I prefer a diet coke, but have been steering away from that, too.

    Great post. Thanks, Tony! ~ Olivia

  2. When I can't get coffee, I'm more of a Coke Zero or Diet Dr. Pepper fan.

  3. 1. Coffee or tea. (self-explanatory)

    2. Music (yes with lyrics. The lyrics help push the words and often come through exactly when I need them.)

    That's it, besides the necessary iPod and computer. Those are tools of the trade.

  4. I write best during my lunch break at work, in an unused, windowless office with the door closed and the lights off. Just the light from the computer screen, the ticking egg timer, and the groaning creak of my imaginary mind.

    Love the ABC writing method. LOL.


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