Welcome to the weekly forum, Once Upon a Bumble. Last week, I was contemplating the when of writing. Today, I want to explore writing habits, as this may very well dictate the when of our writing.
In my writing experience, I have what I like to call a dual process. I usually begin with my notebook, scribbling down thoughts, words, sometimes sentences. I follow this with scribbles, scratch outs, doodling, daydreaming, and hopefully more writing. Eventually, I may have a sentence or two I like. If the sentence is a keeper, I transfer the words into my computer as soon as possible.
My chicken scratch writing may very well be the worst handwriting on the planet. Blogging friends, I don’t believe you would be able to decipher a word of it. If I don’t transfer the information within a reasonable amount of time, it may be forgotten forever. This is similar to forgetting what you were going to say, but at least twice as worse, because that thing, that thought, word, sentence…It was perfect, the connection, everything…it was probably…garbage.
Writing in my notebook is more about processing ideas, because much of the time when I transfer material from paper to computer, it transforms mysteriously into something else, usually an improvement from what I had. I write more seriously at the computer. If I’m really in a bind, I usually pace around, fold clothes, clean up, and then, a word or thought enters my mind, unlocking my creative energy. Well, ideally anyway. Other times, my writing is more fluid.
Yes, and birds chirping. I like to hear them, which means I should be writing in the morning. But I feel I have more free-flowing ideas at night. Oh, I’m so conflicted.
1) Location, location: Truman Capote wrote in the horizontal position on a couch, sipping a glass of sherry/coffee and puffing a cigarette; Vladimir Nabokov soaked in a tub while he wrote on his index cards; For distraction-free writing, Flannery O’Connor used the blank surface of her dresser drawer.
2) Amount of Writing: Ernest Hemingway wrote 500 words a day, sometimes stopping in mid-sentence (although this could also be due to his high-alcohol consumption); Stephen King, ten pages a day, even on a holiday; Thomas Wolfe, also about ten pages, triple-spaced, roughly 1800 words; James Joyce considered three quality sentences a full day’s work.
3) Early Risers: Toni Morrison and J.K. Rowling wrote in the morning, working their schedules around children; J.K. Rowling stole away to a cafe to write while her child napped; Sylvia Plath rose at 4:00 am to write.
4) Foreign Substances/Odd/Memorable: Philip K. Dick, hallucinogens, Aldous Huxley, mescaline; William S.Burroughs, heroin, W.H. Auden, Benzedrine; Mary Shelley wrote with a snake around her neck; John Cheever often wore nothing but underwear; Ezra Pound breathed only through his mouth while writing; Hemingway first discussed his writing with his cats; George Orwell started his daily writing routine with a swim across the English Channel; Virginia Woolf engaged in hot yoga.
What about you?
Do you have a writing ritual? Do you write in front of computer or with pens/pencils? While lying down? In a pool of water? In silence or with sound/music? While naked? Oh, I got your attention. Seriously, I wouldn’t expect you to admit it here. Of course, you want to…
I’d love to hear from you. Share away.
Relating Links on Writers’ Habits