To compare the act of writing to doing battle might seem hyperbolic, but I do think the difference is one of degree, not kind. It’s amazing, the widely varying and sometimes adverse conditions folks write under–mothers fit it in during nap-time, others dictate in the car, longhanders still do exist, and I even know one fellow who can’t do without the clackety-clack of an ancient, manual typewriter. My own novel was composed in at least a dozen separate locations.
Yet we authors can be our own worst enemies. A little planning is worth a lot of execution. There are a few items–physical gear, and otherwise–I would deem essential for every writer (besides some raw talent, or as the author of Beowulf put it, a well-stocked “word-hoard,”) that will aid in deflecting the incoming flak. It’s instructive to reflect on how similar the support needs of writers and soldiers often are.
A warm, soft pair of socks–no holes. There’s a reason someone once equated nervousness with “cold feet.” Currently, my personal favorites are a pair of thick wool Carhartts–but then again, I live in upstate New York.
Chair. Not too comfy, but with good back support. Arms help, but a recliner will put you to sleep (the writer’s curse is to sleep always at the wrong time).
Cold water is best, but a continuous source of hot drinks works. Choices? As Giles on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer once stated a request for coffee, “No, tea is soothing. I wish to be tense.” (and if you notice a motif of “heat,” in this list, it probably has to do with poor circulation from all that sitting. Remember, the blood must be kept flowing to the HEAD.)
A selection of light reading–NOT your own, or even similar–by the bedside, to help battle insomnia, and get rested.
As Virginia Woolf said, a room of one’s own is essential. But sometimes they beat on the door. Two or three alternate places to write–hopefully at least one outdoors–and a laptop computer or stack of yellow legal pads, for portability. As with your body, keep your temperament flexible.
Small notebook or e-device for jotting down inspirational ideas that strike you while stuck on the march.
Not everyone gets writer’s block (symptoms can include tiredness, cabin fever, headache, anxiety) and there’s certainly no cure-all. For me, a good walking trail or other means of stimulating, physical exercise does wonders, even if you can only manage twice weekly.
Dictionary–online, paperbound, whatever–if you think you don’t need one, you’ve outsmarted yourself. Or you’re a writer who doesn’t do much writing.
A work ethic–even 1/2 hour per day, every day, will get the job done eventually, and planned days off are a good practice. Otherwise, hit those keys on a strict, regular schedule you can really keep.
Procrastination and distraction are greater enemies than lack of time in the first place. So, as damned hard as it might be, at first, notice the “off” switch on your wi-fi, cell phone, TV. USE THEM.
A sense of humor, patience, and perspective. Somehow, you already came to the decision to write, to nurture your own soul, rather than swell someone’s purse (your own or someone else’s)–and if you’ve actually begun writing, you’ve overcome the two most fearsome obstacles. That poem, story, article, or novel may never see wide circulation, or even publication—but cherish the experience, the doing—because you really are enjoying a privilege. Here I shift the metaphor I began with, because writers don’t destroy, after all; they maintain our culture, and they create it. And as Robert Pirsig so insightfully phrased it, “The motorcycle you’re working on is yourself.”