Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Monday, November 14, 2011

What I Had for Breakfast

W.C. Fields once said in an interview, "I put my long underwear on at the first frost of Autumn and don't take it off until the first blossom of Spring."

When his friend Gene Fowler asked why he would volunteer such unsolicited personal information, Fields said, "People are always telling me things like that as if they are letting me in on something."

Years ago I noticed that when in casual conversations someone mentions what they had for breakfast, it is virtually always followed by each person in the group telling what they have for breakfast.

"It's bacon and eggs for me."
"Just coffee here."
"Cereal and toast."

Whenever I find myself trapped in such a discussion, I quietly decline to contribute. And, guess what? No one turns to me and says, "How about you, Al? What do you have for breakfast?"

If it's so damned interesting, why don't they ask?

Because it isn't about breakfast. It's about them. People are their own favorite subjects.

A similar pattern shows up in books written by writers about writing and in online writing discussion groups. We get the obligatory, "How, where, and when I write" discussions.

"I set aside a fixed time every day."
"I write [insert number] words a day."
"I write [insert number] pages a day."
"I have to write with music in the background."
"I cannot write with music in the background."
"After the kids go to school."
"At the kitchen table."
"I need a stiff drink nearby."
"A big bowl of M&Ms."
"In my study."
"Outside sitting on a fence."
"In my car with a voice recorder."

Ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

Who cares where Stephen King sits and what he sees and hears? How will knowing that help us become better, more successful writers? Can we expect that having learned John Locke's or Amanda Hocking's writing habits, we could emulate those habits and enjoy successes like theirs?

How about you? What are your writing habits?

There. I did it.

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