Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Some can only write in a vacuum. No one around. A boastful silence that is still and clear and absolute. Some writers leave their wives and children, rent a canoe and paddle out to a secret island to write in a cabin in the woods. No telephones, editors or squirrelly onlookers.

Ray Bradbury famously wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of a library in Venice Beach because his children would come to knock on the windows of the family garage and honestly, what father would be able to resist chasing his children around instead of starring at the typewriter? The typewriters in the Library rented for a nickel a half hour, which encouraged Mr. Bradbury to get down to work. Silence, seclusion and the tick, tick, tick of the timer.

Other writers work best while in the midst of some bustling coffee house, tapping laptop keys or draining pens, keeping pace with conversations and cups of coffee.

Chuck Palahniuk wrote Fight Club one line at a time, whenever any spare moment arose while at work. He turned out pages while in the same corporate unthink tank sessions that Ed Nortonís character sits through in the film version.

George Lucus claims to have written the screenplays for the Star Wars films while listening to classical music. Iíd believe him better if he said Opera. Episode Iís plot comes across as some bastard operatic offspring, the Phantom of the Opera having its way with Carmen.

I write best when slightly distracted. Music in the other room usually does the trick, something mellow or poppy or energetic. But not too energetic. Skinny Puppy or System of a Down are a little too forceful as background music. Stephin Merritt, however works well. I can turn out a solid couple of pages while listening to 69 Love Songs.

Too much distraction however is not very conducive to writing. At least for me, which is why I get very little writing done at work, even though I have ample time. I manage a snack bar and pro shop at a friendís gym. Shelly teaches gymnastics to little kids so thereís always screaming children, gossipy parents and squeaky gym equipment rattling around me. But it leaves me plenty of time to catch up on my reading, which as any decent writer will tell you is just as important as the art of putting one word after another.


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