Writers don’t have to be seen to be heard, or written for that matter. But routines and habits – if not what they wear – are linked to releasing those creative juices for some of the great writers of our times…
Mark Twain famously wrote from his bed. As I share my bed with not only my husband, but three kitties, two large sheepdogs and a small pup, I hasten to add not all at the same time, but getting a good night’s sleep is difficult enough! Other ‘horizontal’ writers include Marcel Proust, Woody Allen and Edith Wharton.
I was delighted to find that Alexander Dumas used colours to distinguish his writing, back in his day! As you know, I’m a big fan of coloured pens, lists and paper. The electronic form of writing is creeping into my life, but when stuck I always go back to basics.
And going back to the theme of ‘what to wear’ on your writing days, Victor Hugo demanded that his clothes were confiscated so that he couldn’t leave the house when he was finishing The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Now, although I love a PJ day (pyjama’s but it could be anything slouchy), I don’t think I could write naked.
For others, like Twain, it’s a matter of position. Dan Brown hangs upside down (inversion therapy he calls it); Ernest Hemingway stood up and Francine Pose likes to face a brick wall. The talented and tormented Virgina Wolfe used to retreat to a storage room with a cosy armchair whilst D H Lawrence preferred to write outdoors, under the shade of tree. Fine if the weather is in agreement. Agatha Christie liked to do her writing in the bath and always had a supply of apples.
What stands out from looking at the habits of these diligent and well-known authors is that they all did one thing. Write. Whilst reading about the quirky habits of those who pen words, I came across this schedule published in Henry Miller on Writing, which he looked upon as his ‘commandments’. Not a bad creed to follow.
- Work on one thing at a time until finished.
- Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
- Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
- Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
- When you can’t create you can work.
- Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
- Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
- Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
- Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
- Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
- Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
I think I might sign up to this…
So do you dress up or down for your writing day? What makes you feel comfortable? Where do you like to write?