Getting in the Mood… (for Writing)

So I’ve been having trouble finding the right time/place/mindset in order to write, and I thought I’d bring my thoughts about my troubles here so we can talk about it. I’ll preface my post with a question, which I hope will send you guys to the comments to answer:

How do you start writing, at what time of day, where, in what mindset?

I guess my post is really going to be my attempt to answer that question. I feel like writing happens one of two ways for me: either I’ll have an idea somewhere and I’ll break out a notebook or make a note on my phone, or I’ll know I need to write so I’ll make sure I have time and a clean desk (and schedule) in order to sit down and figure things out. Both methods aren’t exactly easy, as the former relies on getting an idea from thin air (or thinking about something in the back of my mind for a while), and the latter relies on good time management (and there’s always more work to be done, especially if you’re no good at time management).

I think overall I’ve had my best writing sessions either late at night when nobody is around and I’m getting to that 3am free thought tired place, or early in the morning when my suite is still asleep, there’s still much time in the day, and I’ve had a nice shower and a cup of coffee–something like a negative capability, where I can be free from stress and open to what I might write. What about y’all?

5 Replies to “Getting in the Mood… (for Writing)”

  1. Evan,
    It seems from your reasoning it out within the post that above all, you need to have your own carved out space away from everyone else in order to write; I don’t think you differ from anyone else in this, because you can only concentrate so much when you’re surrounded by loud people in the library, or wherever you usually go to write.
    I think an important contribution to make also is that it’s especially hard to write as a student. The struggle I’ve faced this semester with writing is that I wear many hats, among them a second semester senior hat, a women’s studies hat, a varsity athlete hat, etc. Unfortunately for me, the English major part of me is losing presence in my academic life, so it’s become a little harder to kick in to poetry gear. It’s hard enough to sit down and write a poem, but I think half the battle is carving out a mental space to write a poem amidst all of the other stuff we’re dealing with on a daily basis.
    Personally, the way I’ve been successful writing poems this semester is reimagining things I’ve already done. I’ve looked at a lot of my poems and thought to myself, “There’s something in here that I haven’t finished yet” or “I definitely have more to say about this topic.” The last poem I wrote for my workshop (the prose piece) was something I reimagined from a poem I’d already done with the same title, “While You Were Excused.” However, I had changed as a poet since I wrote the first “While You Were Excused;” whereas the first one was more of the speaker feeling bad for the person who had disappeared from the table, thinking how nervous they must be about things like their appearance, their ability to socialize, etc., this most recent draft was a bit more confident and independent. There are probably even more things I could say about that subject of being left at a table, but hey, I still have more poems to write!
    Good luck,

  2. Hi Evan,
    I’ve been meaning to ask around and find out how other people manage to pull poems from their brains. So many of my friends think it’s such a weird thing; my roommate who is an IR major is always asking me how I write poems. She just doesn’t understand it! I honestly think everyone is capable of expressing themselves in their own way, and writing is simply how I do it.
    Inspiration comes a lot of different ways for me. Sometimes I’ll be doing homework, or driving, or any other activity as part of my routine and all of sudden I’ll have a thought and think “hey, I need to write this down.” Sometimes that doesn’t happen though. I find that if I’m stuck but I really want to write something I’ll start talking out loud (usually when my roommate isn’t home:) ) or I’ll mouth things that I think I could turn into a line. Eventually I just keep talking, and while saying it out loud I also record what I am saying. I’ll say it different ways for a number of times until I think I’ve got it right. This seems like a weird way to start a poem, but it actually really helps.
    As for setting regarding my writing I like to be alone, preferably somewhere quiet, so I can collect my thoughts without distraction. I tend to put on singer/songwriter music because it’s soothing and also helps to inspire me. I generally write at nighttime although there are days when I’m in class or walking back to my dorm and will jot down lines in margins or on my phone.
    I really loved responding to this post; I feel like sometimes I need to be reminded of what a wonderful thing writing is.


  3. I usually write between 1am to 4am. I usually write with music playing. I can’t have the music playing through ear buds because it’s too distracting. I usually have The Smiths’s, “Heaven knows I’m Miserable Now” playing in a constant and drowning loop. I usually lay on my bed with my head facing the window. I wear a white undershirt, pajama pants, and one sock. A sock on my left foot, or a sock on my right foot depends on the kind of day that I was having. This is basically how I do it. Every poet has a different way of writing poetry, or getting in the mood to write poetry. Maybe ee cummings wrote poetry while jogging. Maybe Maya Angelou wrote poetry while flying a kite. It all depends on the poet and you just have to figure out what is the mindset that you need to be in to make you write. I would suggest writing poetry while only wearing one sock.

  4. So I’m looking through these comments and Diego, you need to make that into a poem. I can so see the first six sentences of your comment being a poem if you expanded upon them! Random, I know, but I just had to tell you that!

  5. Diego,
    Your methodology is so interesting! I love how specific it is–particularly the sock thing. I’m with Ashley on the “make this a poem” thing.

    As to my own methodology, I find that it varies widely depending upon my mood. More often than not, though, it comes down to sound: I need some steady background noise. Crickets & Starbucks are often good spots for me, as they have a nice variety of sounds: people talking, plates clattering, chairs grumbling across floors. The smell also helps me for some reason. I need to be comfortable (warm, full, sitting somewhere nice) when I write, or else I’ll be completely distracted. If coffee shop sounds are too much for me, I’ll hole myself up in my room & put earbuds in to play RainyMood. It’s interesting; thinking on it now, the poems I write when I’m in public are so different from the poems I write when I’m alone. I often can’t write poetry late at night, either. I’m a morning person, and writing poems is such a mental exercise. I need to be fresh, so I often have it be the first homework I plan for that day.

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