Monday, 29 July 2013

In The Buff


This wonderful picture is taken from an amusing blog I discovered whilst searching for pictures of naked writers. I wonder whether I'll still be able to find any after David Cameron has finished his dirty work? (With chilling echos of PayPal's censorship bid on Smashwords).

This post is brought about by a combination of the sweltering heatwave we've been having in the UK, and this delightful article in The Guardian:

Here, in the world of books – an awkward, secret society, sometimes lacking physical confidence – we might consider taking inspiration from Lady Gaga who has, apparently, recorded her latest album stark naked. Nor is she the first, by the way. Olivia Newton-John, Robbie Williams, Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) and the Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies have all performed in the nude, some of them regularly.

Authors generally get no more daring than bedclothes. Writers who have at one time or another worked in bed include Winston Churchill, Walter Scott and (suffering from TB) George Orwell.

Wow! Wow! Wow!

Hold it right there.

I have no idea which writers you've been hanging about with at your literary soirees, but obviously the wrong crowd. I'll have you know we writers are often bloody adventurous. We have to do adventurous things to be able to write about them. I, for one, went running naked into the North Sea on May Day... unfortunately I was too cold when I got out to be able to write about it. I may keep it for my memoirs.

Actually, I come from a long line of skinny dippers. My dad and his partner helped break the world record for the largest skinny dip, in Swansea in 2011.

Anyway, I digress. All I'm saying is that, as an author, even my bed clothes (when I can be bothered with them) are generally quite daring.

So, nyr.

The article ends with this rather anticlimactic line:

But no one, so far as I know, has ever described writing in the nude. Perhaps you can help?

How sad, and yes, I can. Let it be known that I am not someone who copes with heat very well. I generally go bright red, sweat a lot, and look for the nearest refrigerator to stick my face in. As such, most of the summer I am reluctant to get dressed, so I take a lukewarm shower when I get up, wrap a towel round by head, and place myself - sans apparel - in front of the computer to drip dry.

And, no. If you thought that was a filthy euphemism, you are one of those people David Cameron was sent to punish the rest of us for, so shush.

It just so happens that last Friday I had a short story to write for a competition. I've been meaning to write it for months. I can't say whether being naked was the deciding factor on why I chose Friday to write it, I'm sure I've been naked before and not done so, but, on the whole, it did make it a more comfortable experience. 

I'm on retreat in the countryside at the moment, in a cosy attic room, where I can open the skylight and allow the sun to embrace me. No neighbours, so no danger of surprising anyone. 

Perhaps nobody has written about the experience of writing naked before because there isn't much to write? It's exactly the same as writing with clothes on, only cooler. Which, in this heat, is an absolute blessing.

I think it might be a more stressful experience if you didn't have the luxury of total privacy. Most of us (myself included) suffer fairly low self-esteem when it comes to our bodies, even when they're fully clothed. I wonder whether my podge is showing when I sit down for coffee in a public place. Inevitably it is, and I should get over it. But we all have those niggling inhibitions. 

Funnily enough, when I'm on my own, I never sit down naked in front of the computer and wonder whether that exact same podge (because it really hasn't gone anywhere) is showing. The reason? I honestly don't care. It doesn't even cross my mind.

So, perhaps that's the key for many writers. Whereas rock stars tend to be exhibitionists (there's nothing like live music), we writers are more commonly isolationists (if social media doesn't count). The end conclusion is probably not that dissimilar, though. Being naked is only liberating if you are already liberated from the fact that you are naked. If you can sit down and write, or stand up and perform, naked, without feeling self-conscious, then you are liberated enough to channel all of your energy fully into creating art. If you're not - well, just put some clothes on. 


  1. know, writing chairs can be a bit...moist, if you sit there for long, naked. There's something about those nylon chair coverings that make it feel as though one is sitting on a sweaty horse. So I'd vote for 'write nearly-naked, keep your pants on'.

  2. Nothing as distracting as sweaty bum cheeks, that's fer sure. I now see where I have been going wrong. I usually keep my pants on, but always over my head... It's to keep my imaginings in.