Kathleen O’Brien writes for Harlequin Superromance…whenever she can get the stars and the furniture to align perfectly. She can’t remember when she got so picky about her writing conditions, and she’d love some advice on how to relax. Or, failing that, at least some company in her misery! Be sure to leave a comment: Kathleen is giving away THREE books. Welcome, Kathleen.
Sometimes I think I'm the author equivalent of Goldilocks. I find it hard to write under just any conditions. Every little detail makes a difference. This chair is too hard. This one is too soft. This music is too loud, and that light is too bright.
Ugh. I'm not sure how I ended up such a prissy hothouse flower. I didn't want to be. I didn't used to be. My earliest professional writing years were spent at a daily newspaper. There, you plop yourself down in an open-plan newsroom, amid the chatter of other reporters and the rat-tat of countless keyboards, and bat out your 12 inches of copy by your six o'clock deadline. No whining allowed.
I loved it. Most journalists do. The noise and the urgency provided a current that swept me with it. Prowling the thesaurus for the perfect word would have seemed juvenile, because the quest was for clear, concise communication, not grandstanding. Writer's block wasn’t in my vocabulary yet. I composed my first paragraphs in my head as I drove home from my interview, and "downloaded" them the minute my rear end hit the chair. Sometimes not even my own chair, if another writer had confiscated it for a more urgent story, a tighter deadline. No big deal. I just found a free computer and got busy writing.
Then, after I got married, I decided to stay home and be a novelist-mom. A lovely, lucky life, for which I’ll always be grateful. But somewhere along the way I lost that fluid indifference to my physical surroundings.
I have an office I adore. It’s a room painted my favorite cornflower blue, with a white desk, a cat curled and purring in my father's armchair, and walls of books. I have an absurdly large monitor, a sensitive keyboard, a Moulin Rouge mousepad, and a desk chair that soothes and breathes.
Heavenly. But by creating this sanctuary, where every detail pleases me, and not one note jars, have I created a monster? I've grown so sensitive to every nuance that I'm practically frozen in the presence of a new computer, or a minor rearrangement of the furniture.
On beautiful spring days, I long to take my laptop outside and write in the sweet little corner of the backyard I call my bower. When I'm editing, or researching, or answering reader mail, the bower suits me fine.
But when I'm trying to write new material, the outdoors is too distracting. The sunlight on the pool, the squirrels braiding the tree trunk, the cardinal hopping cautiously toward the birdbath...nothing gets written until I go inside.
Until about a year ago, I couldn't even bear to have music playing in the room while I wrote. Thankfully, I've broken through that barrier, but I still have days when I can't hear my inner voice if my background music has lyrics. For those days, I’ve created all-classical playlists. Mozart for the happy scenes, Beethoven for the sad.
I know a lot of writers who have similar Goldilocks tendencies, but many lucky others are still free spirits who can write anywhere, on anything, in front of anyone. Man, do I envy them! The story of J. K. Rowling creating Harry Potter at a coffee shop sounds like a fairy tale to me. If only I could. If only.
Which kind of writer are you? Do you require any particular environment to do your best work? If you are one of the lucky unfettered ones, do you have any tips for the rest of us? How can I reclaim that free flow, that open faucet of creativity that can't be clogged by such trivial things? Free book to three commenters! Open until Wednesday. Winner announced Thursday.
Kathleen has published more than 30 titles with Harlequin- everything from hot, sexy contemporaries to dark, brooding suspense. She's a five-time finalist for the RWA RITA Award, a winner of the Maggie Award, and a three-time finalist for Romantic Times' Reviewer's Choice. Her newest release, available now, is WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS, a novella in the anthology THAT CHRISTMAS FEELING. Please visit Kathleen at www.KOBrienOnline.com