We – wanna-be writers, starting up writers and writers who aren’t that famous (just yet) – often wonder about any daily writing routines we should take in order to boost and improve our writing. My daily writing routine has changed since I got my dog, but it’s generally the same (you can read more about it here). I wake up, feed and walk her. Then, I do a quick check of Facebook, Twitter and emails. And then, when I really start to set off into my writing world, I read a few paragraphs from where I left off, or maybe even the chapter before, so I can pick up on the thread. At this point the story may change direction from where I left off or it may go the way I had originally envisioned. I let my imagination do the walking… I write all day, taking dog walking and internet breaks. What about you?
For new book Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, And Get To Work, New York-based author Mason Curry has listed 161 famous names and the 161 very different ways they approached their work. You might even be surprised by a few.
So take a look at the 6 daily rituals of famous writers from the new book, below, and marvel at how some of your finest books were forged…
Austen rose early, before the other women were up, and played the piano. At 9:00 she organised the family breakfast, her one major piece of household work. Then she settled down to write in the sitting room, often with her mother and sister sewing quietly nearby. If visitors showed up, she would hide her papers and join in the sewing. Dinner, the main meal of the day, was served between 3:00 and 4:00. Afterward there was conversation, card games, and tea. The evening was spent reading aloud from novels, and during this time Austen would read her work-in-progress to her family.
King writes every day of the year, including his birthday and holidays, and he almost never lets himself quit before he reaches his daily quota of two thousand words. He works in the mornings, starting around 8:00 or 8:30. Some days he finishes up as early as 11.30, but more often it takes him until about 1:30 to meet his goal. Then he has the afternoons and evenings free for naps, letters, reading, family, and Red Sox games on TV.
“I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine.” This is Tolstoy in one of the relatively few diary entries he made during the mid-1860s, when he was deep into the writing of War and Peace.
According to Sergei [his son], Tolstoy worked in isolation – no one was allowed to enter his study, and the doors to the adjoining rooms were locked to ensure that he would not be interrupted.
First, he needed absolute quiet; at one of his houses, an extra door had to be installed to his study to block out noise.
And his study had to be precisely arranged, with his writing desk placed in front of a window and, on the desk itself, his writing materials – goose-quill pens and blue ink – laid out alongside several ornaments: a small vase of fresh flowers, a large paper knife, a gilt leaf with a rabbit perched upon it, and two bronze statuettes (one depicting a pair of fat toads duelling, the other a gentleman swarmed with puppies).
SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR
Although Beauvoir’s work came first, her daily schedule also revolved around her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, which lasted from 1929 until his death in 1980. Theirs was an intellectual partnership with a somewhat creepy sexual component; according to a pact proposed by Sartre at the outset of their relationship, both partners could take lovers, but they were required to tell each other everything. Generally, Beauvoir worked by herself in the morning, then joined Sartre for lunch. In the afternoon they worked together in silence at Sartre’s apartment. In the evening, they went to whatever political or social event was on Sartre’s schedule, or else went to the movies or drank Scotch and listened to the radio at Beauvoir’s apartment.
When he is writing a novel, Murakami wakes at 4:00 A.M. and works for five to six hours straight. In the afternoons he runs or swims (or does both), runs errands, reads, and listens to music; bedtime is 9:00. “I keep to this routine every day without variation,” he told The Paris Review in 2004. “The repetition itself becomes the most important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”
The one drawback to this self-made schedule, Murakami admitted in a 2008 essay, is that it doesn’t allow for much of a social life.
[Images: Rex, Wiki Commons, Science Image Library, Getty]