Tag Archives: Writing Routine

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers

Don DelilloIn furtherance of another article I wrote on Writing Routines, a friend recently sent me an article with several different author’s writing routines. It’s always nice to see that everyone has the same struggles and tribulations with writing.

A couple of the quotes that really struck me were Ernest Hemmingway and Susan Sontag, which surprises me because I (rather sacreligiously) am not really a fan of Hemmingway.

 Hemmingway’s Advocated Routine

“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.”

I think that it’s a mistake I often make: to write until I run out of ideas on where my current scene is going. Although this is a natural break, it does mean that when I sit down again to continue, I have no idea of where to go. It may be time for me to start on some Hemmingway pragmatism.

Susan Sontag’s Planned Routine

(From her diary in 1977)

“Starting tomorrow — if not today:

I will get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)

I will have lunch only with Roger [Straus]. (‘No, I don’t go out for lunch.’ Can break this rule once every two weeks.)

I will write in the Notebook every day. (Model: Lichtenberg’s Waste Books.)

I will tell people not to call in the morning, or not answer the phone.

I will try to confine my reading to the evening. (I read too much — as an escape from writing.)

I will answer letters once a week. (Friday? — I have to go to the hospital anyway.)”

This diary entry really struck home, because it looks like it could be an extract from my diary (subject,  of course, to revisions for things like “letters” (What are they again?)). Nonetheless, I saw my own struggles in Susan’s. Writing is a very solitary pursuit, and it’s good to feel that you’re not actually alone in it. The blog helps of course, but so do these lovely little snippets.

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Write for 15 Minutes a Day

StopwatchNo pressure.

15 minutes is entirely do-able. Sit down, set a timer, ready, steady….. WRITE! Don’t stop to think and worry, just go – edit later – this way there will be something to edit.

I think that this is a really good exercise to do when you’re feeling like there is no time for writing in your life. I tried it out this morning. I woke up, made a pot of tea, sat down and just wrote. The short time frame I allowed myself was quite freeing, and it’s amazing how much I got done.

Currently, I am still world building for Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Today, I was plotting the relationships between the many city states in my fairy tale fantasy world. It has made me reconsider the longstanding name of my main city – Farway. I really do like the name Farway, but there has been mention that it sounds a little close to Far Far Away from Shrek. Another name has cropped up on me this morning – Yore, to be referred to as ‘the city of Yore’, etc. Any thoughts?

Writing 1,000 Words a Week?

One of my belated-resolutions was is to write 1,000 words a week for my book Four and Twenty Blackbirds. As my belated-resolutions began on 1st February, and I’m counting a “week” as a calendar week starting on a Monday (playing it fast and loose, I know)… that means I have until the end of tomorrow to write my week’s quota.

writer’s block

As much discussed in i.am.sophus., I’ve been suffering from writer’s block for a time now. I started this blog to address this, I’ve also attended a drop-in session at an Anne Aylor writing class. Both of these things have helped in revving my mind up. I’ve picked up a pen for the first time in an age and have started working on my novel again: the background, the characters, the world in which it is based. No actual word count increase yet, but I’m moving in the right direction. In writing this blog, I’ve reminded myself of my novel writing rituals, which is helping me get back in the groove. I’ve even gone out and bought a scrub stick because I associate the scent with sitting down and writing.  I’ve included a photo of my sage-burning and character background planning, below.

Char Dev

It’s an outline of the Twelve Families Harbottle – the 12 families that make up the Harbottle tribe of brownies. A brownie is the point of view of a little less than a third of my narrative, so a comprehensive background is really important. By brownies, I do mean the small elf-type individuals (and the fairy tale/ folklore type of elfs that live under toadstools, not the elves from the Lord of the Rings/ Forgotten Realms vein).

slash and burn editing

Writing from a brownie POV for an adult novel is challenging, and my aim is to make the brownies very dark. I’ve written about fifteen thousand words or so thus far, and very sadly, it’s too light and fluffy. I do really like what’s I’ve written. However, having restarted my writing brain and dedicated some proper time thinking about 4&20 (I think that the sage burning helped too), I’ve come to face the fact that it’s going to have to go. I’m going to have to start again. It feels like I’m severing a limb. But better to do it now than later on. Still, it is very dispiriting.

I will be counting my rewrite as going towards my 1,000 word a week count. Not to do so would be far too depressing. I will keep planning this evo, and get cracking on the rewrite early on tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Writing Routines and Rituals: with an Ode to Toni Morrison.

I always get and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come.
Toni Morrison

There’s a 1993 interview in the Paris Review by Elissa Schappell, where Toni Morrison dispenses her long-learned wisdoms on writing.

It was the start of the interview that really struck me. The idea of routine to get into writing. Even though I have never managed a long-lived writing routine, I Smudgedo realise that at my writing peak, I did have a sort of ritual – I used to burn sage. It’s called a smudge stick, which fairly resembles an illicit drug. I now know that smudge sticks are strongly associated the earth-mother-kind of spirituality, and I’m not at all a hippy-dippy type (though I have a lot of good friends who are). I discovered the background RE burning sage when a hippy-dippy friend made a comment about warding off evil spirits, the cleansing of auras, and such. It may well do that too, but for me, it was the ritual of the thing. The subconscious connections that the smell makes in my mind. 

A writing teacher of mine – Anne Aylor – used to burn sage in her classes, and I will forever associate it with being inspired and writing. It is amazing what the association does. It’s not often, but whenever I’ve chanced by the scent of burnt sage I feel the compulsion to sit quietly at a desk with a pen. It’s amazing that I forgot about it this strange association, but burning sage is something I’ve not done in quite some time. I need to re-enact this bizarre habit, and get back to a ritual and routine of writing.

Thank you Toni Morrison for reminding me.