Lisa Lenard-Cook
Photo by:
K. Zimmerman



The Lonely Writer’s Companion – Getting to the Desk

by Lisa Lenard-Cook

May, 2011



E. B. White circled his office, straightening the pictures on the wall until the work waiting on his desk demanded his attention. Toni Morrison, a mother of three, set her alarm & brewed a strong pot of coffee so she could work before the kids got up—& continues to do so even though those kids are grown. Victor Hugo had his valet hide his clothes, forcing him to stay in office until the day’s work was done.

". . .every writer has a ritual for getting
to the desk."


Whether much-published or new to the trade, every writer has a ritual for getting to the desk. I do a lot of desk-rearranging (much of it now on the MacBook, of course) before I sneak a look at what I’m working on. I tell myself I’ll just read a few paragraphs. Then, before I know it, I’m once again immersed in the work itself.

". . .good writing. . .
is a daily exercise in psychic terror."


Why such elaborate ruses? Because good writing (and by good, I mean writing that connects with readers) is a daily exercise in psychic terror. In From Where You Dream, Robert Olen Butler asserts that our daily practice requires us to delve deep into the darkest recesses of our memories, to go to the dark places where the best writing resides. No wonder we need rituals to help us.

What gets you to the desk? Do you have a pre-writing ritual? Join the conversation on the Authorlink Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you, and we’ll publish your comments as part of this column.


Lisa Lenard-Cook is a regular columnist for Authorlink. She is an award-winning published author and writing instructor. Read more about Lisa.

PEN-short-listed author Lisa Lenard-Cook’s most recent book is The Mind of Your Story: Discover What Drives Your Fiction (Writer’s Digest), which originated in her columns for Authorlink. With Lynn C. Miller, she’s co-founder of ABQ Writers Co-op (, a creative community for New Mexico writers, and co-editor of the literary magazine Bosque. She’s on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference and the Board of Narrative Art Center in Santa Fe. Website: