Megan Shepherd: “Writing Must-Haves”

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Today, we are honored to have The Madman’s Daughter author Megan Shepherd stopping by with a guest blog about the must-have items she likes to have nearby when writing.

Thanks to Megan for stopping by!

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Sometimes I think of writers like athletes: you hear about tennis players who wear a certain pair of socks on game day, or basketball players who wipe the soles of their sneakers for good luck. Writers have rituals as well, though it’s less about good luck (though heck, it doesn’t hurt) and more about getting in the right mind-set.

For me, I can’t start the day without a cup of tea. If the weather’s nice outside I’ll sit on the front porch and think through which scenes I’m going to tackle that day. Then I’ll move to my home office and put on my slippers and old ratty sweater that’s actually from H&M but has been worn-out by too many cats sleeping on it. The sweater’s because I’m always cold, but also signals to my brain that it’s time to settle down to a nice long writing spell.

I always have my iPhone nearby in case my agent or editor calls, or more likely in case I “need” to be distracted by the Internet. And the rest of the practical but boring stuff: post-it notes for to-do lists, quick character sketches, and scene breakdowns; a printer for when my eyes are tired of staring at a computer screen; reference books on plotting or research.

Then there’s all the non-practical, quirky stuff. I tape photos of inspiring images, characters, quotes, and maps on my window above my desk, so I can quickly look up and describe my main character. I’ve been known to keep a mirror nearby so I can check what emotions like anger and crest-fallen and shocked look like on a face. I keep a printout of the first fan mail I received to remind me why I do what I do when I start to doubt.

brokenpotAnd then a few things have absolutely nothing to do with writing, but are somehow crucial to my process, like old leaves pinned to my bulletin board, or a drawing I did as a kid. I just like the way they look, and the things they remind me of, and how they transport me outside of my sometimes-narrow mind and make me think about a theme or a character or a scene in a different way. I have this photo of broken pottery on my desk now that a few friends posted on Facebook, because being published is a wonderful process but also a very difficult one, and it reminds me that me as a writer—and my characters—are both more interesting for our mistakes.

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