Following on from my post about how to write a book, let’s assume you are not a writer. But you have decided to give NaNoWriMo (or NaNonFiWriMo or NaBloPoMo or some other November writing challenge) a go. Good on you! You come home from work ready to get changed and settle down to get your 1,667 words down. Or maybe you’re going to write 12,500 each weekend instead. What are you going to wear? Your Signature Wardrobe NaNoWriMo Outfit!
You will be sitting crouched over your home computer, maybe first thing in the morning, maybe last thing after dinner depending on whether you are a morning person or a night owl. You might walk around a little in the hope of stimulating your creativity or just stand and stare out the window for a while. From that point of view, your NaNoWriMo outfit will be something comfortable that doesn’t need any adjustments that might break your concentration.
Not strictly related to your NaNoWriMo outfit, but many writers use activity, sounds, beverage or aroma cues to tell themselves it’s time to start writing. You might like to set up a routine to get yourself in the zone. You might benefit from making a relaxing drink, lighting a cinnamon or vanilla candle (said to boost creativity), and putting your earphones on to listen to thunderstorms or some other kind of white noise.
It’s tempting to say that it doesn’t matter what you wear, but I think it really does. You can write in all, any, or no clothes, but you will get the best results if you wear clothes that make you feel like someone who writes books. So here are five suggestions about how to get into a writer’s head space, and stimulate your creativity so that you can get those words down.
NaNoWriMo Outfit 1: Wear What Novelists Wear
One way to find out what novelists wear is to Google your favourites and see. Sadly, for my purpose, many pictures of modern novelists have copyright protections so I can’t reproduce them without paying. Here are some old-school biggies for inspiration.
It is hard to extrapolate writing clothes from publicity pictures. However, clothes didn’t start becoming the kind of cheap mass-produced clothes we can get today until around the 1960s. You can be reasonably sure that earlier novelists would have worn their everyday clothes. And for Woolf, Hemingway, Faulkner and my Zoo Director, this would have been formal clothes from woven fabrics very similar to what you see here. Le Guin, on the other hand, benefits from a more modern casual dress code; you can see she is wearing a t-shirt and a stretchy sleeveless cardigan.
NaNoWriMo Outfit 2: Wear the Voice You Want to Have
I have a theory that more formal clothes lead to more formal writing, but I have to concede that life, in general, was a more formal affair for our earlier writers than it is now. However, it’s hard to imagine that A Farewell to Arms could have come about if Hemingway had worn snuggly track pants and a t-shirt.
Your writing voice will probably sound more like you if you dress like you. So if you want to sound like you, wear your favourite outfit, whatever that is. Though if you like patterns you might find yourself watching the pattern and not writing.
Novels are written from a point of view. Sometimes it’s the main character, sometimes it’s a narrator. Sometimes you can write more authentically by taking yourself out of the picture and writing from the point of view of a narrator contemporary to the story. So you could try dressing like a cowboy for your Spaghetti Western, as a soldier for your War story, or as a starship captain for your Space Opera.
NaNoWriMo Outfit 3: Wear the Character You Want to Write
On a related note, as a novelist, you are creating a new universe with new people who didn’t exist before, regardless of what kind of novel you are writing. And as the characters aren’t you, they sometimes do strange things that leave you at a loss for where to go next. I have a number of half-written novels due to this.
It can sometimes help to fully immerse yourself in the universe you created, and one way to do this is to dress like your characters. Changing your clothes can help you change perspective, get inside your character and work out what they will do. Just look in a mirror and ask yourself questions to see how the character answers.
What would your unshaven 1950s private eye say that might be different to a love-struck 1920s flapper? Or you traumatised war veteran versus your idealistic multi-tentacled alien?
NaNoWriMo Outfit 4: Wear the Novelist Stereotype
If you are a painter or craftsperson you either wear clothes you don’t mind smearing with paint or you wear a protective outer layer like a smock. (And maybe a beret for the feel of the thing.) Writers don’t have a similarly distinctive presence. Unless you believe the movies, in which case we are all moody, unwashed, fat slobs who wear filthy pyjamas encrusted with dried up dribbles of meals gone by. And we all stare slack-jawed out of grimy windows at inner-city landscapes that we can’t afford.
I’m pretty sure that most of us dress better than that, but you never know.
Many writers are short-sighted, so try wearing some glasses, though if you don’t have vision problems, best to make them plain glass or slightly magnifying. Perhaps try a beret just to see.
NaNoWriMo Outfit 5: Wear the Novelist Superhero
By which I mean that your novelist outfit is more likely to be something you wear on the inside. Like a superhero costume; mild-mannered career professional by day, passionate boredom fighter by night.
Some writers do it nude. I’m sure they have good reasons. But for your purposes, you need a mental full-body suit that is firm and flattering. The colour blue is reputed to stimulate creativity so it should definitely be blue.
One of the wonderful things about novelists is that there are so many of them. They all have different voices and have created different worlds, and whoever you are there is at least one out there who is perfect for you. And whatever you write, there is an audience out there looking for you.
Some writers, similar to sports fans, have “lucky” writing clothes. If you find that your NaNoWriMo Outfit brings you success this year, you might like to save it for next year.