How Others Are Doing It


That’s the kind of thing writers always want to know. What other writers are doing. Do they have a writing habit? When do they write? How do they write?

Tom Wolfe set himself a quota, ten pages a day, triple-spaced, about eighteen hundred words, and always keeping a clock in front of him.

Mario Vargas Llosa wrote by hand for two hours. He worked in the morning, and in the early hours of the day. Then he typed what he had written, always keeping a few lines untyped so that the next day he can start by typing the end of what he’d written the day before.

Tom Stoppard had a nice long room, which used to be a stable, with a table and lots of paper. But he wrote most of his plays on the kitchen table at night, when everybody had gone to bed.

Maya Angelou wrote lying on a made-up bed, with a bottle of sherry, a dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, yellow pads, an ashtray and a Bible.

Georges Simenon marked off in black each day of writing on a 11-by-16-inch calendar, one chapter a day, and in red the three days spent revising it. He used the two sides of a 7-by-10 brown manila envelope on which he began shaping his characters two days before he began the actual writing of his novel.

Doris Lessing started something off, at first a bit awkward, but then the writing took off and became fluent.

P. G. Wodehouse started his day off at seven-thirty. After his daily exercise routine and breakfast, he went to his study and sat down in an armchair to think and take notes. And before he started any book he had four hundred pages of notes.

Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote whenever he got up in the morning. He wrote no matter what the disturbances were around him.

Irwin Shaw claimed that writing for him was an intense and private occupation. He wrote in the mornings and was never to be disturbed while writing.

Gore Vidal wrote whenever he woke up in the morning. He wrote for about three hours. He wrote his novels in longhand on yellow legal pads. But for some reason he wrote his plays and essays on the typewriter.

Joyce Carol Oates didn’t have any formal schedule, but loved to write in the morning before breakfast, and didn’t have a break until two or three in the afternoon. That’s when she had her breakfast on a good writing day.

Jerzy Kosinski wrote when he felt like it and wherever he felt like it, day, night and even at twilight. He wrote in a restaurant, on a plane, between skiing and horseback riding, during his night walks in Manhattan, Paris or any other town. He woke up in the middle of the night or the afternoon to make notes and sit down at his typewriter.

Octavio Paz said that writing was a curse that required huge efforts and sleepless nights. I write any time of the day if I force myself to do so but early morning works for me the best. For my novels I write in longhand, using a fountain pen on white plain paper, no lines. Then I type what I wrote on my computer. And for my articles, I scribble with a pen, but I do the real writing on my netbook.

Are you a night owl or an early bird? At what time of day or night do you write best?

ChK

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9 Responses to How Others Are Doing It

  1. Early bird. Did you know that Ernest Hemingway used to write standing up? One professor of mine told me that.

  2. Samir says:

    I write best in the mornings especially mornings where I’m up at about 05:30. After a three hour writing stint with coffee, I have breakfast and the creative buzz dwindles while the analytical eye awakens… that though is only on a good writing day. What about you?

    • chichikir says:

      By 5:30 I’m ready for my second cup of coffee. I read till about 7:00, check my email and all and then settle down to write for about two hours, sometimes more it depends. But lately I am reading more than I am writing :(

  3. thinspaces says:

    I’m an 8-5 drone in the business world, which often extends to 6 or 7, so night is the only time I have for writing. By the time I am done with household things and walking the dogs, I may not sit down to write until after 9. Because of this, I generally only write a few times during the week, and then try to make up for it on the weekend. It’s frustrating, as I sit right now typing this wishing for nothing more than to stay home and write, but the bills must also be paid.

    • chichikir says:

      I’ve been there, I know how you feel. I was teaching full time and coordinating the math dept in an Int’l school with over 3000 students, with two children of my own. I don’t think I can do it now. And now that I have some time for myself, unfortunately I have other worries and it’s hard to write sometimes. That’s why I have my blog and I blabber instead of working on my book. I am sure that day will come for you too but without the worries…:)

      • thinspaces says:

        I enjoy your “blabbers”, so I am glad you have your blog! :) And worries come for all of us, so no guarantees there. There is an old saying that if everyone put their troubles in a big pile with the chance to exchange with someone else, they would hurriedly grab their own troubles right back. I try to keep that in mind when I get weary. It helps.

      • chichikir says:

        Thanks! I like that old saying, I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pingback: Quirky Habits Of Writers | Ramblings

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