What Are Your Writing Habits?

As writers, we all have different habits. I like to write during the day, preferably early in the morning. I’m no night owl, so I marvel at people who have the stamina to write throughout the night.

I’m also pretty structured, in that I’ll sit down in front of the computer, or with a pen and paper and jot down a few ideas or notes, before I set off on my story. I also try and set myself a word limit, nothing too ambitious. But I try to write at least 500 words a day.

I came across an article recently on writers habits which lists the very interesting writing habits of some famous writers. Below, are just some and it goes to show, no matter what your habit is, if it works for you, it works for you.

1. Stephen King. King writes at least 10 pages a day, even while on vacation. Maybe I should bring the old laptop on next holiday, or then again, maybe not!

2. Vladimir Nabokov. The author of Lolita and Ada, wrote on index cards and while standing up. This was so that he could re-arrange the index cards, depending on how he wanted the scenes arranged. Pretty good idea.

3. Truman Capote. The author of “In Cold Blood” had to write lying down, in bed or on a couch, with a cigarette and coffee. He wrote his first and second drafts in longhand and in pencil. And although his third draft was typed out on a typewriter, it would still be in bed, while he balanced the typewriter on his knees.

4. James Joyce. Joyce was so careful with each word, that he counted his work in sentences. It is said that a friend stopped him in the street one day and asked whether he had a good day writing. Joyce replied that yes he did. How much did you write, the friend asked. Three sentences was the reply.

5. Philip Roth. Roth works standing up, pacing around as he thinks. He claims to walk half a mile for every page he writes. He also ensures that he doesn’t write where he lives. So he had a studio built away from his house and works at a lectern that doesn’t face the view of his studio window, so as to avoid distraction.

Any thoughts on the above? What are your writing habits?

17 thoughts on “What Are Your Writing Habits?

  1. I’m positively normal compared with these writers. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I just turn on my laptop and type. When I’m not sure where to go next, I either take a break for hours or days while I contemplate or I go back to fix the spelling/grammatical errors. And I sit.

  2. Using index cards is a good idea! My writing habits are so sporadic, I’m not sure you could call them habits. But I usually write whenever I have a few spare minutes, either on the computer or with a notebook/pen. Oh, I do always sit. There’s one habit. ;)

  3. Interesting! If I was left to my own devices (no kids) I think I’d be a Capote!

  4. Definitely agree with Niamh there, I would be a Capote,
    James Joyce surprises me, I thought he would be more spontaneous.
    Me, I am all over the place, I write when and where I can, pencil or laptop, whenever I get an idea.

  5. Lua

    Oh how I envy those who could write after it’s dark and quiet and go on for hours… But like you, I’m not a night owl so I get up very early in the morning, before the city wakes up, and start writing while I have all my energy.
    I think my writing speed is somewhere between King and Joyce :) I try to write 1500-2000 words a day.

  6. Yeah, i can’t write late at night too. Sleepiness destroys my imagination. My writing habits is that i just write and write and write my mind out and then just revise after. And i snack a lot when writing too.

  7. Hi Olive. Interesting article. I read Stephen King’s book On Writing recently and was impressed by how quickly he writes. I have used the palm cards idea but it doesn’t work for me. It’s great that you’ve brought this up because recently I realised that the most important thing is to find YOUR way and STICK to it. I would read about what other people were doing and think, ‘oh that’s it, that’s how it should be done.’ My way goes like this: I get up when I want (I’m lucky cos I work part time so I have a few days dedicated entirely to writing) this is usually around 7-730. By 9 I am at my desk. I give myself half an hour to muck about checking emails. If inspiration doesn’t come I pick up my notebook and go to a park or café and write until lunchtime. Then I come home and eat. I struggle to write much after lunch so I focus on the nuts and bolts side of things. I type up my handwritten work by recording it on my iphone then listening and typing frantically. I submit things to competitions. Then in the evening after dinner I might (and I stress MIGHT) have another wave of inspiration in which case I get back to it. My notes are a mess. My work is partly hand written, partly types. I used to worry that it was messy. I don’t care any more. It works for me!

  8. @Theresa; I’m pretty much like you. If I’m not feeling it, I take a break. I think there’s little point sitting & looking a blank screen or empty notepad for hours.

  9. @Jessica; I didn’t think that sitting was a habit either, until I read about these writers habits, hehe. Maybe we are the unconventional ones, lol.

  10. @Niamh; Although I don’t have any kids, I don’t think I could write lying down, as I would probably just fall asleep:)

  11. @Brigid; I wish I could be more like that Brigid. I find that I only feel like writing or come up with a good idea, when I’m neatly sitting behind a desk or in front of the computer. It would be kind of cool to sit in a park and write:)

  12. @Lua; 1,500-2,000 words is pretty good going Lua. And yep, for me early morning is the best time too. Particularly after a cup of strong coffee:)

  13. @Bryan; Sounds like a good plan Bryan. The worst thing for me is the snacking. I did a post a couple of months back about how you know when you’re a writer. The empty cereal bowls lying around the desk, one for breakfast, lunch and dinner are sure signs, haha!

  14. @smander; I completely agree, I think it’s important that whatever works for you as an individual, to just go with it. I couldn’t imagine myself like Capote and lying down as I write for example. And it sounds like you are pretty disciplined when it comes to writing. If I wrote all morning and all day, I don’t know if I would have the energy to continue after dinner in the evening. I’m impressed:)

  15. Now that’s some fun information! I had no idea King wrote that much each day, even while on vacation. That’s dedication!

    I’m enjoying the index cards this time around. I like how I can move them around, and flipping the card over when I’m done makes me feel accomplished!

  16. Curious stuff you got the Olive. Fun! heh

    I don’t like working with word count, although it feels good when I see I got a lot done. I found out that my body doesn’t like the night as much as I thought, but my muse is definitely nocturnal so you see the mess where I’m in, lol.

  17. It’s so interesting to read that some authors wrote with a flow and others in a much more systematic and structured way.

    It’s interesting aswell that several writers write standing up – I read that before about a film editor. He used to edit while standing up, as he felt it allowed his ability to flow more freely.

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