There is this common notion that a writer is always working, even when he/she is asleep. That’s when the subconscious mind takes over and after much shifting and rearranging images, ideas and scenes, sets the stage for the next day’s work. Hence the idea that the writer is working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
I have always found the mechanics of writing fascinating, even before I started to write. Besides wanting to read the work of authors, I am interested to know about the more physical aspects of their writing process. Are they a night owl or early bird? Do they write at night or in the morning? Do they write longhand or use the computer? What kind of pen or pad they use? Do they have a place, a room they write in? Do they plan and outline in advance or do they just plot things out as they write?
That’s the kind of thing writers always want to know. What other writers are doing. The writing habit of fellow writers. 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 could 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.
Are you a night owl or an early bird? At what time of day or night do you write best?