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.