Pretty much everyone who’s interested in literature has some favorite anecdotes about authors they love. For instance, I could talk all day long about Guillaume Apollinaire. A guy who didn’t peel an orange before eating it and who was arrested for stealing the Mona Lisa? There’s also the incredible story of Alfred Jarry who drank absinthe instead of water and wanted to shoot passer-bies who asked for directions. Don’t you think that modern celebrities are way more conventional?
Where the idea is born
But something even more engaging than stories of their everyday life is how these people worked. The first thing worth looking into is how they got ideas. After all, every writer has to find their Madeleine. Take Paul Auster who claimed in his Winter Journal that his best thoughts came to him with the stream of water - that is, when he was taking the shower. Gertrude Stein, on the other hand, got inspired while driving her car, sometimes to the point where she had to immediately stop the car and start writing on the scraps of paper.
Strange and stranger writing routines
That reminds me of a radically different author – J.K. Rowling famously wrote the Harry Potter series on napkins while sitting in the cafe. However, compared to some others, that doesn’t even seem slightly extravagant. For example John Cheever would put on the only suit of clothes he owned just to take the elevator to the basement. There he would undress and in his underwear and then he’d write until the evening (with a short lunch break).
Sure enough, contemporary writers also have their interesting writing routines. Tao Lin - one of the biggest names on the map of modern literature - admits that he either writes at home or in Bobst library and he often uses a mixture of coffee and Aderall to keep him going. Surprisingly, even though he works on his laptop, he hand edits his novels. He’s also famous for his social media activity. Among other things he shares all of his ideas on Twitter or Facebook - even those that aren’t finally transformed into stories.
Fear of interruption
It’s easy to mythologize writing habits of the classic writers but technology might have been a relief even for them and their neurotic personalities. Virginia Woolf and John Steinbeck both kept as much ink or as many pencils as they could need, because they were afraid getting up would interfere with their flow. Unlike them, you can have your creative process uninterrupted thanks to technology - after all, your keyboard won’t suddenly need sharpening or refilling.
Or, maybe you are one that still prefers handwriting? Tell us about your writing habits. Can you relate to some of these famous authors? Remember that many of them did self-publish at some point of their careers (Proust and Woolf among others).
fot. Ernest Hemingway Writing at Campsite in Kenya - NARA