Janet used a typewriter. She only ever wrote by hand if she was travelling. But first, she did a lot of the composing in her head. I think that's why she needed silence when she was working. Sometimes she would go quiet and you could almost hear the thoughts whirring around in her brain. You could see something had been triggered. She would excuse herself and rush away to find the necessary solitude so she could concentrate. At the end of her life, when she was too weak to write any more, sometimes she would just talk about the idea, and how it would have made a good story.
She organised each project carefully - drawing it up in a notebook with suggested names of characters, and a few characteristics of each one, chapter headings, a synopsis and some key ideas, and working titles. Her plan included her goal for how many words she would write per day and per week, time off, and how long the book would take. She would then tick it all off day by day, or make excuses if she hadn't reached a particular goal.
She had a private study nobody else was ever allowed into. But she also had a work station in almost every other room in her house, even her living rooms and kitchen. There would be a desk or table, a typewriter, and plenty of blank paper. She could then work on several things at the same time. She hid her work behind screens so eyes couldn't pry when she had guests.
She had high standards and typed several drafts of her work - some of which are peppered with the exhortation to herself to "By God improve!" I remember she had a horror of being caught out inadvertently using the same word more than once. She usually cut her final manuscripts back quite severely. Once she was happy with the work, she strongly resisted any editing on the part of the publisher. When her manuscript was finished her ritual was to hole punch the pages and bind it inside cardboard covers, and write the title on the front.
She was very disciplined. She got up before dawn (it was quieter then) and had her first small breakfast, worked for a few hours, and then had her second breakfast, a cooked one. She was a coffee drinker - I never knew her to have a cup of tea. Then she worked until midday, which was the end of her writing day. She would emerge for lunch, and that was often shared with friends or family or out downtown somewhere. She was shaking off the internal world and her work was a forbidden topic from then on. There was no quicker way to alienate her than to try to press her on the topic of "what are you working on now?" We all knew that was taboo.
The afternoons were for shopping, chores, meeting friends, going for long walks, reading, and writing letters. She carried out multiple correspondences. Her letters were delightful: erudite, spontaneous, joking, wise, and beautifully written. She sometimes included satirical collages, and drew cartoons, and was a prolific sender of postcards.
She was not a fanatical gardener, but she had gardener's attention to plants. She always planted fruit and ornamental trees (lemon trees, gooseberry bushes, flowering currant) and grew a few vegetables and flowers. Some of her favourites were: lilac, sunflowers, peonies, geraniums, tomatoes, silver beet, asparagus. She was a good cook. She was famous for her light and fluffy scones (she used buttermilk) and her whitebait patties were divine. (Whitebait is a NZ seafood delicacy that was probably her favourite food.) She always had a beloved cat, but this conflicted with her love of the wild birds that she fed in winter with mutton fat and sugar water.
She loved music, especially classical music, although she had a soft spot for Johnny Cash ("I walk the line') and Frank Sinatra ("I did it my way'). She played the mouth organ and would bring it along to family gatherings if there was likely to be a singsong. She learned to play the piano just well enough to attempt some favourite pieces by Schubert or Mozart or Beethoven. She enjoyed concerts and film festivals and liked popular culture too - she was a fan of The Young and the Restless (she had a crush on Victor) and the Friday Fright movies on TV - horror, vampires and science fiction. Entertainment or research? I don't know. She often said it was marvellous to be a writer because absolutely everything was "grist to the mill".
She would lock her door before dark and close the outside world away again. She would read, watch TV, talk on the phone, surf the internet. If she was working on a book, she might do some more typing. But the usual story was "early to bed, early to rise."
Janet was very fond of handcrafts. She knitted, sewed, crocheted, wove, and made patchwork quilts. She loved chess and scrabble and almost any word game. She relished the freedom of her anonymous life. When I first saw the Disney TV programme Hannah Montana I was struck by the similarity of the plot to the way Janet lived. Just as rock star Hannah has a double identity (the public doesn't recognise her when she is plain everyday 'Mylie'), so Janet, by living under an invented name, was able to have a relatively ordinary life. At other times she was feted in literary circles and so she had "the best of both worlds".