The photo is of a rustic country table that is light aqua and has paint peeling off. On the table is a stovetop espresso machine and two cups of black coffee. The table is scattered with a handful of almonds and there is an unwrapped piece of chocolate sitting atop a napkin of blue and white stripes. One of the coffee cups is being held by a hand with red painted nailpolish.

Writing With Chocolate

Just to be clear. This isn't a blog post about how to actually write words with chocolate. You know, like on cakes, cupcakes, or on a lover's body. I'm no pastry chef, and believe me if I knew how to write on cakes using chocolate I'd probably be sucking the chocolate out of the piping bag before finishing the word 'H" for "Happy Birthday." No, this is about what you might need at your side to do your best writing.

I'm not one of those writers who believes that deprivation helps one become a better writer. I don't subscribe to the monkish order of scribblers who thinks a writer should forego a feather pillow and sleep on a bed of stones. I think that when you get down to write, whether it's copy for your new website, an important email, or a future bestselling novel, you need to have your creature comforts. You know, small, but vital things that contribute to your physical and mental ease, and help you get the job done.

Let's face it, at times writing can feel like scratching a single line for each day, on the wall of a prison cell. There are times when you might sit there and two hours go by. Maybe in that time you've written 10 words, and those 10 words are crapola--in your humble opinion.

If you think writing's torture, then I suggest you do nice stuff for yourself that signals to your unconscious self that you're not actually in hell. Let's say that the hell you're in when you write is mostly constructed from your own beliefs and ideas. Let's just say that for argument's sake. Maybe you had a bad experience of writing in school or maybe you compare yourself to great writers you admire, and come up short so you figure why bother.

Here's an example from a hell of my own making. I hate doing my business taxes and this year I decided to hire someone to help. Although first I needed to go through my yearly receipts and sort them. Instead of shaking my fists, avoiding the task at hand, and being generally awful to strangers who glanced at me in passing, I took a different tact. I went for a relaxing run in the woods, poured myself a glass of red and spent the afternoon getting chummy with each one of my receipts before delivering them to my accountant in neat little piles with a piece of paper attached labelling what expenses they were. And, guess what? It really wasn't as bad as I imagined.

In fact I had a feeling of satisfaction like I'd just been nominated for a Pullitzer Prize. So I decided next year I would create even less stress for myself and use the nifty accounting program I already had to track my expenses each month. The program (Freshbooks) also generates reports, which means it will be even easier for me for 2016. Instead of characterisically seizing up when I think of doing my taxes, I am now gradually changing my relationship to this activity, and as a result am catapulting myself out of hell. Pretty cool, eh?

Let's get back to the chocolate....

There's no use fighting a woman (moi) who wants to write three pages and is on a roll, telling her there's no more chocolate in the house. The reason is simple: My writing won't get done and I'll be in an even crappier mood. This tactic can work for anything you should do but don't necessarily want to do right then. Think of it as working with, instead of against, your psychology. And, even though I usually love writing and look forward to it, it's still hard work, and hard work requires some treats along the way.

Let's put it this way, if you can construct a hell of your own making by thinking about tasks you have to do but dislike, then you can just as easily construct a heaven. All right so perhaps 'heaven' is going too far.

 

Here are a few nice things I do for myself to make sure I write consistently and enjoy the process:

  • Writing buddy (This person should give you constructive feedback and also be encouraging. Tell her or him when you'll send something so you're accountable to finish the piece.)
  • Chocolate (If you're not doing sugar then some fresh raspberries or strawberries will do nicely.)
  • Facial (Cleans your pores and massages away the tension.)
  • Day at spa or weekend getaway (This would be when I actually complete something BIG like a book, a short story, or an article in a schmantzy paper or magazine.)
  • Rest (Try to get eight hours; your body will thank you.)
  • Good pens and notebooks (This just makes writing better!)
  • Music (preferable piano like this or between work breaks to keep my energy up like this.)
  • Wine (The goood stuff when you feel all right about splurging!)
  • Comedies (standup mostly, though I'm always down for an uproarious satire, such as this one about vampires.)

So what are your creature comforts when it comes to writing? Make yourself a list to lay it all out. What do you need to be productive, to make it enjoyable and worthwhile?