Today I am honored to have Michelle Barker the author of The House of One Thousand Eyes on the blog today. She graciously took time out of her busy schedule to do this post for me. Thank you Michelle I am so excited to have you on the blog today.
About The Author:
Michelle Barker was born and raised in Vancouver, but has also lived in Jerusalem, France, Quebec, and the Okanagan. As a child, she loved reading. Her favourite subject in school was English, and she did a degree at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in English literature (and an MFA in creative writing).
After many years of writing short fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and fantasy, Michelle decided to write about Germany. Her mother grew up there during World War Two, and then lived in East Germany until she escaped in the early fifties. Michelle realized her mother was getting older, and if she didn’t start talking to her mother about her life, the chance might slip away. Michelle’s first book with Annick Press is The House of One Thousand Eyes (Fall 2018). While this novel is 100% fiction, Michelle’s mother’s life inspired the book. In researching the book, Michelle traveled to Germany and visited the Stasi Headquarters in Berlin.
Michelle is an avid reader. She also plays piano and does triathlons. She once sailed from Vancouver to Hawaii on a small sailboat, but that is another story.
Writers are such fussy people—or at least, I am. There are certain things I need to have while writing, and other things that impinge upon my creativity and make it hard for me to concentrate.
My #1 writing essential is silence. Unlike some writers who rely on playlists while working, I do not work with music. If I’m desperate and need something to drown out exterior noise, I will resort to music without words, like jazz or classical. If a song has words, I will listen to them . . . and not work.
But, because I am a writer, there is an exception to the music rule. (Writers love exceptions. For every piece of writing advice I give and every craft suggestion I make, there is always an exception). On Fridays I often go to a writing group meet-up at a café in town. It’s surprising how well I work there, especially because it has all the qualities of a place that would usually irritate me. It’s noisy. There are people talking. There is music (with words!). And yet whenever I’m there, I can sink down into a zone where I’m just working—always by hand, no laptop—and I’m able to block out everything.
I used to live in the country, where silence actually meant NO NOISE WHATSOEVER, aside from the occasional bird. I moved to the city a few years ago and went through a long and painful period of culture shock. For the first few months, every car horn or siren drove me crazy. There was constant traffic, and often there was construction going on nearby. I didn’t think I’d ever adjust.
Then one day I was busy writing at my desk and marveling over how nice it was that everything was so quiet—and I realized. . . it wasn’t quiet at all. The same traffic and construction noises were still there. I had just gotten used to them.
I do draw the line at jackhammers, though. When someone decides to jackhammer near my apartment, I take a break from writing and do something else.
I drink tea while I’m writing, always in my favorite cup (with a quote on it from Stephen King).
I have a favorite pen that I write with when I’m working on a first draft, that my ex-husband brought me from Rome. It’s the perfect weight and width for my hand, and I don’t like to write with anything else. I use two different notebooks: one for journal writing and the other for things like notes and first drafts. I’m very picky about the journals I write in. I like something pretty and (usually) expensive. I’m not picky at all about my notebooks for first drafts. They’re the cheap kind you buy in the drugstore. That way I don’t feel any pressure to come up with something brilliant, since I didn’t spend any money on anything fancy!
Beyond a first draft, though, I do most of my work on a laptop.
One thing it’s essential that I don’t have around me is an internet connection. I am easily distracted by Facebook, Twitter and email, so if I’m planning to do work that requires deep concentration, I make sure those things are not an option. I also hide my phone in another room. Because, you know, if someone texts me, I have to text them back right away. 😉
When it comes to food, I often use a reward system for myself. If I’ve worked hard for an hour, I get to go to the kitchen for a piece of toast.
My cat is not essential, but she generally keeps me company while I’m working—often by sitting right on my manuscript. She has a thing about paper.
And last but certainly not least: exercise. For someone who sits a lot, exercise is essential. It is part of every writing day.
So those are the things I need for my writing journey. I’d love to hear what other writers find essential to their writing day.