Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Does writing in bed help writers access their unconscious?  Orwell, Proust and Churchill were bed writers. So they must have thought so.

Mark Twain
Some modern authors prefer writing in bed and this puts them in the company of some famous writers. Edith Wharton, Winston Churchill, Colette, and Mark Twain all wrote in bed.
I don't write in bed, but then, neither do I  read in bed . But writing in bed is making somewhat of a comeback, especially in the age of the laptop computer and its accessories, such as laptop desks. Studies show that sitting a laptop on your knees or tummy can cause overheating of the laptop and worse affect your fertility.
Laptops have made bed writing much easier as it was hard to haul a heavy typewriter into a bed. The dying George Orwell used to prop his typewriter up in bed, and hammer away at the final draft of 1984.
Writing in bed is not just about convenience or comfort. Some would say there's a psychological factor. Early morning bed writers think that they can catch a part of consciousness, that lies somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness. They feel one may still be in the spiders web of the dream world just prior to the sharp brightness of the waking state.Stephen King refers to this little bit of mystery as the work of "the boys in the basement" (also known as the unconscious).

For some writers, those who like working in restaurants and coffee shops, this would be a kind of torture. Personally, I find both reading and writing in bed not a good combination. But then I don't eat in bed either. If I wake, I'm up. If I lie down, I'm asleep. It just doesn't work for me. Bed is a comforting place, so it makes an ideal setting for resting. I'm not into reading challenging, terrifying, or thought provoking books prior to sleep.  One  young mother told me recently she is so busy, that the only time she has to herself is the hour before she falls asleep.  Bed is the one place she can get lost in a book for an hour without being interrupted.

Ernest Hemingway

Finally, at some point, the writer has to get up. Churchill, who wrote in bed, also wrote standing up. So did Hemingway.  If it's a choice between standing or sitting in bed to write, I'd always settle for comfort.

Where do you write?


Ellis Vidler said...

I sit in a chair with my laptop on a chill pad with a fan. It was too hot for me or the laptop without the pad. My friend writes in bed and is very content with it. I'm afraid I'd go to sleep and let my computer fall to the floor. I can imagine writing by hand, but certainly not with a typewriter anywhere but a desk or table. We do have it easy now, don't we?

Ruby Johnson said...

Thanks for stopping by. I think computers have really been the greatest invention of this century. I hated the typewriter, because I made so many errors that when I finally got a computer, I kept backspacing! I know several people who love the new ipad and use it everywhere. Can't say I do. I spent two weeks with one in April and hated trying to send emails, but then again, I don't text message either. Some people use their bed for eating, reading, working and surfing the internet. And when they get tired of that they brush the crumbs off the sheets and do the things that people normally do in bed.

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