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Writers! Bare all – what is your writing uniform?

Article by Alison Wells © 27 January 2016.
Posted in Guest Blogs ().

Online you often hear the odd comment from writers that they are still in their pajamas when someone calls to the door. Marian Keyes famously wrote many of her books from Under the Duvet. It got me wondering, what is the de rigeur attire for writers, what do you put on when you’re getting into the writing groove? Do those who write regularly from home get up and dress professionally for their writing shed at the end of the garden? Or do you slob around zombified in pajamas and jogpants while in the throes of a linguistic out-of-body experience, words raining from the ether, seance-like, as you complete your stream of consciousness masterpiece? Or something in-between?

One previous winter I posted on my other blog a humourous look at how writers were coping with the freezing conditions as they tried to write.

“Reports are flooding in that many writers have had to strap hot water bottles to themselves, while others are fashioning fingerless gloves out of old holey socks. ‘In desperate circumstances you will try anything’ said Utt. R. Commitment. Lap blankets and hot thermos’ are the order of the day and in extreme circumstances some writers have put on several layers of clothes, hats, scarves and, in some cases, balaclavas.”

felted glove

The sad (amusing?) part of this is that, in my case at least, it isn’t too far from the truth. At this time of year I favour several layers of jumper and hoodie, sometimes I even wear a coat, with the hood up, or my nice new Snugglehood ordered from a local craftsperson. A couple of years ago my sister, also a craftsperson made me felted fingerless gloves. (Yes, you are jealous, I can tell.) It pays to court other areas of the arts! Trousers, where possible are always loose, warm footwear or slippers are the order of the day. But it doesn’t stop there.

A hot water bottle and some kind of lap blanket are also essential. (Not technically clothes but without them I feel unclad.) Also, in a bid to stop myself leaping up every ten seconds to get a drink, crackers, piece of chocolate, pen, paper, cuddly mascot, carriage clock, nail clippers, pair of glasses, framed photo of the Titanic, I purchased a small weighted lap blanket from one of those sensory outfits. It’s meant to keep me in my place. And contribute to the future literary landscape of Ireland. (I should have applied for a grant for it!)

Of course, there are guidelines on clothing and hygiene etiquette for writers. In a 2009 post I outlined Ten Recession Beating Personal Hygiene Tips for Writers. As  well as explaining how you could dispense with facials and creams (for an etched look with more gravitas) and manicures (fast typing can trim your nails for you) and exhorting the inspirational benefits of showers, I also offered writers fashion advice:

“Save an extraordinary amount on clothes, buy two tracksuits and wear them in rotation.”

But… “If you get an agent, take a risk and buy a smart casual outfit. If you don’t yet have a book deal go to a charity outlet. The charity shops do a wonderful line in jackets with attitude, for example, leather, tweed, floral. Choose the correct one for your genre. If you can’t stretch to charity shop chic, send your younger sister out to meet the agent.”

While my current attire (especially the hiking coat) might seem more appropriate for scaling Carrantoohill, it helps me scale my own literary heights (except for the slippers.) So what I’d like you to do is to share with as much honesty as possible (and, remember, this is a family friendly site!), what do you wear while writing and how, does it help you get the job done? What is the true state of writerly fashion in Ireland today? (And while we’re on the topic, I do love those writerly satchels I once saw John Boyne sporting.) What do writers wear behind closed doors? And how do you think they should look when they go out? Indeed, do you think they should go out? Please let us know your attire secrets!

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Alison Wells runs the Random Acts of Optimism blog and lives in Bray, Co. Wicklow with her husband and four children. Her short fiction been published in many magazines and online and print anthologies and she has been featured on Sunday Miscellany. Shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, Bridport and Fish Prize's she has just completed a themed short story collection Random Acts of Optimism and a literary novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities. To read Alison's full blog, visit Head Above Water. Find out in her Random Acts of Optimism how she manages to juggle writing, children and life.

12 comments so far

  • Very, very old jogging pants (with a big hole you-know-where) and bleach spots from cleaning the bathroom, fluffy socks with (again) a hole you-know-where, and a shirt that used to be pale pink but is now more like a murky cloud or something. Why do I wear stuff like that? Because I’m the master of spilling stuff on myself, and I keep my “good” clothes for when I go out.
    For working at my desk I have a dark-blue fleece bathrobe. I get cold easily.

  • For the most part, it ends up being my Eeyore or Aristocat pyjamas. They have hoods (the latter have ears) and they’re nice and snug. If I’m having a particularly blocked day I also don my ‘editing gloves’, fingerless gloves with a page from Persuasion written on them. Jane Austen literally on hand!

  • Layers. T shirt, shirt, gansey. Top layer a down gilet I wouldn’t be caught dead in outdoors. Sometimes a shawl over that. Often fingerless gloves with pugs on them. Desk work = cold work.

  • Fingerless gloves with a page from Persuasion! You have really upped the bar, here, how wonderful!

  • I love your jog pants description! And it seems a common theme to need to keep warm!

  • Again, the fingerless gloves! I like your description of the gilet too, sounds cozy! I also have a category of ‘wouldn’t be seen dead in clothes,’ can sometimes be difficult when the doorbell rings…

  • I sometimes write in my PJs but mostly I feel that I’m not taking the process seriously unless I’m properly dressed – makes it seem like a real job. I wear comfortable jeans/t-shirt/fleece combos & my lovely, warm, fuzzy boot-slippers.

  • I’m a product of the school gate so jeans and jumper, or if seeing clients then something smarter. I strap my fingers up with plasters to protect the joints and sometimes wear fingerless gloves. Also, if I get two minutes, dark nail varnish — I like the colour as my fingers rattle about on the keyboard — and lip balm because I chew my lips when I’m thinking. Head: headphones — music for sure. (Bowie this week — me and the rest of the world?) I don’t like a lot of blankets or rugs so if I’m cold I’ll set a log fire; quite often have that crackling behind me.

  • I don’t have a ‘writing uniform’ but in autumn, winter and into spring I’ll wear a red scarf or shawl because it can get chilly if only my hands are moving. But I will always have a steaming hot mug of tea to hand, even if the sun is shining!

  • I thought it was only me who longed for a warm room to write in! Typical winter attire: multi coloured leggings (that my Mum thought were ‘cool’, and are surprisingly comfortable, despite blinding everyone who sees them; three layers on top (anything from the floor) ; waterproof coat and trousers with wellies (2 pairs of socks inside) because I’m in and out to take care of the goats (who hate the rain and cold even more than me–and they have NO heat out there).

  • I’m with Nuala with the layers. And fingerless gloves – the only posh part of my struggling writer self – my friend Theresa from Leitrim, queen of inspired gifts As a tek newbie, it’s too fiddly to post a thumb-nail and these babies deserve a pic. There is fur involved. And I think they’re ‘teal’ – I’m after googling to make sure. And yeah – rich deep fur-trimmed teal to keep a body desk-bound and smiling. I’ve got other scraps of criteria re clothing, odd ball must-haves…more anon.

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