More things writers can't live without
Published: October 29, 2004
(The Thin Pink Line, Crossing the Line)
I write on a long mahogany dining-room table that belonged to Aunt Terry. If she were still alive, she'd be 90. At 14, she left school to help support her household and became a seamstress, a job she kept until retirement. She did some of her work on this table. Ever since I started writing seriously 10 years ago, I've written here. Despite its inconvenient height for a short person, I like the connection to the past and the constant reminder that I've been privileged to work at what I love in life, fulfilling a different kind of need.
(The Final Procedure)
They say it was every German sausage-maker's dream that an elf would make his sausage for him while he slept. That's my dream, too, and the writer's totem I have to help bring this about is a virtual elf on my computer's screensaver. Like the sausage maker in old Germany, every morning I come down to my workshop, turn on the computer, and look for a new chapter that was written while I slept. And like the old sausage maker, every morning I'm disappointed. For better or for worse, writers have to make their own sausage. But I dream on.
My fave office totem, and I have lots of them, is my "Miracle Eyes Jesus," a commercial product costing under $5, which consists of Jesus' head under clear plastic. It sits on my upright desktop computer, staring lovingly yet somehow ... cautiously at me. His deep, piercingly blue eyes (and yes, I've wondered about that, too) follow me everywhere. When I have a glitch in my work, I look at Miracle Eyes J and silently ask, "Now what?" Our eyes lock and within moments I have started back on the novel full force.
John T. Edge
(Fried Chicken: An American Story and Apple Pie: An American Story)
Alongside my desk sits a pasteboard beer flat, stacked with notebooks. At the bottom are the flip-top spirals I used when I began writing. Dig midway through the heap and you will find a few artsy-fartsy designer digests with gilt-edged pages and leather spines. On top are moleskins, the basic-black rectangles I now carry. In my world, the heap is all-important. I treat the heap with respect, as if it were a pulp oracle. It's where I dig when I'm ready to write. It's where I turn when I lack a cogent thought. It's where--just last week--I came across the long-ago scribbled phone number of the woman who is now my wife.
I keep an ever-changing array of totems and protective objects in my study (along with about 6,000 books--no kidding!). My readers feel, due to the esoterically challenging nature of my books, I need a lot of talismans nearby. Among these are the following: a 100-year-old thunderbird Navajo shaman's bolo; a Tiffany crystal paperweight that my publisher had etched with the original logo of my first book, The Eight; my personal totem of an eagle and whale, made by a master carver in Seattle when I was age 4; a gold medallion commemorating the 727th anniversary of Turkish mystic Rumi; a rosary from Jean Paul I's Rome with a secret piece of the True Cross; several spiders; and an octopus--with eight legs, my lucky number! But my favorite--always beside my computer--is a statue of winged Mercury on tiptoe, his fingertip aloft, balancing an old purple FedEx button that reads: DON'T PANIC! Every writer's best advice!
A resident of Arlington, Va., Bethanne Kelly Patrick writes often about books, authors and publishing for a variety of publications.