Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What We Need to Write

Honestly YA is pleased to welcome the fabulous Amy DeLuca, a 2013 Golden Heart® finalist. Take it away, Amy!

We all need to write, or we wouldn’t be here. But what do you need to write? I’m not talking about theme or genre or the book of your heart. I’m talking about the actual “things” you need around you in order to perform the act of writing. If you’re anything like me, there are certain items you’ve just gotta have. Here’s my list:

Earplugs- I’m never alone. It’s kind of cozy, but it’s also kind of distracting. My husband is a nighttime news anchor, so all those things that most husbands do around the house in the evening, mine is doing in the morning and early afternoon. That sometimes includes watching sports highlights on TV, working out to loud guy-rock music, etc. As he leaves for work, my sons are getting home from school. I love my boys. They’re good kids. They are also loud. Cute, but loud. Someday I’ll have an office. With a door. <cue harp music and angel-song> For now, I have earplugs. They go in, the world goes away, and I can write. I like the squishy foam kind -- they even come in hot pink, for those who prioritize inner ear beauty.
Earplugs of choice

Comfortable seating- When I started my first manuscript, we owned one computer, a desk-top pc. The very attractive desk chair that matched our décor had been fine for bill-paying and web-surfing, but when it came to spending hours at a time writing… um, no. 
Chair of Pain

The Chair of Pain went to live in the dining room. I would have loved to spend hundreds of dollars on an attractive and ergonomic desk chair. But here’s what I could afford.
Ugly Comfort Chair

This one is similar but about 75 percent more attractive than the pink-and-blue-flower-patterned chair that I got on clearance at Staples because clearly no one else in the world would have it. That chair clashed mightily with my color scheme, but it saved my back a world of pain.
Then a laptop became my drug of choice, and I moved Ugly Comfort Chair to the basement and writing operations over to the sofa. I write every day in the same corner, next to the lamp table where I pile my notes (I can’t seem to keep them all in the computer. Apparently I need to scribble on scraps as well) with a pillow behind that crummy back of mine.
The only thing better than writing on the sofa with a pillow is adding a heating blanket during the cold months, which in Rhode Island in my old house, equals nine months a year. It’s amazing how much better it is to write with my warm little blanket buddy.

Proper writing attire- Which day did God create yoga pants? I’m not sure, but I’m thankful for them. They’re the perfect writing uniform, providing ultimate comfort while casting the illusion that I am a person who exercises. And should the urge to leave my cozy couch corner and perform exercise ever suddenly strike, I’m dressed for it.

Beverage of choice- I’m a tea-aholic. I drink it all day long (mostly de-caf or herbal), and I have a pantry full of tea varieties to prove it. If I’m writing, there’s a mug of tea next to me.
And finally…

A beat sheet- I started off a pantser, then read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and converted. If you want to check out his downloadable beat sheet, it’s here: http://www.blakesnyder.com/tools/
More recently, I read My Story Can Beat Up Your Story by screenwriter Jeffrey Alan Schechter. I print out his “Plot Not Plotz” form and fill in my scenes before starting a first draft, then keep it nearby to make sure my plot points stay on track as the story progresses. That form is available here: http://www.mscbuys.com/plot-not-plotz/

Now, I’m not permanently chained to the couch. I have also been known to write in cars, at playgrounds and swimming pools, but for me that’s more about getting down ideas than writing the manuscript. And the tea and the beat sheet go with me.

So, that’s my personal weirdness. What do you need to write? 

Amy is a former news anchor and currently works as a voiceover artist and corporate video host. Born in Mississippi, she now lives in Rhode Island, where she enjoys the beautiful beaches two months a year and the great "writing weather" for the rest of it. She finds it impossible to go to bed early, no matter what time she gets up.


Kimberly said...

I'm embarrassed to admit that what I need is pure chaos. When my house is quiet, I can't think of anything to write. When my kids are running around like little hellions, I can write. I'm not sure what that means about me....it's scary.
I do need to get myself a nice chair. I currently write at a kitchen table that usually is so sticky that I can barely pull my arms away. Maybe that's the key. I'm literally stuck to my writing space. :-)
Thanks so much for visiting with us at Honestly YA.
Can't wait to see you in Atlanta!

Amy said...

Thanks for having me here, Kim! I must try using food substances to glue myself to my writing area- I think you're onto something!! And I guess sometimes when there's so much noise and activity, it sort of cancels itself out and seems peaceful. Whatever works, right?

Gail Hart said...

Great post, Amy! I don't need anything in particular physically. I just need motivation. Once i get started, momentum takes over. I don't even need the earplugs because I'm good at tuning everything out but what I'm working on. My office at the day job is right next to the conference room, and the people further down the hall are always complaining about the noise, but I hardly ever notice it.

See you in Atlanta!


Holly Bodger said...

In an ideal world, I think I would prefer to be in yoga pants, sitting in my office with a cup of tea and my idea board in front of me. In reality, I usually write a) in bed with my son passed out next to me, b) while waiting for one of my kids to finish their swimming/dance/etc lessons, or c) during random spurts at work, in the car, at the gym...

Amy said...

Gail- I envy your ability to tune out the real world and get into your own- what a gift. Thanks for coming by-- See you in a few weeks!

Holly- That "ideal world" may never happen, so we have to make it work with what we've got, right? Sounds like you can work anywhere, anytime and be Supermommy as well!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I like how you differentiate between the 'comfy' & 'ugly comfy' writing chair. Haha.... That is so true. I really need to try those ear plugs.

Bonnie Staring said...

Ooh, that's a great toolkit you've assembled, Amy! For me, I can write anywhere as long as I have the right songs playing -- preferably anything from the 80s. ;) And I feel a little bit sorry for your ugly comfy chair. LOL

Amy said...

Hi SA! I'm just telling it like it is. And those earplugs might also fall into the ugly comfort category, but they do work.

Bonnie-- don't feel bad!! Ugly comfort chair actually enjoyed the mish-mash of the basement and then happily went on to live an exciting new life with another family (yard sale). I love 80's music, too, but I can't believe you can write to it. I would have to jump up and Strike a Pose!
Vogue, vogue, vogue.

Darcy said...

Ha ha! Oh, Amy, I think the ugly comfy chair is a Dr. Scholls incarnation :) But I'm so glad you're finding rituals/needs that work for your process.

One day I will write a post, Have Laptop Will Travel, because I find all sorts of little nooks to do my writing in. When I get stuck, sometimes I just have to change my view. I am ALWAYS beside a window. And I ALWAYS have at least one flower on my table. And lattes are my always and forever friends :)

Thanks for the reading suggestions!!!


Sharon Wray said...

One day I would love to have a comfy office, near my electric tea kettle, with a great writing chair, idea boards all around, and sound-proof walls.

What I have now is a kitchen table (covered with crumbs), a chair with a leather seat that comforts the bum yet kills the back, and a dog who has to lay right under my feet while I write. Or I write in the minivan during cross country/swim/soccer/theater/piano practices. (which happen almost every day).

I loved this post and laughed all the way through it!

Amy said...

Darcy- I like your laptop with a view method, and your fresh flowers make you sound like the Elegant Writer. I need to clean up those piles on my lamp table and make room for a couple of blooms!

Sharon- That is the ultimate dream, isn't it? The sound-proof walls especially. I even tore out a magazine spread that had the coolest office with an entire wall turned into a chalkboard with paint- wouldn't that be an awesome idea board? And you SuperMoms are making me look bad by managing to do all those games/meets/practices/recitals and STILL get your writing done. Good job! :)

Nan Dixon said...

Amy - so much of what you have--I have!
Tea - breakfast tea in AM, Earl Grey or more floral in PM
Lounge chair with footstool - I'm too short to write at a desk
Yoga pants - oh yeah!
Notes - although I keep a background file open on my laptop when drafting and revising
Office - one of the kid's old bedrooms which a son painted and helped me put together the furniture (Overstock!)as a Xmas present
But I like writing on the patio when MN weather permits, or down in my sitting room 'cuz the teapot is closer, or at night in front of the TV or in the car.
And I need highlighters when I revise -- which I'd better get cracking on!

Amy said...

Yes! English Breakfast Tea is my fave. Then I move on to Earl Grey and gear down to Chamomile, Lemon Zinger or Sleepytime as the day moves along. I LOVE your Christmas present. The bedroom option won't be open to me for another seven years or so, but I keep looking around the house for space I can wall off and call mine. I've never revised with highlighters, though I've read about the method. It really helps?

Sandra Owens said...


The mug of tea always next to me (I have a tea box with all flavors of green teas) and the scraps of paper with little notes on them we have in common. Also, the Sleeptime Extra is my last cup of the day, usually around 1:00 a.m.

I give you a lot of credit for being able to write with a houseful - husband, kids, dog. :-)

See you in Atlanta.

Amy said...

Hey Sandra! I'm probably not as prolific as I could be, but I sure don't want to rush these precious years with my boys. I'm really enjoying THE LETTER. Brilliant concept. About halfway through!

Kari Edgren Miller said...

I so get you on the chair/back thing. Just this past spring my lower back started hurting from all the hours spent slouched over my laptop, and I had to find other seating asap before my spine totally gave out. Other than that -- yoga pants, diet coke, and either cheez-its or popcorn make the perfect writing environment for me. I haven't tried the earplugs, but that seems a much better option than yelling at my husband and kids to be quiet so I can hear myself think :)

Denise said...

Amy, I feel the same thing. My life is never lonely and when I get the chance I close the door to write. It's hard but it eventually gets done.

India Powers said...

Hi Amy,

I need my laptop and my iPod. I've found I can write almost anywhere, as long as I don't know anyone (because otherwise I want to talk) and I can listen to music.

Here's my quirk. I always pick a song that fits the mood of the scene I'm working on, then I put it on repeat. It would drive 99.9% of people crazy. But the repetition helps the song to become moody background noise for me. I've tried creating a playlist, but as the songs change my attention gets caught up in the music and I find myself singing along instead. . .and not writing.

Great post! :)

Amy said...

Kari- yes, the earplugs do cut down on the yelling, but then you've got the "Eh, whadya say?" deafness issue when the family tries to talk to you THROUGH the earplugs. And now you've made me want popcorn. Something new to add to my list!

Denise- It's nice to have lots of company ... sometimes. And sometimes we need to shut that door. Thanks for stopping in and saying Hi!

India- I've never tried that repeat thing on the songs, but that might be the only way I could listen to music while writing. I'm too distractible, but I'll bet it does become background noise after enough repeats. Thanks for finding time to comment after all that work you did on your own blog today (which I loved)!

Unknown said...

I like your list, Amy! I'll have to add earplugs to my list as they just started construction of a new condo complex out side my writing window. I'm definitely going for the pink ones!

Amy said...

Hi Jacqui-- a fashion-conscious writer wouldn't be caught dead in gray earplugs. Thanks for the retweet tonight, girlfriend!

Unknown said...

A day late, me.

Love your illustrated list! I have those earplugs! But I prefer the flat cylinder kind, so I bought some at Amazon... not realizing I'd bought a box of, oh, 1000? Big box which now lives under my bed. Those are orange.

But I don't write with them on because my only real writing requirement is music. So I've got earbuds in my ears or the stereo on if I'm lucky enough to be at home. And tea, oh my yes, tea. In the morning, I have Vanilla Hazelnut Yogi tea with a splash of almond milk and a spoonful of honey. Or if I'm in a caffeine mood, I'll have Kukicha or Jasmine Green. Later in the day, I might switch to mint or lemon ginger. Or Tulsi Sweet Rose or Raspberry Peach. Or.... Um, yeah. Tea, I has it.

And the chair thing made me crack up. When I write in my home office, I sit at an expensive ergonomic desk chair I got when I was massively pregnant and suffering from major back pain. The salesman offered me the chair half off even though it wasn't supposed to be on sale. I think he was afraid I might go into labor otherwise! I love that chair. It's like my war trophy.

Amy said...

You EARNED that chair, Talia- enjoy the spoils of battle. And your tea collection has me feeling a little pedestrian. I need to get a little more exotic, I think. Nice to hear from another tea-and-earplug addict.:)
Thanks for coming by and commenting!