Monday, December 15, 2008

November 13, 2008 "Writers in Winter"

I'm reclining on the “writing couch” in my study. I'm wearing a long-sleeved fleece top, a ditto vest, thick pants, and two pairs of socks. I am wrapped from the waist down in two afghans, and I'm so cold that my fingernails are blue.



In late summer, from a combination of environmental rectitude, financial considerations, and rage against the oil companies, I got my husband to agree to keep the thermostat at 65F this winter. Now it's 45F outside (balmy, by Vermont standards) and 65F inside, and I can't believe how cold I feel. I think it's because I'm writing.


Colette scattered helpful hints for writers throughout her books: white paper fatigues the eyes, so write on blue paper; if your desk lamp is too bright, wrap a piece of blue paper around the lampshade; above all, keep your feet and legs warm. Her last husband, Maurice Goudeket, tells how Colette, who wrote for hours on end, would start out with an afghan on her lap, then add more and more blankets and shawls as the day wore on until by quitting time she resembled a huge cocoon.


When she married Goudeket, who was some 20 years her junior, Colette was in her 50's, and famous, so she must have had enough money to buy fuel. Still, her 17th century apartment in the Palais Royal was full of drafts, and you know how the French are about drafts. Hence the cocoon. I can barely imagine what it must have been like during the two world wars, both of which she spent in Paris, when there was almost no fuel, and very little food. And yet she wrote, and wrote.


So here I sit, typing away with blue fingers, thinking that I need to get a pair of fingerless gloves and that it was an easy thing to commit to 65F with the August sun beating down on my head. But I'm not ready to turn up the thermostat yet. I like it that my choice to be chilly connects me to generations of writers who sat shivering in their garrets, blowing on their fingers, adding on more blankets, and writing, writing.


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