An ugly robe is better than writing naked

bye bye robe

What is your writing uniform?

In her interview over at Book Writing World with Elizabeth Stark, Kate Moses (author of Cakewalk) mentions that she gave herself three months to write her book, and she wore overalls every single day. Her overalls were her writing uniform. (She also talks about how she has carved out space and time for herself as a writer and mother–but of course, shallow as I am, I gravitated towards her overall-uniform comment most!)

At the Guardian Hay Festival, where writers were prompted to answer questions they are never asked, Chang-rae Lee asks (and answers):

“Do you ever write naked?

Not quite naked, but on hot, humid summer days (my study is poorly air-conditioned) I have to strip down to my undershorts to work. But almost stripped, there’s a definite feeling of the elemental while I’m writing, a sense of physical exertion that’s a welcome counterpoint to the endless operations of endless thought.”

(Um. I love that the question he chooses to ask himself is precisely, “Do you ever write naked?”)

For the past couple of years, I have been writing in tshirts and pajama bottoms; the unfettered comfort of writing in sleepwear has made it so the slightest bit of physical discomfort encumbers my ability to write. Now I can’t write when I wear something with a pinching waistband.

In hindsight, I’m grateful that I never developed the habit of writing naked; my writing options would be very limited. Even though I live in a place famous for, among other things, The Naked Guy, I have no desire to be naked in public.

Also, I’m paranoid that the camera on my macbook pro laptop will suddenly turn ON, and transmit my nekkidness to the Universe without my knowing. (Even though that paranoia doesn’t extend to my picking my nose on occasion while in front of my laptop and the aforementioned camera).

That isn’t to say that I don’t write in cafés. If I could wear pajamas to write in a cafe, I would; I have to rifle through my closet to find clothing that fits me like pajamas and yet does not LOOK like pajamas for any writing outing. Most unstylish, but utilitarian!

But before I wrote in pajama bottoms and tshirts, I had a writing robe.

I really liked my robe. It was a blue and green plaid flannel cotton robe, one that I also took with me to Hedgebrook. The robe was way too large, one that fit me like a blanket wrapped around my body, the shoulder seams hanging halfway down my arms, the sleeves way too large, the fabric hanging off my body like overwrought curtain valances.

It was a comfortable robe. Like I said, it fit me like a blanket wrapped around my body (and yet was lightweight enough that it was not quite the Snuggie/Slanket of great popularity today), and I liked to write in it. I’d had the robe since college days when I was fond of ordering out of the LL Bean catalogue, an affinity long since vanquished. I would write my midterm and final papers in that robe. The robe to me, was my attachment to writing, like how others have an attachment to a particular kind of typewriter, pen, or desk when it comes to writing.

My husband, on the other hand, hated this robe. I never thought it was a beautiful robe, but I thought there was just something…robe-like about the robe. In my opinion, I don’t think robes are supposed to be pretty. They’re like…sweats. (Do people wear sweats anymore? They really were the loungewear of the 80s and 90s weren’t they? We wore them 24/7 in college).

After my stroke, I didn’t write for about a year. I was unable to write. I was in a happy fog, one in which I lived entirely in the present tense, unable to remember the past or fret about the future. And so, I had no sentimental attachment to things like a writing robe.

When it came time to tidy things, sometime in my recovery, I quickly nodded yes, when my husband pointed to the robe, and to the trash can. “Are you sure?” he asked. And I nodded with assuredness. Why did I have that robe anyway?

So in the trash it went. At least I had the wherewithal to snap a photo before it left my life!

I miss the robe. I now see it as the demarcating line of a new chapter of my writing life; one that started years post-stroke and contained a new gravity. Now I wonder if any future chapters will have me writing in anything other than sleepwear, because it’s not just about a robe or pajama bottoms plus wacky vintage tshirts for me. Someday, I’d like to find a gorgeous caftan and wear THAT as my writing uniform. (And can that come with a penthouse apartment in Manhattan?). 😉

What do you write in?

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7 Comments

Filed under Writing

7 responses to “An ugly robe is better than writing naked

  1. Oh, this post is great. I don’t have a writing outfit, really. Though, I tend to write in “comfy pants” (pjs or sweats!), because after about 8pm rolls around and I know I’m not going out for the night, that’s what I put on. Also, because on weekends I tend not to get dressed in real clothes until I know I have to leave.

    But, um, that’s more revealing of my normal state of existence than my writing habits, per se.

    • thank you margosita! i wonder if any writer really does dress up to write. on my writing days, it’s an accomplishment to brush my teeth, let alone get out of PJs 🙂

  2. YouKnowWho

    Blue bathrobe, comfy PJ bottoms, socks, T-shirt.

    Usually I am high on energy drinks.

  3. Nate

    My everyday home attire consists of comfy pants and a T-shirt that is decorated with baby vomit/drool/snot, so I tend to wear jeans & a flannel. Something about a walk and a train ride helps me focus and I need quiet, so I usually write at the library. That limits my eccentricities somewhat, but I do like to write barefoot. My favorite spot is way up in the stacks, so I’ve never had anyone say boo about my bare feet.

    Because of our drafty apartment Mrs. Nate loves her robe over her sweats. Her giant fleece robe, which is known affectionately as “Robe”, gets put on exactly .5 nanoseconds after she hits the door, after she trades her (hawt) teacher clothes for sweats, that is 😦

    So, I’m glad you were comfy, but feel your husband’s pain.

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