American Writer, Photographer, and Website Designer. Former career Fire and EMS Lieutenant. She/Her/Lesbian.

The Writing Habits of Those Who Write

Many countless folks have asked me what my writing habits are, and I have been reluctant to share my secrets.  Before we begin writing anything, the writing has to start somewhere; in other words, there has to be some sort of inspiration to write (sometimes known as writing prompts).  Lots of experienced writers have habits, or rituals that the writer goes through before they begin to start writing.  I prefer to have plenty of coffee, or tea, or really anything with caffeine nearby, and a bound notebook.  I carry a notebook, or at the very least, a pen and paper, with me at all times.  Of course, a comfortable chair and some music playing in the background helps as well.  But instead of discussing my habits and/or rituals, let’s take a look at those of some of the more famous writers.  Besides, we all want to know about the famous writers, not the freelance ones like me.

  • 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.

6 responses to “The Writing Habits of Those Who Write”

  1. I like writing in noisy coffee shops like Starbucks or similar places. At home I often get distracted: I go to the fridge to eat something, I check my email, I read the newspaper, etc. etc. At a noisy coffee shop, I can shut out the din and concentrate on my writing. I only take a notepad and a ballpoint pen – no distractions from home.

  2. I love writing at night. I usually sit in the balcony of my apartment and listen to the ocean. I must listen to music, and have my cat or dog with me; I tend to read it aloud to them. Its the only way I can concentrate.

  3. Growing up my parents and my sister and I all shared the same bathroom. It started back in high school I think, maybe earlier, but I have to lock myself in that bathroom, lay down in the empty bathtub and write it there. I’m capable of writing elsewhere, but to write something I’m 100% happy with, I gotta be fully clothed with a pillow in that bathtub…And it doesn’t work with all bathrooms either, just the one in my childhood home. I tried doing it in my college dorms AND in the bathtub at my first apartment and it just made me feel creepy.

    I think its something about that bathtub to be honest. Its one of those cast iron footed ones that weigh literally a ton and its the only thing in my house that hasn’t moved since it was built in 1901.

    • That’s not the strangest habit I’ve ever heard of, but it is close. Edgar Allen Poe chose to write on the naked back of his 15-year-old lover. He was no doubt an amazing writer, but certainly not a very practical man.

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