Once Upon a Bumble: What’s Your Writing Habit?

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.

This would be perfect.

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.

Let’s now turn to famous writers for inspiration and their interesting habits. I will highlight a few here. For more details, see the articles below.

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.

How about a snake around your neck? Oops, her top might be a tad small. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear a bathing suit.

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.

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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

Weird Writing Habits of Famous Authors
Words That Sing the Body Electric: The Writing Habits of Famous Authors
Daily Routines
Writing habits of 9 super famous authors

photo credit: cogdogblog via photo pin cc
photo credit: Kevin Eddy via photo pin cc

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51 thoughts on “Once Upon a Bumble: What’s Your Writing Habit?

  1. Oh dear ! Ms Bumble. What can I say? I suppose you could call me a natural (not naturist) writer. I cannot drag the words out screaming. I like to get in the flow and go with it, but as I mentioned before, somewhere, the most difficult part is picking a subject, an anecdote or experience to kick it all off. I do not use or like to use a notepad but take the paint straight from the tin and splash it on the wall and see what the end product looks like. Must go and sharpen my pencil in Paint on my laptop. Take care Ms Bumble and do have a nice weekend. Ralph

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  2. On reading what I had written I must have been on another planet as I did not answer your questions. I sit in front of my computer in various states of dress depending on hot it is. Then I get up have cigarette. Sit down, get up and make myself a drink. Sit down and go for it. If I am stuck for the next word I repeat the above until I finish. I smoke 3000 cigarettes a day and 3000 drinks.;)

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  3. So interesting. I love this! 🙂 I don’t really have much of a writing ritual….other than I write at my computer and whatever I write seems to come from a certain thought or memory that I can’t get out of my head. My most recent post is a good example of this. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Amelia. I’ll be sure to check out your post. I don’t really have so much of a ritual either except that I can go back and forth between my pen and the keyboard, at least in the beginning stages of writing something.

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    2. I tried it today, Ms Bumble. I do not recommend it to those who smoke, drink hot coffee, or have cats. Because I was burnt, scalded and scratched on parts of me where women have not been to for 20 years. Yes, I went au naturale. Maybe I should give up smoking, drinking and cats 😉

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      1. More like accident and emergency !! I hope the camera on my laptop is off as I don’t want to be on YouTube or on America’s Most Wanted 😉

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  4. Well … the truth is whenever and wherever, including in my head. I know that may not seem like much of an answer but it is the truthful one. I never specifically think about writing, or think along a lines; OK, now I am going to write … like I do not think; OK, now I am going to breathe. By the way I am not sure about V. Woolf and the hot yoga?
    Kind Regards,
    Daniela

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    1. Thanks, Daniela. If you can approach writing as breathing as you say, you don’t have to concentrate so hard, huh? It would be maybe more effortless. That’s wonderful. It is a nice way to think about writing, too. Well, it said before there was Bikram yoga, say maybe it”s more like stretching in a hot room. : ) Thanks for your wonderful comments.

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  5. I think the main thing is to have a ritual, a habit. Especially if you’re a nun. (sorry about that one)
    I myself don’t have a good routine unfortunately. I prefer to write on paper. a pencil feels mnore artistic. I’ll write on the bus, at the Starbucks. This is not good. I should write directly onto the computer. Re-typing takes me forever. So that was my advice to you: work straight onto the computer. Victor Hugo did 20 pages a day.

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    1. Thanks, Stephen. I can go both ways. I think I do more thinking with paper and more writing with the computer. Does that make sense? I guess it’s all process. Maybe you process with your pencil. Wow, 20 pages a day. That’s pretty intense. Thanks for sharing, as always!

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  6. I make a cup of tea, type a few words, make another cup of tea, go visit the chickens. I then chide myself for lack of discipline than go and sit and write. First few words are usually drivel but at least i have something to work with. I work in the dark but I like sitting in the campervan in different places, but I only write a few hundred words. Makes me chuckle when the words just stop, there is no more to come and they just stop. I don’t force it. Great blog!

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    1. Oh, if I had chickens, I would go see them, too. I have my kitties instead. They inspire and provide, at the very least, a distraction. Sometimes I think your mind needs a distraction so it can build up more steam and create again. Creating can hard work. Do you work in complete darkness, or by candlelight? Thanks for your lovely comments.

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      1. I work by the dimmest desk lamp there is. Not sure why, just find it comforting and lets me focus. I’d liek to work by a big open window overlooking fields and sheep and trees swaying in the breeze… but I don’t!!

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      2. Thanks for your comments. Yes, I’d like to write by a nice ocean, but that isn’t in the cards right now. I guess we do what we can. I could see how a dim light might help you focus and shut everything else out. That makes sense to me 🙂

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  7. Great post. Aren’t you worried that the snake might poop on you while your writing? That’s why I couldn’t be a pirate with a parrot. All the poop down my back would make me vomit…and restaurant owners would never let me sit in a booth.

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  8. I might be able to compete with you for worst handwriting. I always write on the computer, but if I’m away from it and get a good story idea, I write it down on paper. During the summer, I got up in the middle of the night to write down an idea but didn’t turn on the light. In the morning, I could not figure out what I wrote, it was so bad. Hopefully it wasn’t too good an idea.

    By the way, I might consider writing naked, but I write mostly in coffee shops, so it would be awkward, to say the least. 🙂

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    1. Oh, exhibitionist, huh? In the cafe, hmm….I wonder about this. Why the cafe? I’m going to be thinking about this. Sorry you lost your idea. I guess that’s bound to happen from time to time for us bad handwriters. If I concentrate I can write legibly, but I must really slow down. In the moments when I don’t have an electronic device it would be probably be wise. Thanks for all your comments 🙂

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  9. I blame computers for my bad handwriting, I used to be able to write in a way people could actually read but since computers and mobile phones, the only time I put pen to paper is to put my signature on something.

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    1. J.D., what a great insight! It’s like staring at us in the face. Of course, that’s it! Even when I do write something beyond a signature, usually I know I’m going to type it somewhere or I know no one else has to read it. My son is learning cursive in school and I wonder why. They’re putting such an emphasis on hit. Soon he’ll be typing on the computer like the rest of us and write however he wants.

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  10. I like to do mine early in the morning maybe at 5.30am or 6am. I write for a while and then go and make a cup of tea. If I ever get stuck I walk about 20 feet to the bathroom and that small distance has always got me unstuck. On the days that I do write, it really flies onto the page. I always stop mid-sentence so that I can easily get going again. Plus I write two or three key words of what the next few paragraphs should contain.

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    1. Thanks, Stephen. Thanks for stopping by. It’s amazing how a little movement can jostle the mind and get it unstuck. I like your idea of writing just a couple of words before you proceed to your next paragraph. Great tip!

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  11. Interesting to read about other writer’s writing habits. I have a tendency to perfect the first sentence and build from there. It’s slow and tedious, but it seems to set the tone for the rest of the piece. It works, for better or for worse . . .

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    1. Isn’t it though? I feel rather dull after reading about them all. Perhaps I need a routine or ritual. So far, I guess it’s just coffee and having my notebook beside my computer. Your method may be tedious, but if it works, then great! Who knows, if you didn’t concentrate on your beginning you may have a harder time with the rest of it. It could end up taking even longer to finish. Thanks for sharing, Lisa.

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  12. Writing habits so far:

    Morning pages by hand in a cow notebook with a magic (some kind of shiny or interesting texture) pencil and squishy pencil grip.

    On laptop, sitting in a kneely chair, whenever there’s no one but the dog around.

    Still trying to discipline myself to look at the screen rather than the keyboard, but then I have to correct every mis-type as I make it and sometimes miss my train.

    Individual elements on multicolored sticky notes which I post across the walls, so that I can rearrange them as associations and relationships develop.

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    1. Most interesting, tinyfrogs. I’m wondering what a cow notebook is? Please enlighten me. Multicolored sticky notes could make for a colorful wall. I guess there is a lot of software that can accomplish this, but I kind of like the idea of picking up something in your hands and placing it somewhere else. Hey, thanks for all your great comments.

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      1. Cow notebook example:

        I’ve tried several flowchart-making and brain-mapping programs, but have found that the zooming in and out to focus on different parts and keep track of the whole pattern pretty tedious. The physical notes make the rearranging more visceral, and the elements themselves more real, if that makes sense. Plus my love of color (and color-coding, and patterns) makes it fun!

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      2. Ah, I’ve always that a composition notebook 🙂 I like cow notebook better. I can see how having the notes, the elements, in your hands would make it more real. That makes sense to me. I haven’t try any programs that will do this yet. I do like the snapshot image of scenes, chapters, in a story. Better than an outline because you can just move them around. Thanks!

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  13. Interesting topic here – either write it down or straight onto the computer, depends on where I am and how I feel. Mostly though it’s just type and delete, type and start over – find a picture to sort of inspire and start all over again, lol. Perhaps I should plan a bit more…

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    1. I know the feeling, type and start over. Maybe that’s why I have my notebook to start. I think it could be useful to have a ritual, but so far I really don’t. Planning could never hurt. Thanks for your comments!

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      1. I think if I had to use notebooks at first I’d end up deforesting a small forest, lol. And you make a valid point about planning and rituals – I really ought to give it a go sometime…

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  14. Hi Bumble,
    I write whenever I can, almost always in a notebook before typing it up. Best example whould be my 8 and half hour hike, then sat in a pub and scribbled what I could, getting home and over next few days typing up and expanding it- it’s the Great big Merseywalk on my blog, in 6 parts would you believe!!! Have a look and let me know what you think!

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    1. Hi there. It sounds like your long hike helped along your creative energy level. I think there’s a lot to that. I’m happy that worked for you, because that’s also a good thing for your physical self. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’d love to read your story. Thanks for telling me.

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  15. Great question and fascinating comments! For me it depends what I’m writing. Blog wise, ideas are scribbled at the back of my ‘to do’ notebook or in one in my bedside drawer or as a text back to myself. Stories wise, inspiration strikes in the most random of places and my phone is usually out with me so it is full of random notes I often can’t decipher! I have to write stories long hand and once I’m in the flow I have to have space to spread out all the scribbles and rewrites to connect the dots. Only after it’s done do I transcribe – I have always found reading and writing direct onto a computer doesn’t work with my brain wiring. The act of writing itself does it for me. I’m such a luddite. Ebooks be gone, back and shoulder ache with worn through bags stay awhile longer…

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    1. Yay, for longhand! You are, I think, the only one who mentioned that “what” you write determines how you write. I can totally relate and understand your process of writing it out beforehand and how the act of actually putting pen to paper stimulates the brain into writing. At least that happens to me, at times. Other times, I can jump on the computer. I’m not very consistent it would seem. It sounds like you make the most of the technology at hand with your smart phone. I’m sure when I get one I’ll be using the notes feature. Thanks for all your wonderful comments 🙂

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