what writers wear (or don’t) when writing

I prefer to dress lightly indoors; no shoes, socks, or sweaters for me while at home. Weather permitting, my preference for light clothing extends outdoors. And at night I like to sleep as I was born. Before gravity snuck up, I’d snorkeled butt-naked in the warm blue waters off Spain. Gasped for breath as I showered under frigid waterfalls around Ben Nevis. Purred in delight as I lapped up sun rays on the nude beaches of St. Tropez, Cannes, and Poqueroles. And learned the full meaning of wind-burn after sailing around Catalina Island wearing nothing but an itsy-bitsy French thong and not enough sun block.

But my eyebrows shot up, and I stepped back a little, when a seemingly straight-laced colleague asked, “Do you ever write while naked?” And then proceeded to tell me how freeing it was … letting it all hang out … in every aspect.

“Well”, I said tongue-in-cheek, trying (and failing) not to envision the “letting it all hang out” bits, “There are times I’ve written nakedly—exposing, but never completely divulging, my inner most secrets. But no, I can’t say I ever sit at my PC and write while naked.”

We writers are weird. But that weird, I’m not!

However, it got me wondering: If my buttoned-up, brace-wearing, non-cursing, non-drinking colleague (yes, he’s Mormon) gets naked to write, how do other writers dress when they sit down to write?  Or, more to the point, do they undress?

  • VictorHugoVictor Hugo (left) had his servant take away his clothes while he wrote … so presumably, he wrote in the nude or in his underwear.
  • James Whitcomb Riley wrote naked … he had a friend lock him in a hotel room and take away his clothes so he couldn’t go out for a drink until he’d finished writing.
  • John MCPhee wrote in his bathrobe, tying its belt to the arms of his chair to restrain him from leaving.
  • Badyl Hiram wrote in the buff … clothes restricted him and the sight of him naked was supposedly so repulsive that no one ever disturbed him. jane smiley-0540
  • Jane Smiley  (right) often wears a robe … but won’t share what’s underneath.
  • Simon Galleene writes on his beach deck wearing nothing (peepo … nothing!) but a Polynesian sarong wrapped around his waist.
  • John Cheever dressed in a business suit … then walked from his apartment downstairs to a room in the basement where he hung his suit on a hanger and wrote in his underwear.
  • Agatha Christie often wrote naked in the bathtub with a basket full of crisp apples at her side (which she also ate in the bath).
  • Michael Mu writes in just his undershorts. Haynes stretch, denim color, if you please.
  • Jessamyn West wrote in PJ’s in bed.
  • Charles Dickens wrote in a suit while writing… in debtor’s prison.
  • William Maxwell wrote novels in his PJ’s, a visual warning to leave him alone.
  • Benjamin Disraeli wrote his novels dressed in evening clothes.
  • John Keats dressed as if he were going out, clean and smart.
  • Ralph Keyes dresses to write, but prefers to abandon any kind of footwear while at his desk.*

BettyBoopWhen I have a long writing stint ahead of me, I like to get comfortable, and must admit I’m rather partial to kicking off my shoes and rolling up the bottoms of my favorite bright red Betty Boop flannel pants.

So … ‘fess up. What about you?

* Some of the above notes came from The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes.

4 thoughts on “what writers wear (or don’t) when writing

  1. Hee … interesting what people get up to at their desks! I just get comfortable, mostly in sweat pants or shorts, and I take of my jewelry and pull back my hair. I can’t concentrate if I’m fidgeting with clothes.

  2. Well, this was illuminating! Isn’t it amazing how many different types of people make the world such an interesting place? I can’t say there’s anything unusual about what I wear when I write. Usually, it’s casual clothing topped with a heavy hand-made wool sweater that was a gift from a dear friend, jeans, long undies under the jeans, socks, and my wool slippers, since so much of the year here in Washington is c-c-cold.I also borrow some big, plump pillows from the couch to make my chair more comfortable, since I’ve been known to write for hours and the standard issue chair is not padded enough for absolute comfort.


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