What happens to you when you write?

I’ll tell you what happens to me when I start to write a piece of long fiction (novel/novella/play) as long as you promise not to laugh (or at least, not to laugh where I can hear you).

The first thing is I start to dream as if I were the protagonist of the piece. That is a very strange feeling. I’m not dreaming about them, but as if I had their dreams in my sleep. It’s just begun to happen with a novel that I’ve been thinking about for over a year now.

The second thing is I stop wearing a watch. I don’t know why, but I do, and I don’t start wearing a watch again until the first draft is finished. Weird, yes? But it gets weirder.

The third thing is I develop an obsession completely unrelated to the subject matter I’m about to write. When I wrote about wolves my obsession was with Egyptian Dance. When I wrote about pornography it was with potager gardens. Now, as I prepare to write about autism, I have become obsessed with ….

… bento.

Yes, for some reason, my mind has fixated on Japanese packed lunches! I spend all my free time (okay, all my procrastination time) scouring the internet for recipes or looking at bento boxes on eBay (and the UK ones are all rubbish and overpriced so I can’t even bid for one) or staring at images of beautiful bento.

I don’t know why this happens. It’s a really strange and unsettling way for my mind to birfucate, but at least now I know what it means I can relax, knowing that there’s a novel about to be written.

Bento courtesy of taiyofj


  1. Nik's Blog
    22nd May 2008

    I wonder if it’s some sort of brain counter balance. I kind of empathise with this, but I think that my mind wanders in a far less specific way!

    I also don’t wear a watch when I’m writing, but I think that’s possibly got more to do with being more confortable typing with naked wrists.

  2. eliza
    22nd May 2008

    Heh. That’s unusual, but all things considered it kindof does make sense. I always pick up new hobbies over the course of my work. Lately, it’s sewing.

    When I’m writing, I picture bits and scenes in my head as if I were writing a high-budget film instead of a fantasy novel. I’m even choreographing what a ‘book commercial’ would look like.

  3. Sara
    22nd May 2008

    Curiously I also became rather obsessed with bento for a wee while recently. I found lots of beautiful bento boxes online, and read Japanese cookery books at work. I think they are rather fabulous. Sadly my novel remains unfinished though!

  4. Kip de Moll
    23rd May 2008

    Perhaps your 25th novel will be about an Egyptian dancer eating a bento lunch in a potager garden.

    It’s a good excercise the mind creates for itself to break from the focus of writing, allowing creative juices to boil in the sub-conscious, while the conscious finds a way to keep from stiring the pot. My only novel experience was an obsession with writing it, and so it sits for 30 years unread on a basement shelf. Hmmmm…I think I’ll start looking for tigers in the Vermont woods…

  5. Quillers
    24th May 2008

    For me it’s building houses on Sims 2. Building them and furnishing them. Then knocking them down and starting again. I can only wish that my brain opted for a more intellectual counter-pursuit.

    I too see scenes as films in my head, and sometimes my characters are played by famous actors. I wonder if that’s a result of our culture of film and television, and whether Jane Austen or Charles Dickens saw their stories differently, or whether they imagined their characters as actors on a stage.

  6. Louise
    24th May 2008

    I tend to make up excuses …
    like going to parties and behave like a 19-year-old just to get more into my character …

    I also create 3 hr long playlists in iTunes. That is my time keeper. I never look at the clock. When the music stop I stop.

  7. Anonymous
    25th May 2008

    I put on about half a stone per story. So guess what I do 🙂

    Mark Hubbard

  8. Kay Sexton
    27th May 2008

    Nik – you could be right (or write) the simplest answer is also the most elegant!

    Eliza – I wish I could sew …

    Sara – you and I are scarily alike! I got my boxes so I’ll be in to buy some recipe books.

    Kip – the only writing vow I’ve made is never to write a novel where the main character is a writer … I think I’d just get too bored writing about the ‘day job’. Go look for tigers!

    Quillers – good one, I like Sims, hadn’t thought of that as a procrastination technique.

    Lou – you write plenty, no need to worry about your productivity – the iTunes thing is a good idea!

    Mark – I think I might too, this time, with such a focus on beautiful food …


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