Friday, September 10, 2010

Writing in pyjamas

I must admit to you that as I write these lines I’m rather underdressed. There’s no cause for alarm – I’m in my pyjamas. Just count yourself lucky that today I’m wearing rather sedate ones: black cotton top, grey cotton pants, camouflage socks. Because it could just as easily have been the red “Not tonight” nightgown, flannel pants printed with little black schnauzers and ugg slippers with pompoms.

I should probably tell you that I almost always write in my pyjamas. Don’t get me wrong: my hat goes off to writers who get up, have breakfast and dress for success, even if they’re going to be home alone all day at the computer. But I benefit greatly from staying in my nightwear. I wrote my 450-page memoir entirely in my pyjamas, though these were not easily visible under the grey acrylic bathrobe that I shrouded myself in for decency’s sake. I’m sure the next-door neighbors and all those poor innocent couriers were as grateful as I was for that robe, especially on the “Not tonight” days.

I wrote my book in my pyjamas just after I got married. Some might see this as the ultimate test of my husband’s love. But I see it a bit differently. There are actually some very sound reasons to write in your bedclothes.

First of all, there’s the undeniable comfort factor. The elastic waistline. The soft fabric. The warmth. I’m convinced the literary juices flow much better if you’re feeling snugly.

Secondly, you save precious time. By going directly from toast to writing, you skip the time-consuming process of deciding on the day’s wardrobe. If your closet is even half as full as mine is, the choices are boundless. The brown polka-dot dress or the green one? The leggings that go down to the ankle or the ones that stop at the calf? The sensible flats or the strappy sandals I couldn’t run in to save my toddler’s life but that still look so darn good? It’s exhausting. (And rather boring too. One of my tricks for getting myself to sleep at night is to lie in bed contemplating what I’m going to wear to work the next day. It works like a charm: I don’t even get to the pants before I’m out like a light.)

Finally, and much more importantly (as all final points are), pyjamas allow you to completely give yourself over to the creative process. Like a nun or a monk donning a somber, unflattering yet surprisingly comfy habit, you purify yourself of all petty thoughts, remove yourself from the mundane world and devote yourself entirely to writing. The commitment is so profound that when the belltower strikes noon, you realize you have neither put down your quill, nor taken a single bite from your stale loaf or even used the chamberpot.

Perhaps comparing my pyjamas to a nun’s habit is a bit extreme or, at the very least, rather shameful. It might be more accurate to liken them to a sort of uniform. Plenty of respectable professionals wear uniforms; why shouldn’t a writer? Depending on what particular type of PJs I’m sporting on a given day, I might feel like a pilot in perfect control of my craft, with my freshly-laundered matching top and pants. Or perhaps like a flight attendant repeating safety instructions for the umpteenth time to crowds who won’t look up from their TVs unless they hear the magic word “chicken-or-beef?” I may feel like a soldier about to go into battle, no longer convinced the war is worth fighting. Or like a chef spattered with bacon fat and cherries, perhaps wielding a butcher knife. Other times I’m like a hotel cleaning lady fanatically scrubbing the inside of the bathtub drain, where no one is ever going to look anyway.

In any case, I do my best writing in my pyjamas. It shouldn’t be a coincidence then that it’s in my pyjamas that I also do my best mothering. Most often this happens on rainy days when I have no work, appointments or even a car. On those days where we’re cushioned indoors in our bedclothes, me in my Hello Kitty pyjamas and my little man in his pink crazy monkey suit, I have no ambition other than to devote myself to my son. I make blueberry pancakes. I read stories. I get down on the carpet and build train tracks. I get on all fours and play horsy for my little cowboy. I let him blow his recorder into my nose and spit half-chewed pretzels into my hand.

The only problem with writing in your pyjamas is the predictable conundrum that arises in the evening: should I wear the same pyjamas to bed or should I get changed first into a new pair? Usually I opt for the second choice and I think it’s clear why. Even the most dedicated cleaning lady won’t sleep in her uniform; shouldn’t I too be allowed to slip into something more comfortable at the end of the day?

4 comments:

  1. Dearest Heddi, very well expressed. I also feel I do my best creative work at home in my pyjamas and have been known to leave them on all day if editing photos/writing etc. And, brilliantly, I also usually shower and put on fresh ones to go to bed!!!

    I feel we are more 'honest' when we are in our PJs.

    xxx
    Shaz

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  2. Thanks for the great blog.
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    Monica Sharma

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  3. Hi Monica, thanks so much for your visit to my blog. It's a true thrill to be read by someone from so far away! Hope to hear from you again!
    heddi.

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