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 a lot of 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 …” the same second 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.