Sunday, November 05, 2006

dressing to write

Personally I prefer to dress lightly indoors; no shoes, socks, or sweaters for me while at home. Weather permitting, my preference for light clothing extends outdoors. And at night I like to sleep as I was born. Before gravity snuck up, I’d snorkeled butt-naked in the warm blue waters off Spain. Gasped for breath as I showered under frigid waterfalls around Ben Nevis. Purred in delight as I lapped up sun rays on the nude beaches of St. Tropez, Cannes, and Poqueroles. And learned the full meaning of wind-burn after sailing around Catalina Island wearing nothing but a little French thong and not enough sun block.
But my eyebrows shot up, and I stepped back a little, when a seemingly straight-laced colleague asked, “Do you ever write while naked?” And then proceeded to tell me how freeing it was.
“Well”, I said, tongue in cheek, “There are times I’ve written nakedly—exposing, but never sharing, my inner most secrets. But no, I can’t say I’ve ever sat at my PC and written while naked.”
We writers are weird. But I’m not that weird! ( ... Except for the time I was instant messaging my brother. And that conversation ended with “Eucgh! Nd bucket 2 barf in …” one second after I told him I’d just showered and was still in my underwear.)
However, it got me wondering: If my buttoned-up, brace-wearing, non-cursing, non-drinking colleague gets naked to write, how do other writers dress when they sit down to write? Or, more to the point, do they undress?
  • Victor Hugo (left) had his servant take away his clothes while he wrote ... so presumably, he wrote in the nude or in his underwear.
  • James Whitcomb Riley wrote naked ... he had a friend lock him in a hotel room and take away his clothes so he couldn’t go out for a drink until he’d finished writing.
  • John MCPhee wrote in his bathrobe, tying its belt to the arms of his chair to restrain him from leaving.
  • Badyl Hiram wrote in the buff … clothes restricted him and the sight of him naked was supposedly so repulsive that no one ever disturbed him.
  • Simon Galleene writes on his beach deck wearing nothing (nothing!) but a Polynesian sarong wrapped around his waist.
  • John Cheever dressed in a business suit … then walked from his apartment downstairs to a room in the basement where he hung his suit on a hanger and wrote in his underwear.
  • Agatha Christie wrote in the bathtub with a basket full of crisp apples at her side (which she also ate in the bath).
  • Michael Mu writes in just his undershorts. Haynes stretch, denim color, if you please.
  • Jessamyn West wrote in PJ's in bed.
  • Charles Dickens wrote in a suit … from debtor’s prison.
  • William Maxwell wrote novels in his PJ’s, a visual warning to leave him alone.
  • Benjamin Disraeli wrote his novels dressed in evening clothes.
  • John Keats dressed as if he were going out, clean and smart.
  • Ralph Keyes* dresses to write, but prefers to abandon any kind of footwear while at his desk.
So … 'fess up. What about you?
* Some of this information came from The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes.


Kiyotoe said...

Wow, interesting question. Can't say that I've done any writing butt naked but I do like to be comfortable so it's usually in my boxers and a sleeveless shirt (when at home).

HOWEVER, if I'm at work or somewhere else public, I will at least kick off my shoes to give me a better sense "home" and comfort.

Lol. Good question.

John Ivey said...

I enjoyed your intro with your cavorts in the flesh -- it was quite invigorating for this aging man -- but the segue caught me off guard. I had never given any thought to how writers might dress, or undress, for their compositional ritual, and it surprised me of how many authors of note have put to pen with little or nothing on. I myself would find it awkward to write in the nude. The feeling of cloth against my body is comforting, and I even sleep in pajamas. I have been known however to type away for hours in T-shirt and jockey shorts when inspiration hits in between dress. For the most part though a knit shirt or light sweater and jeans and tennis shoes round out my writing attire except of course when writing in bed. (Thank the gods for laptops!) I've found very imaginative ideas come in a late hour when the mind refuses to sleep.

Thanks for another great article. Your diversity in subject matter never ceases to amaze!

deirdre said...

Plaid flannel pajama bottoms with a tank top. I add a sweater and socks when the weather changes and I'm cold. I love these kinds of factoids about writers. It makes me feel like a (more) normal member of the club.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Sleep nekkid? Always. Write nekkid? Nope. My office windows look out to my neighbor's second story and I've seen him looking toward my office free peep shows (not that he'd be all that interested).

I always have naked feet in my house, but I am always dressed while I write (even with makeup on part of the time). I do cook in velvet, though. Wear it almost daily--I've got a velvet obsession. *grins*


Lisa Goldstein/Kelly Kelly said...

Wow, this is the first time I have ever felt overdressed as a writer! I blame my uncomfortable office chair.


Ant said...

Ha! Brilliant question...

My answer is probably weirdly crap however - I don't think about it. The joys of living alone mean that I can be dossing about the place fully-clothed or naked with rarely a second thought about it. (Though I sometimes think I shouldn't be wandering past a publicly viewable window in the buff...)

Same goes for writing. Probably not totally nekkid, but topless quite a lot. Just depends on temperature, what clothes are to hand, etc.

(Reading over all that, I feel it should come across as all free and liberated. But actually it just strikes me as lazy... :o)

Bibi said...

Kiyotoe, you're in good company with your boxers according to the list from Ralph!

Deidre, yeah, me too on the factoids and feeling normal. Although I felt quite boring after reading some of the factoids.

John, you really want to be very well dressed if you're using a laptop as intended (on the lap) ... 'cos they get really hot!

Yazza, no peeps from me desk is by a picture window that everyone gawks in as they walk by, so I'm mostly definitely fully dressed!

Lisa, maybe my chair is my problem too ... truth is, I just assumed everyone got showered and dressed in the am. What do I know?!

Ant, we'll take free and liberated any day of the week! ;-)

Anonymous said...

writing naked would pose some problem with my grammar: dangling participles

Bibi said...

Pamela... oooh... that sparks thoughts for a whole other post LOL.

Stace said...

I have written naked, on one occasion... I couldn't help it, I had inspiration in the shower! So I got out and wrote it down, after drying down just enough so I didn't drip on the page!

Bibi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bibi said...

Stace ... confess I've done similar thing. Not a pretty pix tho! :-O

Fuff said...

Heehee! My PJ's mostly!

Within Without said...

So, Bibi, you were OK with nudity in public places but not at your computer?

Brilliant topic.

I'd like to say I write in the buff, but usually I'm just walking around in t-shirt and sweats or pajama bottoms in the winter and that's how I write.

In the summer, I'm always in shorts. Whatever's the most comfortable.

And I second your warning to John Ivey...typing on a laptop ON YOUR BARE LAP and thereabouts might sting a tad and at the very least lower your sperm count...

Anonymous said...

Bibi, I'm doing this anon because you know me well although this will be a surprise to you. Want to see if you can guess who. In the summer, I spend 80% of the time in the buff while I'm in the apartment. When I'm on the telephone I wear boxers. And when I write, I place a velor wrap over my leather chair. But go naked in public? --not me!

Repeater said...

I'm going to try it. Can't hurt (my chair's pretty soft).

MSUgal86 said...

white sleeveless T-shirt, comfortable shorts or pajama pants and flip-flops (they are my "slippers" i only wear these particular flip-flops in my house). Now, this is my writing garb at home no matter what the weather outside. I can't wear these clothes to the office (and you know I write at work) so I find myself bringing a lot of work home.

Bibi said...

Fuff, seems that's a favorite of many.

Within Without, well I wouldn't have walked down the high street like it ... I picked my places and my company ... so I'm not as daring as I sound ;-)

msugal86, and don't you love having telecons dressed like that when you know everyone in the office is tucked in.


Bibi said...

Repeater, as long as it's not leather ... gets very sticky, so I've heard.

Anon, I'm'd better fill me in though because now I'm looking at EVERYONE I meet thinking, "Hmmm is it you???"

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