Okay, are you rolling your eyes after reading the post title? Hey, I think writers’ habits are fascinating. I’ll share mine here and then list a few well-known writers’ habits.
First mine. I don’t write long fiction, and I don’t write every day. To begin, I pore through my notebooks for ideas, then when I hit on something, I start writing by hand or by typewriter, letting it flow, and toss in all kinds of junk from whatever is going on in my life. One of my biggest stumbling blocks is my tendency to be “clever” and “quirky” at the expense of writing a good story which uncovers another universal facet of “the human condition.”
I sit at a writing desk in a room where I can’t see a computer. That way I don’t jump into my shamefully addictive behavior of going online and losing myself for hours. I can reward myself by going online AFTER I’ve written for a few hours. But sometimes writing does go easier on a word processor, so I’ll turn on the laptop and start copying what I have of a first draft onto the screen. That’s like knowing a bottle of Jack Daniels is on the table next to you if you’re an alcoholic trying not to drink. But that’s how it goes for me.
It’s preferable to finish the first draft of a story rather than giving up or starting the next draft, but sometimes I get dry and need a refreshing drink of inspiration in order to finish. So to get unstuck I read good literature which I pull off my bookshelf. Sometimes the writer’s voice will creep into my writing. But that’s okay in a first draft.
Maybe it’s a reflection of my disorganized mind, but my first drafts are a complete MESS. I write so much in margins and every available white space that I can’t read what I wrote. Then I have to go back and make sense of everything. And by that time, I’ve usually moved past the old trajectory, so I have to completely re-think my characters and their story. It’s important to keep in mind that it can take months, even years to write a short story, so that keeps things in perspective: I’m going for quality and depth rather than clever superficiality.
Now some (brief) habits from the greats:
- Stephen King writes 10 pages per day, every day minimum.
- Anthony Trollope wrote 250 words every 15 minutes, though only through the hours of 5:30 and 8:30 in the morning.
- J. D. Salinger had a filing system of character names and ideas written on index cards that were pinned on the wall where he wrote.
- Michael Ondaatje writes exclusively on paper, then ‘cuts and pastes’ his writing using a pair of scissors and tape.
- Issac Asimov never did any editing or revision work when he wrote. What he wrote down was what he wrote, and that was that. He also had two electric typewriters on hand, just in case one died. Apparently, the backup typewriter was out of necessity after he was forced to stop writing after one died unexpectedly.
- Blanche d’Alpuget writes everything using a computer, but once she’s done, she prints out her work, deletes the file, and types it all over again from the printed page.
- Kurt Vonnegut obsessed over every page he wrote. He would re-write every page over and over again, multiple times, until he was satisfied with his writing.
- Jack Kerouac had a list of 30 “Essentials”. He was also known for his constant attempts to get published and as such, would constantly revise, rearrange, and edit everything he wrote, which only resulted in more letters of rejection from the publishers he worked so hard to impress.
- Friedrich von Schiller used the smell of rotten apples to stimulate his senses, and from this he was able to draw inspiration.
- Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette picked fleas off of her cat before she wrote.
- François-Marie Arouet Voltaire liked to use the naked back of his lover as a writing desk.
- Edgar Allen Poe liked to have a cat sit on his shoulder when he wrote. He also married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. Poe died at age 40, the cause of his death has been debated for some time, and has been attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, and/or tuberculosis. He was not a very practical person.
- T.S. Eliot preferred to write especially when he had a head cold.
- Kent Haruf wrote his novel Plainsong with a wool stocking covering his face as he blindly typed in the confines of an unheated basement.
(via: Tom Slatin)
Okay, what are your writing habits? Give it a go in the comments. It will be fun to read.
- Do You Own a Typewriter? (casasugar.com)
- Writing down the bones! (annsuree.wordpress.com)
- How To Break Writing Habits Even If You’re Not A Writer (nfaa.wordpress.com)
- The Shape of A Story (nfaa.wordpress.com)
- This could become a habit (bookofliv.wordpress.com)
- Letting it Flow… (shivasleeps.wordpress.com)
- Habits that Helped Me Finish My Novel (anikocarmean.wordpress.com)