Follow the steps of your favorite writers. Each author had different routines, schedules, and lifestyles, all in the pursuit of becoming the very best. Findd out how Stephen King wrote “It,” or where William S. Burroughs got the inspiration for “Junky.”
1. The more active the author, the more engaging the story
Robert Frost would frequently find inspiration from his walks through the woods and would chew on bark. Immanuel Kant’s neighbors were said to have been able to set their clocks based off of Kant’s daily 3:30 PM walks. In an interview, Haruki Murakami says “In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both).”
2. Wake up… at some point
Early risers: Ernest Hemingway woke up at 5:30 AM. Nicholson Baker woke up at 4:30 AM. Murakami would beat them all by getting up at 4 AM.
Later starters: Proust woke up late, and began to work after a smoking opium. In David Lipsky’s book “Road Trip with David Foster Wallace,” David Foster Wallace says “I usually go in shifts of three or four hours with either naps or fairly diverting do-something-with-other-people things in the middle.”
3. Motivation = Drugs
Voltaire was known to have up to 40 cups of coffee a day. French novelist Honoré de Balzac had up to 50. Truman Capote had martinis for breakfast. VS Pritchett imbibed in midday cocktails. John Cheever was a heavy drinker who was able to give up the addiction thanks to therapy. Tennessee Williams was an alcoholic. Dylan Thomas, a poet, lived a short life due to his excessive drinking. William Faulkner drank every day to escape life but didn’t drink while writing, another method of escapism. Edgar Allan Poe was infamously a drunk who gambled all his money away. F. Scott Fitzgerald died at 44 because of an alcohol induced heart-attack and prior heavy drinking.
Robert Louis Stevenson did coke. Hubert Selby loved heroine and other pain killers. Benzedrine, the first pharmaceutical drug to contain amphetamines, was a favorite of many authors and artists alike. Jack Kerouac loved the drug. W. H. Auden considered himself weak for his dependency on the drugs, calling his routine that was heavily supported by the high his “chemical life.” However, he condemned the use of hallucinogenic drugs. Aldous Huxley did mescaline, mushrooms, and LSD. Hunter Thompson also did mescaline and LSD, as well as coke. Hunter S. Thompson wrote doing coke into his schedule. Stephen King formerly did coke until an intervention from his family. William S. Burroughs was a junkie himself, addicted to heroin and opiates. Thomas de Quincey became a famous author for his life-inspired novel “Confessions of an English Opium Eater.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived and died on opium. William Yeats was a stoner for a while in his life. Allen Ginsberg also smoked pot and did LSD.
4. The world is your desk, learn to work anywhere
William Carlos Williams wrote poetry while at work as a pediatrician, writing verses on the back of prescription pads. Bradbury said he could, and often had to work anywhere, ignoring noise from the radio or from his parents. He went to a basement typing room and paid 10 cents for every 30 minutes of work he finished.
5. Be eccentric
Ben Franklin took “air-baths,” where he would in a room naked for a few hours. Victor Hugo wrote naked as well, demanding his clothes be taken away so he couldn’t leave until he finishe “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” In an interview, Jack Kerouac says “I had a ritual once of lighting a candle and writing by its light and blowing it out when I was done for the night … also kneeling and praying before starting.”
6. Some schedules work
Faulkner wrote midday before he would have to go to a night shift at a power plant. Wallace Stevens found discipline in balancing both his job and his writing. Henry Miller had 11 very strict commandments for writing that begins “MORNINGS: If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus. If in fine fettle, write.”
7. Some don’t
In 2010 Paris Review interview, Bradbury says “My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this.”
In an interview with the Daily Beast, Khaled Hosseini says “I don’t outline at all, I don’t find it useful, and I don’t like the way it boxes me in. I like the element of surprise and spontaneity, of letting the story find its own way.”
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.