Chasing the Wistfuls Away…

by JT Ellison

cre·a·tiv·i·ty     [kree-ey-tiv-i-tee, kree-uh] -Noun

1. the state of quality of being creative

2. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts

3. the process by which one utilizes creative ability: Extensive reading stimulated his creativity


[Origin: 1870–75; creative + -ity] Unabridged (v 1.1)

What better way to erase the wistful week in Colorado than a celebration of sorts. Life is good. We’re 3 1/2 weeks post-surgery, Mr. Wrist is healing nicely (though I’m stuck in this crazy halfway to my shoulder arm bent at a 45 degree angle contraption for another 2 weeks), I’ve relearned how to type, and I have a new toy. I bought a Sony Vaio out in Colorado, and boy, am I impressed. Vista works smoothly and is so similar to a friend’s cool new Mac that I don’t feel shortchanged, the Word 2007 package is totally cool, I’ve moved all my documents over from the sick laptop and sent it off to be fixed. There’s just one little nagging question.

Will I be able to create in this new world?

I didn’t plan to buy a new laptop just yet. I wasn’t emotionally prepared (I’m a classic Taurus, I loathe change for change’s sake.) My old Dell has worked fine. After a small existential fight, I actually made the transition from desktop to laptop, and wrote all but the last four chapters of my new book on the Dell. Then it decided to up and drop the soldered lead from the power jack to the motherboard, and bam, no more laptop. Now, timing is everything, right? So happens that the day after the
laptop heaved it’s last, lonely breath, I had the surgery. I couldn’t
type for a week, then started back one handed. I’d scheduled this to
coincide with a planned break from the manuscript, with every good intention to get it
done before they cut me open.

But the creative Gods conspired against
me and left me four measly chapters short. Then I went to my parents.
Now I’m home with this shiny, happy new baby in tow, which means I can’t finish the book where I started it. For the past five months, I’ve been parked in my favorite recliner, the soft leather warm and inviting, pecking away on my ancient Dell. I’ve done everything on this book in my living room, instead of sitting in my office, which was a massive transition.

I’ve spent the past few days transferring files, learning new software, playing around with different styles and colors (man, the desktop and screensaver choices are dynamite, and for a girl who takes great stock in images, that’s a good thing.) As far as ease of use, this thing smokes the old one.

I need to spend this week getting JUDAS KISS finished. I’m not procrastinating; I’ll get up first thing Monday, grab a Starbucks, plop into my chair and write the end. But I am curious. Will I be able to work as well with this new tool? Was the old cranky laptop a muse? (All my computers are named MUSE, by the way, just for the added inspiration.)

The question is, does it matter? Where does creativity stem from? Do the tools have anything to do with it? The setting you’re writing in? I know the question has been asked a million times, the coffee shop versus home office debate. What I’m talking about is changing your method in the middle of the game.

John Connolly got me thinking about this in his latest blog entry. Do our environs really play into our creativity? If we’re truly writers, does music or no music, laptop or desktop, office or coffee shop actually have any bearing? Are these just excuses we lob when we’re having a hard time thinking through a plot device, or a character isn’t singing for us?

So here’s a question for you. Where do you work, and how do you think you’d do if your cozy habitat was taken from you?

Wine of the Week: Michele Chiarlo Barolo Tortoniano, 2000, drunk with new friends in celebration of my father’s birthday at a phenomenal restaurant in Colorado named Gabriel’s. Highly recommended, we had three bottles of the stuff and it was all brilliant. I believe I’m on a nebbliolo grape kick again…


Robin Burcell will be my guest next week, and her essay is moving and exceptional. Please stop by and say hello. I’ll be back September 7th. Thank you for being so patient with me! 


Also, for our Sisters In Crime readers and anyone else who might find it interesting… Trust me, this is going to be a good time. Great panels, huge authors. Big audience for writers too, 30,000 plus, so if you’re a SinC member and interested, contact J.B. Thompson at the address below.

SinC-Middle Tennessee at Southern Festival of Books

When: October 12-14
Where: Legislative Plaza, Nashville
Details: Sisters in Crime-Middle Tennessee will host a booth at
the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee, October 12-14, 2007. In
addition to promoting Sisters in Crime, the booth will be utilized as a signing
venue for up to 20 SinC authors, with one-hour time slots assigned on a
first-come, first-served basis. Travel expenses are the responsibility of the
author. Book sales will be handled through the Middle Tennessee chapter on a
consignment basis (details available upon request).

The Southern Festival of Books is a free, three-day book festival held in
alternating years between Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee and is attended by
thousands of book lovers from all over the country each year. For more
information, see the Festival’s
web site

Contact SinC-MidTN chapter president J.B. Thompson to request a signing time
slot assignment and for additional information regarding book sale arrangements.
SinC authors who are unable to appear in person are invited to send bookmarks,
postcards, or other promotional materials for distribution to Festival attendees
(limit 100 pieces).


18 thoughts on “Chasing the Wistfuls Away…

  1. billie

    JT, all that muse magic is in YOU, so just type it into that Sony Vaio and don’t look back. 🙂

    I have certainly known and used the magic of ritual in my writing, and place does matter. I haven’t been able to write in my current office, and although that wasn’t the plan when I moved there, it surprises me that I don’t even try.

    I tend to do a fair amount of writing “on location” and find that incredibly stimulating. I like the default mode of a writing routine here at home in my garret but I also like changing that at will, and often go write “someplace new” just to stir things up.

  2. Christa Miller

    I do have “favorite” places to write (certain coffee shops) but by necessity I write almost anywhere – in the car or outdoors on my PDA, in my living room on my desktop. Otherwise it would be really easy to use my 2 noisy boys as excuses not to get anything done!

  3. Alexandra Sokoloff

    JT, I’m so sorry it’s taking you so long to heal – I would be beating people to death with my cast by now.

    Billie, that’s too funny – I can’t work in my office, either! I just gave up and moved a table into the living room.

    Bed is good. I write REALLY well on planes, longhand. I can’t work in a cafe for more than a couple of hours. Rainy days are best by far, but if it’s not raining I like a sunny room better than a dark one. But those are all preferences and not requirements. If I had to work in my office, I would. If I only had a cafe to work in, I would. The place doesn’t really matter… the only thing that ever matters about writing is that you START – and then you’re someplace else, anyway.

  4. J.B. Thompson

    Thanks for the mention, Wonder Twin (come one, come all, it’s going to be a fabulous weekend)!

    I find I can write just about anywhere, too, but I have to plan it and be organized about it – notes and paper and pen in hand if I’m away from my computer (alas, my laptop has died a painful death as well and I haven’t splurged on a new one yet). My office is kind of an anchor – the mess is like a security blanket, and as long as I’m there I know I can write. I’m sure my feelings on this will change once I get a new laptop, which will probably move me from my office to the kitchen table – my second favorite writing venue. I’ve never been able to write in public places, like a cafe. I get too distracted, people-watching, and they have a tendency to look at you funny if you start studying them too closely (especially if you take notes) …

  5. Naomi

    Hope you’re feeling much, much better, J.T. And yeah, you can write on this new baby. I’ve completely adjusted to my HP laptop and now wonder why it took me so long to upgrade. (Maybe my Taurean tendencies are at work as well.)

    It’s not the method; it’s the madness. And I’m sure that you have loads of that!

  6. Lisa

    JT, I hope the wrist continues to improve — and stays on schedule. Nothing worse than the promise of cast removal being delayed, especially in the summer.I moved from an apartment to a house this summer because I needed space — and am still adjusting to working here. My stuff’s all here, the book’s here, I’ve got a yard and a driveway and room for twelve feet of bookshelves — but it doesn’t feel quite right, or smell quite right, or something. And the unsettled-ness is making the work harder. I’m a little afraid the muse is still living in the apartment, and the new people wake up from dreaming my plot…

  7. Candace Salima

    I generally write in my office, but because the demands on my time by family, friends and emergencies has increased exponentially, I’m going to follow the advice of writer friends and purchase a Neo Alphasmart. That way, I can take the sucker with me anywhere and just pull it out of my purse and get busy.

    Balancing my laptop on my knees as my recently widowed sister drives over yet one more mountain pass (we won’t go there), furiously typing away and grabbing the laptop as we hit another pothole — yeah, I like the recliner thing. I think I’ll try that.

    But to answer your question fully, I write wherever I can, whenever I can.

  8. Allison Brennan

    Ugh, JT, I really hope you get better fast.

    Right now I’m writing at Starbucks and the brewery. I can’t seem to write at all at my house–I don’t have an office (my desk is in the living room) and with five kids I’m constantly interrupted. But even when they’re in school I’m having a hard time concentrating at home. I do about four hours at Starbucks every morning then switch to a restaurant for a two hour lunch and writing jag. I go the brewery at night when I’m on deadline.

    But in February we’re moving and one of the things I’m getting is my own office–800 square feet detached from the house. I certainly won’t be able to afford lunch out every day! I’m going to have to force myself to write in my new space.

  9. billie

    Here at home I have a little room I call thegarret, and I sit with my laptop in my Ekorne chair (great for backs!) and ottoman.

    I have a desk in here too but never sit there to write – just to print out pages.

    When everyone here leaves for a weekend jaunt, I take the laptop downstairs and work there. And sometimes I go on our front porch, which is glorious, but lately it’s just been too too hot.

    JT, meant to say earlier that I’m sending best wishes for a quick recovery from the wrist surgery. Will think of you on Monday whizzing those four chapters into the Sony!!

  10. Louise Ure

    JT, I hope the healing goes well and quickly. We need you back two-fisted!

    I’m an “only write in the office” girl. Although I wish I could write in the shower. That seems to be where I get my best ideas.

    And congratulations on the new Vaio. It’s not a Mac, but …

  11. Kathryn Lilley

    I keep burning through different locations in the house–started off in the downstairs den, which is lined with bookcases and feels like a real writing place. But because I rise at five a.m. to write, I find that room to be cold and isolated-feeling in the early hours. Then I migrated to the kitchen, to sit at the table near the comforting aroma of a pot of fresh-brewed coffee. Currently I’m entrenched in the dining room, which is actually set in my favorite part of the house–vaulted ceilings, plantation shutters. When I get tired of this spot, where to go next? I don’t know! There’s a nice little sitting room nearby…hmmm

  12. pari

    JT,Wonderful post, thank you.

    I’ve thought alot about mental and physical space. To me, the most important thing is having time to think without other people wanting things from me. This is very difficult at home when family is here, but I’ve learned to depend on an internal solitude far more than I used to.

    At this point, I think I could write just about anywhere.

  13. JT Ellison

    Thank you, all, for the wrist well wishes (say THAT three times fast.) I’m desperately trying not to get ahead of myself, but thank God I can type again. THAT was torture!

    I knew you guys would have a fascinating take on this. So it seems that our wellsprings may actually run dry for real if we don’t have our “place.”

    I’m planning on spending September editing in Starbucks, and not turning on the t-mobile internet service so I won’t be tempted. It should be an interesting change of pace, and as JB pointed out, a great way to build suddenly needed tertiary characters.

    Isn’t it funny that space can be as big an issue as tools? Too much, we drift, too little, we feel constrained. If only we could all be like Pari and find that internal font of solitude…

  14. B.G. Ritts

    JT, enjoy your new ‘toy’ and I hope all continues to go well with Mr. Wrist’s healing process. (Considering your [books’] subject matter, I find it illuminating that you regard a writing place as ‘cozy habitat’. 🙂

  15. Robin Burcell

    I did some of my best writing, longhand, parked in the church parking lot while the kids were in Sunday School, the hour before church started.

    I usually find that if I’m stuck on a particular passage or chapter, if I write longhand, it seems to get things going. Don’t know why that is… Maybe because there is no e-mail access? There was that direct line upstairs in the church parking lot, however… 😉

  16. JT Ellison

    Okay, safe and sound and at the beach. Yay!!!

    BG, thanks! My husband gets disturbed by that too…

    Robin, a direct line might help for a few other things. Can you give me the address of that curch?


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