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Things I need, and things I do not need.

Updated on September 13, 2010

Coffee can be your friend

Iced caramel macchiato
Iced caramel macchiato

It's okay to make yourself comfortable


It used to be that to write I needed to be in the comfy chair, that was purchased at an Icelandic furniture megastore, in the bay window of my bedroom, where I had a good view of the street and could see my neighbours pottering about in their gardens or taking their dogs for walks. If I so wished I could look the other way, and see my bedroom, tidy, homely, full of books and little nicknacks and bits and bobs, my signed photograph of Christopher Paolini, and other things to give me a little jab of inspiration when I'm in danger of going off on a long day dream.

That place no longer does the job. It now has a huge flat screen telly right in my line of sight, and it has piles of clothes forever waiting to be put away. It has become a place that is too easily distracting. There is a fine line between finding that place that helps you to write because it is beautiful and just gives you that feeling of I-CAN-DO-ANYTHING, and that place that has too much to look at and play with and in the end ensures that you achieve nothing.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't turn my search for writing places into procrastination, I just keep an eye out for them when I'm out doing other, non-writing things. I have been quite a softy in the past, believing that a supply of tea, coffee, hot chocolate with squirty cream (why do they call it whipped cream, when we can see them squirting it from the canister; we know they haven't whipped it! Cheeky buggers!) and marshmallows, and a selection of pastries and panini. Also, free use of a toilet appealed to me. But frequenting coffee shops, for the sole sake of avoiding my own house, was becoming expensive because the cost of parking also had to be factored in.

Last week I parked in a free place - it took some finding - bought my iced latte and sat in the car. It was a warm day, the sunlight was streaming through the windscreen and I was contained in a big bubble of motivation. Much purposeful thinking was done, and good writing took place.

Today I have gone one step further. I am parked in a free place, yes. But I have also brought a flask of tea. And a blanket. It is cold today. It is a shame that I can't write with gloves on, because as the nights draw in this place of writing might become a place of frostbite. Maybe I can try fingerless - gloves I mean, not hands. But for now, until I need to find a new place, this is excellent. I am looking out over Morecambe Bay, which, even now when I can only see about half a mile out into the thick whitish-grey rain cloud, is lovely. The only snag is that I am parked opposite a very nice music shop that sometimes tempts me in to buy sheet music for a piano that I never find time to play.

Anyway, the crux of what I am saying here is that it is rather important, to me, and to some people, to find the right place to write. Lots of very clever people can sit down anywhere (or even just stand) and write masterpieces in minutes. Lucky people. Others of us have a bit of a problem with ants in the pants if we stay in one place for too long. If I start to get bored I find it difficult to concentrate. How about you? I surely cannot be the only one.


Similarly, I need to have the right things with me. I need to have a selection of black biros. I don't have a preference. I just have to see which one I am in the mood for each day. Having the wrong biro can make me angry, and anger is counter-productive. (Usually I cannot write when I am angry, because my heart rate is too fast and my hand shakes. Some people can only write when they're in some kind of heightened state of being. Not me, I have to be calm.)

I also need to have lovely paper to write on. I do most of my writing long hand, then transfer it to electronic format. I am writing this with a slightly blobby Papermate, on a cheap pack of recycled, slightly grey, wide lined paper from my local supermarket. This is my favourite paper at the moment - I'm sure it sounds like horrible paper, but my pen actually glides over it beautifully.

These are the only things I need to have within reach. I used to have more things with me, such as 'How to Write ...' books, and snacks, and whichever book I was reading at the time. But it soon became clear that these things were distractions, procrastination tools sent by the devil! I would spend most of my free writing time reading about how to write, but never actually getting around to trying the ideas out. Then I would get bored, and a bit tired, so I would give up too quickly and read for the remainder of my time, placating my conscience by promising to write for two solid hours the next day.  That promise invariably turned out to be a lie.  Shame on me.

So, if I'm honest with myself, things are not very important when it comes to writing. All that is really required is something to write on. By all means, surround yourself with inspiring stuff if you want to - but in the end, it's not things that help you write: it's just your imagination that you need to have with you.


At the moment, I am on a diet because I have to fit into a bikini at my brother's Barbadian wedding in a few short weeks. I am eating as little as possible.

This is not advisable when you are trying to write a novel (or any piece of writing, of course). Food that boosts brain productivity is essential. But snacking on food that's high in glucose for this reason - cakes, biscuits, sweets - is not the way to go. Let's face it, you'll just get fat and spotty that way.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm a nutrition expert. But use some common sense with this one - the old adage, a healthy body equals a healthy mind, is a good one to go with. Three good meals a day is probably right for everyone, as far as I know (I could be wrong about that - probably am, so don't take any of my completely made up advice!!!). Snacks of fruit or fibre-filled edibles are good if you are so hungry between meals that you get lightheaded.

Coffee can be your friend, but use it wisely. Too much of anything and you're looking at an addiction. With coffee I guess it is okay though - there are worse things to be addicted to. Personally, I can't write after drinking coffee, because my story is drowned out by the sound of my heart crashing against my sternum and threatening to break out of my chest, and also of my blood thundering in my ears. But I have found that iced coffee agrees with me most pleasantly. Iced coffee does not have any of those strange and strong physiological effects on my cardiovascular system; iced coffee just makes my mouth lift ever so slightly at the corners. That's fine.


The downside to writing outside of a coffee shop is that there are no WCs. I am now in desperate need of a toilet break, after having drunk half a flask of Earl Grey, and I have nowhere to go. Bear this in mind. That's all I'm saying.

Nice pens

Paper Mate FlexGrip Ultra Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Medium Point, Black, Box of 12
Paper Mate FlexGrip Ultra Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Medium Point, Black, Box of 12
Super pens - these are my favourites, and I have one in every room of the house just incase I need to write something.

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