• 10 Things I must do to maintain my writing ...

    1. Own a large supply of blue sharpies. I've honestly tried everything else from pencils, to black ball point pens and nothing else has the same effect on my mind. I must hand write everything as it is a direct conduit to my brain, and I must use blue sharpies. I buy boxes of them whenever I can. They litter my house, but several of them, specific ones, I allow no one to touch.

    2. Purchase large quantities of yellow legal pads. Just seeing them stacked up under my desk is a constant reminder of what I'm supposed to be doing. There's no way to avoid it when I'm in my office and they stick out like a slap in the face. Once I've started writing, I carry the current tablet with me everywhere. It never leaves me. I once carried the totality of a novel with me on a flight where my luggage was lost, but later found. I cannot be separated from it and will not be by anything.

    3. Make as many writing prompts / notes onto sticky-backed index cards as my brain will release. I read and re-read them constantly going over the small details of how the story occurred, what was said, who was there, what I need to write and what I likely will have to skip and where I was at, within, emotionally.

    4. Make a list of the most important films and movies that I was watching during the period of which I am writing. My writing always contains an historical narrative, thus I try to stay true to whatever the stimulus I had back then. These things are key in breaking loose the small gems from the rocks as I slash through the dense mid-sections of the story. Those that know me already know my obsession with Blade Runner, Casablanca, The Big Sleep and The Prestige.

    5. Make a list of the music I listened to back then and overdose on it entirely until I'm almost in a trance and can envision the bulk of my memories lucidly. It effects everything around me, my mood (yes, it takes a toll), my speech at times, my sleep, my dreams and even the things I eat or drink. The music is equally important to me as an inner fuel as it pushes me deeper. That may sound absurd, flighty and new age, but it is what it is.

    6. I must write every day – even if it's just a single word. I must write it on paper, by hand and on the tablet. Some days I can fill a whole tablet, some days I have to force myself with tears, and fear and open eyes to write a single line. Some of those days, years gone, need to be written about, but there is much in me that would rather shy away and not write certain things. Those things that we keep buried, that hurt and would hurt later to re-read, think about again, dig up from subterranean places where there is no oil, no gold, no jewels – nothing but thick, unrelenting darkness, must be dredged. These things we know that could hurt us, must be written.

    7. Tea. I must drink tea. I must drink lots of tea. Loose leaf. Cheap bag tea, Asian tea, Indian tea, Arab tea, English tea. All of it. I have a large supply in my pantry and I must drink all of it. Why? I have no explanation, but it is one of the few things that soothe me, calms me, makes me feel like I belong somewhere. Too far from it, I fall apart. I become like a leaf in the wind far from my few simple vices.

    8. Read. I must read, but I must be very careful what I read. I've have seen what some types of material does to me and some of it definitely brings out the worst in me. It better be good and it better resonate. A good book must be an axe, like Kafka has so eloquently stated. Toothpicks and cheap, damp firewood will not be tolerated. Bastards who are only out for coin will be shot quickly, and fed after death with a harsh stare.

    9. Sleep well. Sleep badly. Sleep in my car on the side of the road. Sleep on my couch in my office. Sleep on the floor in my son's room. Sleep under the night sky in fall in my back yard. All of this is concentrated thinking and critical. The mind must rest and it must rest a great deal. Without sleep, the work becomes an exercise in pushing vapours around on a page.

    10. Find new things to love and be loved by. Live new experiences. Meet real people that would both enjoy my company, and despise it. It is absolutely necessary. Writing is an experience to be undertaken while I am living my life and enjoying the days that slip by. Writing often occurs in a vacuum with some, but while it does, it doesn't live long. Whatever life is written about, an equal amount must be experienced. Writing is a cycle, just like everything else.


      Steffan Piper is the author of several novels including GreyhoundYellow Fever and Fugue State. He was once kicked out of Nome, Alaska due to a minor misunderstanding. He has a blog, a Facebook page, a favorite film and lives in Palm Desert, CA.



    1. I think the tea obsession has to do with a prior life. Or, since there is no time, a parallel life.

    2. Great list. Now I think I'll go and have a nice cup of tea...