Renowned Authors and Their Interesting Writing Habits
Do you have a certain ritual or method that never fails to get you in the zone (or helps you stay in the zone)? We all have our own ways of getting inspiration and developing ideas for our next work of art. Some creatives like to have music playing in the background while at work, and some may even have odd habits like wearing their favorite shirt for luck.
Even famous authors like Truman Capote and Vladimir Nabokov have interesting writing techniques that helped them write the great classics that marked history. If you haven’t found the writing habit that’s effective for you, then you might like to try these odd writing habits of renowned authors and see if they will work for you.
Known for his novels Lolita and Pale Fire, among others, Vladimir Nabokov have written his works on 3×5-inch index cards grouped together by paper clips and stored in slim boxes. Vladimir preferred to write on lined Bristol cards using a well-sharpened pencil that is not too hard, and should be capped with an eraser. This is actually a convenient technique especially for those sudden eureka moments and you’re not sitting on your desk. An index card is handier than bringing a notebook. “That’s what the Notes app of the smartphone is for,” you might say. But more than being handy, index cards are also useful when you want to arrange and rearrange your ideas into sequences until you complete your novel.
Since this entire structure, dimly illumined in one’s mind, can be compared to a painting, and since you do not have to work gradually from left to right for its proper perception, I may direct my flashlight at any part or particle of the picture when setting it down in writing. I do not begin my novel at the beginning I do not reach chapter three before I reach chapter four… This is why I like writing my stories and novels on index cards, numbering them later when the whole set is complete. Every card is rewritten many times… –Vladimir Nabokov
Dubbed as “the Chekhov of the suburbs,” John Cheever felt more comfortable writing his short stories and novels only in his underwear. When he was writing Falconer, he would dress neatly in the morning and take the elevator down to the lobby of his New York apartment building. Then from there, he would take the stairs down the basement to a windowless storage where he would take off his hat and his suit, and type his novel until lunch time. And then he’d dress up again and go up the lobby.
Victor Hugo also wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame without clothes. He told his valet to hide his clothes so he can’t leave the house and just focus on writing his novel.
A great many of my stories were written in boxer shorts. –John Cheever
Truman Capote described himself as a “completely horizontal author,” and he meant it literally. He preferred writing while lying down in bed or stretched on a couch as it helped him think more clearly. And while lying down, he had his pencil in one hand and a glass of sherry, a cup of coffee, or a cigarette in the other. Mark Twain, George Orwell, and Woody Allen are also some of the other novelists who have practiced this habit of lying down while writing.
I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. No, I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand. Essentially I think of myself as a stylist, and stylists can become notoriously obsessed with the placing of a comma, the weight of a semicolon. Obsessions of this sort, and the time I take over them, irritate me beyond endurance. –Truman Capote
The former president of PEN American Center writes while facing a wall. She would work in an apartment room and limit distraction by moving her desk to face the window that overlooks a high brick wall. A wall can also serve as a blank canvass where you can visualize your imaginations and ideas. Francine also likes to wear her husband’s red and black checkered flannel pajama pants when writing.
Writing while facing a wall, incidentally, seems to me the perfect metaphor for being a writer. –Francine Prose
Even the greatest writers know when to stop. Ernest Hemingway used to write 500 words a day in the morning. He stops when noon comes to avoid the heat. This is good practice to prevent getting burned out. Give yourself a moderate daily quota; pushing yourself to produce more than the limit will have a futile result and your work might just end up in the trash. Another writing habit of Ernest Hemingway is that he wrote while standing up, just like Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf.
I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. –Ernest Hemingway
The infographic below by Trust Essays feature more famous authors and their peculiar writing habits.
In our office at MicroCreatives, each of our creative team members, including the writers, has a workspace large enough for a desktop computer, a divider that can serve as an idea board, and a space for everything we need to help fuel our creativity. We also have all the resources we need such as up-to-date software and Internet resources, as well as magazines and style guides.
Share with us other effective writing habits you know in the comment area below!