When you work at home, you often adopt little tricks to get yourself into business-mode. Some people make a cup of coffee. Some put on the same kind of clothes they would have worn had they commuted to an office or job site. Me? I gave up coffee in college and have only recently started drinking a cup or two each week. And the concept of “work clothes” is practically foreign to me; I much prefer to don a pair of sweats and a T-shirt and/or sweater (depending upon the season). If I’m comfortable, I’m able to focus all of my attention on work rather than my attire.
Each night, I walk into my office and I’m ready for bear. The very practice of crossing the threshold, sitting down at my desk and opening my work laptop puts me in the right frame of mind to get down to business. This is where I remain from 9 p.m. until at least 7 a.m., staring at numerous screens with only brief breaks to stretch or grab some tea.
Writing fiction is a completely different practice. I’ve tried to do it in my office, but the atmosphere is tainted by the truth. Within those four walls, I’m bound to stick to the facts. I research world events. I accurately quote. I edit with care. These journalistic practices have become more than muscle memory. If you look at my blood under a microscope, I’m pretty sure you’ll find the First Amendment written somewhere in my DNA code.
To make things up, to devise new worlds, well, that takes a perceptual detour. And so it is that when I want to write fiction, I pack up my laptop and leave the darkened warren that is my home office. Sometimes I head to a coffeehouse or diner, but more often than not, I get in my car and drive 20 miles to my favorite library.
The ride itself is an important transitional period. Using a constantly rotating playlist of tunes, I try to clear my mind — and ease my soul — of the burdens involved with writing about death and destruction every single day. I sing loudly to certain songs or sit quietly during instrumental pieces. Then I cast off my mind into the waters of fantasy.
What is my heroine doing right now? Is she in peril? In mourning? Inspired? What about my hero? Does he want a smoke, a ride or a new challenge? Can I make my villain more villainous? Is there a way to add texture to that scene? How can I boost the story’s tension? And will my muse guide me to the next part of the story or will she stifle my desire to commune with these characters?
Once I arrive at the library, I do a quick tour of the shelves. Part of me is genuinely interested in what’s there. Light knows writers need constant inspiration. The other part of me realizes I’m doing this to delay the inevitable. I want to write. I want to create. But if I start — and suck — then what am I? It’s only after I mentally chastise myself for procrastinating that I head to the periodical section.
The walls there are painted milk chocolate and covered from floor to ceiling with bookshelves containing plastic-covered magazines. On one wall are four large windows, letting in just enough light to illuminate the reading material for the daywalkers who sit in the comfy chairs nearby. In the middle of the room are two green and brown tables surrounded by four chairs each. I prefer to take the table near the back, the one that bears a brass lamp and a sign noting “This area is reserved for quiet use.” It is at that table that I open my laptop and dutifully pay my fare to Charon for a return ride to the land of make believe.
(Note: This post was inspired by a writing prompt on Terrible Minds.)