Embarrassing Writing Habits: Why I Have A “Writing Outfit”

Last summer I got it into my head that I could only write by hand. This may or may not have had something to do with an interview I heard Jennifer Egan give in which she revealed she wrote her entire first draft of Goon Squad on yellow legal pads.

I’ll admit, at first it was pretty freeing. In addition to literally freeing myself of a power cord, there was a part of me that felt like I was getting back to my roots. (And by roots, I mean my geeky elementary school years where I carried a notebook around on the playground and told people I didn’t need friends because “I had my characters.”) I seem to remember bragging about my return to pen and paper, how I didn’t feel censored anymore, how my words could now just flow…pretty lame, I know.

I got over that one pretty quick. While there is a certain romanticism to writing by hand, it wasn’t quite practical considering I then just had to type everything up anyway.

Then I realized my biggest writing superstition: my outfit.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I certainly don’t mean to imply any fashion connotations in my use of the term “outfit.” There is nothing even remotely fashionable about my writing outfits. While they vary, I follow these general rules:

1. Glasses: I’m serious about this one. I can’t write anything worth any quality if I’m wearing contacts instead of glasses.

2. Elastic Waistband: I’ve amassed an extensive sweatpants collection. I tend to rotate through it depending on what kind of inspirational power each pair seems to be radiating at the time.

3. Giant sweater: I prefer the kind that are more like a belted parka than a typical sweater. Must be sufficiently baggy; toggle buttons are a plus.

4. Socks: Not white. Never white. Always colorful. Preferably polka dotted (see below).

I’m not sure if these components are more for comfort or to create a sufficient amount embarrassment for my appearance such that I have no desire to leave my house and instead just stay inside writing.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People: The Writer’s Edition

Each year, my family gets matching Christmas pajamas. This year, I sent my mother a link for Forever Lazy, partly as a joke, partly out of a genuine desire for a hooded fleece jumpsuit. I don’t even want to admit how many hours of thesis-crunch-time in January were spent wearing this sucker.
Cortney's Writing Outfit
There was some wine involved in the taking of this picture.

I know what you’re thinking:

Yes, I am aware I look like Cookie Monster.

No, unfortunately, they are not footed.

Just like writing by hand, I eventually got over my Forever Lazy writing habit (It was a combination of winter never coming to Raleigh and fleece shrinking in the wash), so that phase is finished now, too.

So now I’m in the market for a new writing habit. Since I graduated, my writing pace has started to slow down, and I think a new habit might be the perfect kick starter to post-MFA writing life.

One big goal I have for the next phase of my life (post-graduation, post-move) is to figure out my writing habits and be consistent with them. The first step of this plan is to give myself a writing space. I’ve never been someone who used a desk much and I’d like to change that. I’m about to be living with a boy after two years of living by myself, so space to write is more important than ever. The aspect of our new place I am most excited about (okay, second most excited about–nothing competes with a front loading washer and dryer) is my office.

And once I’m in my new writing space, I’m going to develop some new embarrassingly sad habits. Promise.

This post originally appeared on www.cortneyphillips.com.