Which One Of These Writers Are You?

Do you believe in lucky charms? Do you have a ring, or bracelet or a scarf, or hat, or a dress that you think if you wear you would be lucky? Perhaps a habit that you start your day with, like a coffee or mocha with your favorite donut from Tim Horton’s or a latte from Starbucks? Or do you have a ritual that you perform before you start writing?

Benjamin Franklin liked to write immersed in a bathtub, and so did Edmond Rostand. Raymond Carver wrote in his automobile.

After Emily Dickinson died, the vast body of her work was found scrawled on the backs of envelopes or grocery bills and on odd scraps of paper.

Thomas Wolfe wrote on sheets of yellow paper with pencil stubs he kept in a coffee can.

Truman Capote’s favorite writing tool was Blackwing No. 602, a black lead pencil made by Faber Castell. And John Steinbeck wrote with pencil but complained that hexagonal pencils cut into his fingers after a long day, so his editor at Viking Press supplied him with round pencils.


Shelby Foote used the old fashioned dip pen and inkwell had a difficult time finding blotters and pen points. Hemingway sharpened twenty pencils; Willa Cather read a passage from the Bible to get in touch with fine prose. Thornton Wilder took long walks. Thomas Wolfe would sometimes roam through the streets of Brooklyn all night. I have read somewhere that an author, an agnostic, often got down on his knees and started the working day with prayers. While others conceived totally different notions:

“I will not tolerate the presence of yellow roses, which is sad because they’re my favorite flower. I can’t allow three cigarette butts in the same ashtray. Won’t travel on a plane with two nuns. Won’t begin or end anything on a Friday. It’s endless, the things I can’t and won’t. But I derive some curious comfort from these primitive concepts.” Truman Capote

Rudyard Kipling wrote using black ink:

“For my ink I demanded the blackest, and had I been in my Father’s house, as once I was, would have kept an ink-boy to grind me Indian-ink. All ‘blue-blacks’ were an abomination to my Daemon. … My writing blocks were built for me to an unchanged pattern of large, off white, blue sheets, of which I was most wasteful.”

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.

Which one of these writers are you?


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