Where do you write?

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 by Rachel

ernie in a tub
I write poems in the bathtub. I never realized that I did this until I entered the MA program in Flagstaff. Maybe graduate work brings out the weird writing habits in us, I don’t know. Right now I am blessed enough to have a shower/tub combination which I think is ideal for my writing process. Eventually I want to have a bathroom large enough that I have a shower that can hold four people and a bench, a hot tub, and a flatscreen TV. I’m sure this will be easy to accomplish on my poet wages. “Hey lady, can I write you a poem? I’m working on replacing my faucet.”


I am a firm believer in poems “harvesting” in the brain. I never stop and have a poem come over me like a tsunami wave. Usually, a first line pops into my head in the tub. So, for example, something like “Steve wore red pajamas to church on Sundays” will just pop into my head while I’m shampooing. This line will repeat over and over in my head. I’m scrubbing my scalp and thinking to myself, “Steve, red pajamas, what?” Sometimes, I start thinking about all the possibilities of the line, and so I decide to sit down for a while (time allowing, of course).


This poses several problems. First, I am not really a morning person, so I’m usually half asleep when I enter the shower. I lose a lot of first lines this way. Second, I have a pruning issue and can only be in the bathtub for about 20 minutes before I start to freak out that all my skin is going to fall off. (I’ve written about this hydrophobia extensively). If I could stay in the bathtub all day, I wouldn’t even need an MFA program. I would have billions of perfect poems. Of course, I’m mostly joking. :D


Finding out when you write and where you write best is something that’s really hard to identify. I write in the afternoons. The occasional poem will come out in evenings, but this is really rare. I write first drafts of my poems on paper. I never write first drafts on the computer. Sometimes I write in bed, sometimes in front of the television. I am totally against writing in public or in libraries. I can’t focus there. I need to be at home in my pajamas with a cat on my lap to do my best work (that same rule applies to when I’m grading student papers).


So where do you crazy people do your writing? I’m three weeks into the semester already, so I might be more settled into my routine than those of you who started last week, but I’m curious!


  1. I read an article in the New Yorker that spoke to how the creative brain is essentially “looser” when we are sleepier–and thus, it becomes a “better” time for some people to write, which is why we hear routines consisting of evenings and mornings so often. I do well with routine, which is probably why I didn’t write as much as I ought to have in my first year at our MFA program, but I’ve got two more years to make up for that. I also tend to get lines drifting through my head as I’m falling asleep (which is why I keep a writing notebook by the bed) and as I’m on long car trips (which is why I have perfected the art of writing-while-driving).

  2. oooh I’m a driving writer too! I like to write in the morning. I like to do a brain dump exercise in the morning where I write frantically for 20-40 minutes. This is also known as therapy. I also write everything longhand. It feels more personal. I know when I haven’t been writing enough because my hand will ache from being out of shape when I’m holding the pen. I like to keep my hand conditioned to writing.

  3. I didn’t used to write any of my first drafts on the computer, but during April, I was writing 2 poems a day and I got in the habit of doing it on the computer which has never since been broken.

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