I’m a slow writer. Even when I’m well-rested, well-fed, well-caffeinated, focused, comfortable, with good light, and have an idea I can pursue, I’m unlikely to hit 1,000 words a day. My goal is 500. Usually I hit that. Some days I hit a little more. Some days, I regret to say, I hit less.
Despite the slowness of my pace, despite the “thought” and “care” I can theoretically put into my daily output given the time I put into it, on any given day I’ll delete half of what I wrote the previous day.
And sometimes—fairly often, really—things snarl up anyway. Just two weeks ago, I reported that I’d hit a wall with my WIP. I needed to work out the story question. That question answered, the “wall” that I saw two weeks ago is now just a distant memory, something that turned out to be merely a bump in my writing road, a problem solved quickly and almost painlessly.
In fact, lately I’ve been—for me—streaking along. I’m writing 600 or 700 words a day most days, and I don’t delete that much from day to day. Every day I have an idea. Every day I can express it.
This is just about a miracle.
Why? I wondered. What have I done, what has happened? And how can replicate it?
I’ve given this question some thought over the last few days, and I think I know the answer. It’s my new fireplace.
Here’s the backstory: I live in northern California, in a 110-year-old, uninsulated duplex. It doesn’t snow here, but in the winter, the overnight temperatures fall into the forties usually, and sometimes the thirties. My apartment originally relied on the coal-burning fireplace for heat. Then about forty years ago, the place got a wall heater, which did not heat the apartment adequately. The coal-burning—and then wood-burning—fireplace was abandoned as too dirty.
Over the years, I tried to find ways to stay warm in this apartment, and I was never fully successful. I added space heaters. I wore sweaters and wrapped up in shawls—indeed, friends said that at times I looked like a Bedouin nomad. And yet, I was never quite as warm as I would have liked to have been. I was always getting under a blanket. My fingers were always cold.
Until this year, when I had a gas insert installed in the fireplace. It has transformed my life.
For the first time in decades, I’m warm enough every single day. Some nights when I’m in the living room, the farthest I can be from the fireplace, I’m too warm. I’ve never been too warm in here. The fireplace has a thermostat, and I can control the temperature, the speed of the fan, and the height of the flame. It looks good, and best of all, it feels really, really good.
You have no idea how cheery this fireplace makes me. And how much comfort the heat has added to the quality of my life. I revel in the warmth. I love the new fireplace.
Is my new, warmer atmosphere responsible for my increased productivity and improved writing? I don’t know. But I’m sure not turning off the fireplace to find out.
What about you? Does physical comfort—especially heat—help your writing? Or does lack of it freeze your imagination?