I'm not neurotic.
At least not in the traditional sense. I have a high tolerance for germs and disorder. I wear chaos like a blanket, we are friends, know each other on a first-name basis and frequently have tea together. But when I write, all bets are off. I do what I have to do to tap into my creative mind.
I’ve heard creativity described as a well into which one dips buckets, or a river where you get in (or on) and ride the flow. I’ve heard creativity described as an ethereal cloud, a spirit force, a chi-like energy field with it’s own network of veins and a pulse. I haven’t heard it described as a giant udder ready for milking, but I’m sure someone with an intimate knowledge of goats or cows has probably squeezed the creativity teat a time or two.
I see creativity as a safe with a specific combination. If I don’t get that combination exactly right, then I can’t get in and all my characters have the day off. If they get too many days off in a row they start smoking in back alleys, or enter talent contests, or develop unsavory relationships or (and I hate it when this happens) they call other characters in other books and compare author skills. So it is critically important that I get the combination just right.
It begins with my socks.
Not just any socks. Writer socks. The ones that don’t squeeze my ankles and are warm (but not too warm). And they can’t have holes. I’m wearing them now. If I wasn’t this is what you would see on the page.
Then come my writer pants, which are typically sweats that have been retired from sports and may or may not have holes, but are comfortable and warm (but not too warm) and can get along with my socks. Moving up from there—my writering shirts. I have several, and they must conform to very specific demands. They must be devoid of fashion, fit me like a sack, and be capable of going several days in a row before asking politely for a wash. My wife believes that I have too many of these shirts. I disagree. Writering shirts are like good friends and good meals, one cannot possibly have too many.
Next up are my lucky writing glasses. The ones that I was wearing when I finished my first novel and have been repaired more times than a bull rider’s femur. My optometrist declared them unfixable. Ha! Super glue, duct tape, 20 lb test fishing line—and they are wearable so long as I don’t look down more than 15% or turn my head too fast to the right.
The last two essentials are my tea which has to be exactly the right temperature in one of my two favorite tea mugs; and my writing environment, which must be free of any extraneous sounds and distractions, otherwise I can’t listen to my character’s talk, read their minds or hear the beating of their hearts.
If all these demands are met, then I am able to access my creativity safe. I can turn the dial, pull open the door, reach in and help myself to the shimmering nuggets of inspiration that--
I just sipped my tea. Too cold. I need to warm it up. While I'm at it I should probably check my email. And the basil plant needs water. What's that sound I just heard? Oh, that was the door to the safe closing. I won't be able to open it for hours. Whatever flow I had is gone.
No, I’m not neurotic.
Just ask my socks.