I believe I am a strange writer for I work at my kitchen table surrounded by sensory catalysts.
Seated in the center of my kitchen, my eyes catch the enticing red of apples, the bright yellow of bananas, the rich green of broccoli and deep purple of cabbage. My nose is tickled by the minestrone soup simmering on the stove. Chai cools in a tea cup while my fingers enjoy the feel of the keys on my computer.
I’ve tried other locations, a coffee shop, the library, a quiet corner of the house. My husband even bought a perfect writer’s table which he placed by a window with a lovely view. Nothing worked. The words in my head seem to dry up unless I am in my kitchen.
So I always end up at my favorite worn table, encircled by food, where I type out the ideas that have been percolating in my mind.
I’ve heard the general wisdom that writers should find a quiet place, set up an office and then free of distractions, allow the ideas to spill forth. Somehow, that doesn’t quite work for me.
I find that my ideas come at the oddest moments, sometimes while I’m seasoning a pasta salad, sometimes in the middle of cutting up a fruit salad, and very often, as I am eating. Something about titillating my taste buds awakens my brain. My concepts get nudged along by smells and tastes. And that’s the ideas part. What about translating those notions into words?
For me, it’s imperative to have easy access to my computer; it allows the ideas to grow into words on the screen before the thought disappears. The thoughts begin as nebulous notions, but the sensory stimulation in the kitchen allows the abstractions to find form, depth and dimension.
So, yes, I am a strange writer. I’ve often wondered why I’m not as disciplined as I believe other writers are, why I work so differently. Thus, I embarked on some research.
Lo and behold, I find some famous writers who have used quirky writing places.
Wallace Stevens apparently could not sit down, and wrote his poetry on slips of paper while walking. His secretary would later type them up.
Here’s another strange source of stimulation. Friedrich Schiller had a bizarre preference; he found the smell of rotten apples from a drawer in his desk inspiring.
The renowned bestselling author Dan Brown believes hanging upside down is the cure for writer’s block. According to Brown, when he does inversion therapy, it helps him relax and concentrate on his writing.
Victor Hugo wrote without clothes. Faced with a tight schedule for his novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he instructed his valet to take away all his clothes so he wouldn’t be able to leave the house. Even on the coldest days, Hugo only wrapped himself in a blanket while writing the story.
Gertrude Stein found that the driver’s seat of her Model T Ford was a perfect place to write. She found shopping expeditions particularly productive. While her partner, Alice B. Toklas, ran errands, Stein would stay in their parked car and write.
Of course, I am not in the same league as these famous authors. But they offer me both courage and confidence. They tell me it is okay to write where and how I feel comfortable, in a location where my ideas find the best incubation, where my thoughts become words and take the shape and form of a story.
They tell me I am not strange for wanting to write in a kitchen filled with sensory stimulation.