Writing habits of successful authors… and me…

How do you get the juices flowing when you want to write? Do you have a a routine, or props that help get you in the mood? Is there a special place you go to, or particular places that make you more prolific? I’ve listed the odd habits of a few very successful authors below, which goes to prove ‘there’s nowt as queer as folk’. See if you share anything in common with them…

Unfortunately I am unable to have a writing routine. My lifestyle just doesn’t permit it. Getting up every day and having a specific time slot to do a certain number of words just isn’t going to work with me. I tend to have to write wherever and whenever I have a moment – so I have a pad and pen with me at all times, or laptop if possible.

Like Truman Capote, I’m naturally ‘a completely horizontal’ writer. My favourite place to write is in bed, cup of tea on the bedside table, dictionaries, thesaurus’, research spread out everywhere (even though I’ll be using a laptop and online dictionaries, I like to flick through an actual book every now and again).

I have tried writing in cafes, somehow I just can’t get into it. Trains are different. If I get a good seat with a bit of space and know I’m not getting off for a while, I can really get a lot done.

When I was secondary school age (when I wasn’t drinking cider on a park bench with the ne’er-do-wells or playing electric guitar very badly), I was hiding alone in the Lion Yard Central Library in Cambridge, England – ALL day. (I’ve always been a strange combo of geek and rubbish rebel 😉 ) I loved that place. For a public library it was huge and well stocked, with great desks and private booths to study in. I’ve no idea if it’s the same now, but I reckon if I had something like that on my doorstep I might very well sneak off there, hide in the history section, and write my little heart out. (You’ll be pleased to know I can’t stand cider these days!)

Hopefully very soon I’ll have a ‘study’, which sounds very grand. It’s really a tiny room which will have a desk and some shelves. I’m not sure if this will change my writing for the better, but I do have dreams of being able to stick things on the wall – bits of research, maybe the meaning of mysterious words like ‘adjective’ and ‘gerund’ (which, no matter how many times I learn, I instantly forget), inspirational pictures…you get the idea.

Habits of successful writers..

Stephen King In his book On Writing, King said he writes ten pages a day without fail, even on holidays. It probably explains why he’s such a prolific writer.

Ernest Hemingway reportedly wrote 500 words a day. He wrote early in the day to avoid the heat. Although Hemingway is famous for his alcoholism, he said he never wrote while drunk.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote standing up and all on index cards! This allowed him to write scenes non-sequentially so he could re-arrange the cards later. That would take a lot of cards, I imagine.

Truman Capote. The author of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” claimed to be a “completely horizontal author.” He said he had to write lying down, in bed or on a couch, with a cigarette and coffee, then sherry, then martinis…  He wrote his first and second drafts in longhand, in pencil. His third draft which was typed, was also done in bed.

Philip Roth, is another writer claiming to work standing up, pacing as he thinks. He doesn’t write where he lives but in a studio.

James Joyce, prided himself in taking his time with each sentence. A famous story has a friend asking Joyce in the street if he’d had a good day writing. Yes, Joyce replied happily. How much had he written? Three sentences, Joyce told him.

What are your favourite writing places and strange (or not) writing habits? What would be your ideal writing environment?

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2 thoughts on “Writing habits of successful authors… and me…

  1. I work full time so the only times I write is in the evenings. I tend to alternates and write every other day, I read the days I’m not writing. My usual place is in the living room with headphones on listening to Absolute Radio Classic Rock online.

    My average, on a good night I can do over 1,000 but its usually between 500 and 700 words. Not saying the quality of those words as that is sorted out during the editing process.

  2. plantageneta says:

    It would be great to be able to have loads of time to write but I think most of us have such busy lives we have to cram it in when we can. Its a good balance that you read every other day when you’re not writing. I read when I’m not writing, but that’s often when I’ve reached a bit of a mental block.
    I was thinking about doing a blog on writing inspiration, you mentioning listening to music online reminded me. I can get very inspired by music – the whole of Green Days 21st century breakdown has really inspired my current novel and more recently (and weirdly Spanish symphony No. 2 by Glinka – who i hadn’t even heard of until a few months ago!)

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