howiwriteI am an aspiring writer. This is no secret.

Over the last few years, when I’ve really started dedicating myself to writing every day (and coincidentally started actually finishing major projects), I’ve discovered little rituals I have that help me “get in the spirit.”

I have to be listening to music, preferably from my iPod while wearing headphones. Ideally, it’s dreamy and slow pop or country. A handful of my favorites are:

  • “Just Like Honey” by The Jesus And Mary Chain
  • “Float On” and “The World At Large” by Modest Mouse
  • “Rainy Day” by 10,000 Maniacs
  • “Betty” by Tiffany (yes, that Tiffany)
  • “Space Age Love Song” by A Flock Of Seagulls

When I moved into my new apartment, I decided that I needed to have real desk space to be able to write, and I am still in the process of getting things where I want them to be. I’d like to have a beautiful poster or image to hang on the wall behind my desk to look at.

Very “Passionate Kisses”-aly (you know, “pens that won’t run out of ink and cool quiet and time to think…shouldn’t I have this? Shouldn’t I have this?), I have a plan to create a writing space for myself.

I was curious about How I Write: The Secret Lives Of Authors because I wanted to hear some of the little secrets other men and women use to help inspire them to write, which, we all know, can be a frustrating/rewarding/etc. proposition. Not the bigger things about “how” they actually perform the act, but the interesting “backstage” details”: what’s hanging on their wall? What do they need to look at when they can’t figure out how to end a sentence?

The good luck charms and photos and quotes may not really count for much outside of the writer’s mind, but I love the idea of balancing your real life with your fiction, and I enjoyed this glimpse into “the workshop” instead of just wondering from the finished project.

The testimonials collected in this book (lots, I’m too lazy to count) range from the delightful to the just “ehh.” Here are my favorites:

  • Louisa Young, “Calaca” – A little skeleton typing on a typewriter, bought in a tourist shop in Tijuana
  • Jane Smiley, Hot water – A shower, a bath, etc.
  • Adam Thirlwell, Laurence Sterne – The portrait of the author on a postcard. I like this idea because I’ve often thought of getting a picture of Charlotte Bronte for the same purpose.
  • Elif Shafak, A purple pen and Peter Hobbs, a red and blue notebook – My second-favorite sections of the book and the one to which I can most relate.
  • Jill Dawson, seahorses – This is the best section right here. She talks about how she met another mother while waiting for her son’s schoolbus, who happens to be world-famous seahorse researcher Dr. Hetaher Masonjones. She later meets another scientist named Heather, the senior curator at the London Zoo, who  shows her their seahorse exhibit and gives her two dried ones, many years later, still stuck to her wall with Blu-Tack.

It was a nice read, but adding to my “I’ve got to read this book now” list is really the best part (besides the cool ribbon you can use as a bookmark).

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