Writers, we’re a superstitious lot (AKA, I’m not crazy, I’m a writer)

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I suffered a great trauma recently: I lost my pen.

I know, I know, it’s not really a BIG thing but at the same time it caused me a lot of stress. You see, this is a magic pen. No, really it is. I bought it a few years ago from NaNoWriMo and it’s my ‘Noveling Pen’. It’s only used on my books and my diary, everything else and I grab whatever pen is closest. Even hubby is not allowed to use my noveling pen.

Now, I consider myself a fairly sane person who’s rational enough not to believe in superstition. No I don’t like walking under ladders but I blame that on seeing things being dropped from them. I don’t mind black cats as no one seems to agree if they are good or bad luck and I quite like Friday the 13th. However, without my noveling pen I was stuck. I felt as if my writing mojo had gone.  I was apathetic and unfocused and could barely put two sentences together. Imagine my joy when I found it lurking in our trunk (although how I got there I don’t know!).

Then I realised I do have another few quirks. I always write my novels on my aging (but still fabulous!) MacBook. The thought of using the home computer throws me for a wobble. I have a special book for my characters where I note down what they look like and if they have any special phrases or traits. This is all done in my usual chaotic manner, which I know hubby doesn’t understand, but which works for me.

Yet my pens little adventure did get me thinking – writers are a fairly superstitious lot. Perhaps it’s spending too much time alone, perhaps it’s their creative tendencies but I’ve heard of some strange (or perhaps not so strange) superstitions of famous writers. Here’s a selection below and let me know if you have any in the comments section:

  • Isaac Asimov always had a second typewriter on hand, should the first fail. He would also rise at 6am and write until 10pm;
  • JK Rowling was famous for writing all her novels long-hand before transcribing them onto the computer;
  • Dan Brown apparently stops once an hour to do push-ups or other exercise. He has an hourglass on his desk to ensure he doesn’t go over the hour;
  • Ben Franklin wrote in the bath;
  • Truman Capote felt he wrote best in motel rooms, lying down;
  • Patricia Cornwall will write for 14hours a day;
  • Vladimir Nabokov wrote his book Lolita on index cards so that they could be arranged and rearranged;
  • William Faulkner’s favoured drink while writing was whiskey;
  • PG Wodehouse would pin pages of his work around the room, in waves. If the ‘wave’ worked, then it was pinned higher on the wall while the pages which needed further work were moved down.

Diary Of An Unplanned Life or How Pop Culture Shaped My World

Life was so easy when I was a child. The plan was simple: go to school, go to uni, get a fabulous job and marry a wonderful (and extravagantly rich) man. My head was filled with Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton, I would take the world by storm, either as an amazing detective, fighting against the system, solving crime with unorthodox ways but always getting the perp, or I’d enter the world of the yuppie, drink chilled white wine in wine bars and make my subordinates tremble in their tasseled boat shoes as I flicked through my Filofax filled with famous names. It was a simple plan which could not fail. I mean, look at the Police Academy group. If they could do it, so could I.

However, along with my love of crime was a love of fantasy and science fiction. Being a fan of fantasy, I knew I was destined to become a princess, taking on the evil Goblin King as seen in ‘Labyrinth’ or the Emperor and saving the galaxy like Princess Leia in ‘Star Wars’. I’d take on the witches and fly over the rainbow in the beautiful red shoes. I’d just been switched at birth and would soon be returned to my people to rule over them while wearing stunning gowns.

However, just in case those didn’t pan out, I thought it important to get a good education, ticking the pre-destined boxes. I finished school with decent grades, completed my A Levels with minimum teenage angst thanks to shows such as ‘My So-Called Life’ I realised I had it fairly easy and decided that, under the influence of Indiana Jones and later Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, that I would submerge myself into the ancient world, studying archaeology. I’d be just like the delectable Lady Croft, breaking into tombs and finding the answers to the greatest mysteries of the world, beating back the baddies and all the while ensuring that not a hair was out of place. If that didn’t work out, well three movies and a TV series (I hadn’t started reading comics regularly then) told me I’d make a very good Lois Lane, plucky reporter who wouldn’t even let Superman get in her way of a good story.

As it happened, I was bitten by the archaeological bug, and encouraged by ‘Time Team’ I craved more knowledge and stayed to complete a masters degree, delving deeper into human anatomy and the effects our daily life takes on us. The plan then was to join the ever burgeoning ranks of ‘forensic anthropology’, Tess Gerritson and Patricia Cornwall giving me the skills needed to be a woman in a mans world.

That was the plan. It wasn’t going to be glamorous but I’d be changing the world. Ok, it was going to be in a slightly different way than I had envisioned as a child and I wouldn’t get to wear the power suits and spike heeled stilettos or even a tiara. I’d be solving mysteries, I’d be returning the deceased back into the arms of their loving families and bringing the murderers to justice. I wouldn’t be a princess, but then, did I really need a tiara?

So what happened? As always, the one thing that can upset the best laid plans: I met a boy. He was funny, he was attentive, he was kind. He was also the one. Now I didn’t realise this at the time. I mean, I was too busy making other plans, watching films and reading books. There were shoes to buy and a world to save, I couldn’t think about boys. I mean, Rose in Titanic didn’t allow boys to get in the way. However, it soon became apparent that we were meant to be together and when he popped the question, I knew I was marrying my best friend.

He also brought with him new books, new films and ideas which changed my plan. This was also the time I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I knew, no matter what was thrown at me, I could face it with my own version of the ‘Scooby Gang’. Alright, I wasn’t facing vampires or putting my life in danger on a nightly basis but like the characters portrayed, I was discovering myself, other peoples ‘hidden faces’ and dealing with life in general. It also stoked a fire in me to create stories involving mythical creatures, the supernatural and fantasy, something which has turned into a burning fire of passion and work with the Apocalypse Girls.

This was the one part of The Plan what I hadn’t counted on happening: Life. Lennon is quoted as having said ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ and that’s true. I’d been busy making plans and dreaming this idealised life based on movies and books. I also realised that a lot of my plans had been within the parameters agreed by society and imposed by family, friends and acquaintances. Looking back, would I have been happy with the corner office overlooking Central Park with a terrified assistant bringing me endless coffee like the Devils Wears Prada, or up to my knees in mud, digging up the remains of a gladiator like Time Team? I’m not sure and I’m not going to spend too long imagining it.

One thing I do know though is that my love of pop culture has influenced me, mostly in a positive manner (I hope) and certainly the various shows, movies and books I’ve read have equipped me to deal with whatever life decides to throw at me. If George Orwell’s 1984 encouraged me to challenge the system, then Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught me to do it with a snappy quip and styled hair. What Evita taught me about fashion, Grosse Pointe Blank taught me about making tough decisions and watching your back. Men In Black proved aliens could be here on earth and we wouldn’t know it, while Marrisa Tomei winning an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny proved the fact that stranger things than aliens are out there. And lets not forget my favourite, Mulan showing that women do not need to be forced into a role just because that’s what society expects of them but everyone needs to find their own path.

Our lives are all about the decisions made and paths we take and I occasionally wonder, in a ‘Sliding Door’s’ reality if there is a girl out there who did follow The Plan, and if so, is she as happy as I am?