Some say that how an author writes is an irrelevant issue, and all that matters is the fact that they put pen to paper every day. While it’s unlikely a layman will be able to write the next Ulysses just by following Joyce’s daily routine, it’s undeniable that the best authors have their particular quirks.
Michel Houellebecq: Writing from beyond the grave
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Michel Houellebecq has grown into his literary celebrity status over the years. The french author of The Elementary Particles is a rabble-rouser of sorts, and he often gets himself into trouble with the French press for his political incorrectness. When asked in an interview how he has the guts to say the things he says, he fired back with the above zinger, “Oh it’s easy- I just pretend I’m already dead.”
Hunter S. Thompson: Learning from the Best
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I don’t know anyone else who had Hunter S. Thompson’s strategy. Thompson would transcribe his favorite authors’ books because he wanted to “feel what it feels like to write that well.” He compared it to covering music, saying, “If you type out somebody’s work, you learn a lot about it. Amazingly it’s like music. And from typing out parts of Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald – these were writers that were very big in my life and the lives of the people around me – so yea I wanted to learn from the best I guess.”
Kurt Vonnegut : Following a Strict Routine
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In a detailed letter to his lover, Vonnegut went through his daily routine:
I awake at 5:30, work until 8:00, eat breakfast at home, work until 10:00, walk a few blocks into town, do errands, go to the nearby municipal swimming pool, which I have all to myself, and swim for half an hour, return home at 11:45, read the mail, eat lunch at noon. In the afternoon I do schoolwork, either teach or prepare. When I get home from school at about 5:30, I numb my twanging intellect with several belts of Scotch and water ($5.00/fifth at the State Liquor store, the only liquor store in town. There are loads of bars, though.), cook supper, read and listen to jazz (lots of good music on the radio here), slip off to sleep at ten. I do pushups and sit-ups all the time, and feel as though I am getting lean and sinewy, but maybe not.
Jonathan Franzen: Utter Silence
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Most readers prefer a little peace and quiet when they work. What Jonathan Franzen prefers is akin to sensory deprivation. Whilst writing The Corrections, the American writer apparently wore ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones, and a blindfold. Franzen has been a vocal critic of technology throughout his career, so it’s no surprise that he feels the need to purge himself of all distraction while writing.
Gertrude Stein: Getting out of the house
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It’s not uncommon for some writers to value distraction as much as others value solitude. Making a concerted effort to tune out background noise can be a great concentration tool. Similarly, being out in the world can be more inspirational than being alone in a room. Gertrude Stein found that car rides were the most viable creative opportunities. The french author would write in the passenger seat while her husband ran errands on the Paris streets.
Maya Angelou : The suite life
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This legendary poet and activist wrote almost exclusively in a rented hotel room. Upon arriving, Angelou would remove all paintings from the wall, as she required bare surroundings. She had a very particular way of doing things, which involved lying down at a certain angle on the bed, and never allowing the sheets to be changed – to the consternation of the hotel maids. According to the writer, they sometimes left her notes, begging her to let them make up the bed.
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