Writer Habits, Then and Now

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We exercise judgment using the narrow lenses of our own understanding. What many may regard as an aberration or eccentricity may be the norm for a few. These days, there are only but a few kinds of professions that spew out as much quirk-oriented individuals as a group of creative writers.

The Past

These quirks can be quite mundane, but some of the most famous writers have notable quirks that are well-known. We have heard of how Edgar Allan Poe, known for unapologetically rabid stories such as “The Raven,” used to glue strips of paper into a scroll to write manuscripts on. Marcel Proust of “In Search of Lost Time” novel fame was recorded to have locked himself in a cork-lined room to write. Meanwhile, writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Bukowski, and Joan Didion get a bit of inspiration from sips or gurgles of liquor while or before writing.

Some tend to question proper ideas of when, where, and how to write. In an article about “The Odd Habits and Curious Customs of Famous Writers,” Bulgarian writer Maria Popova mentioned that Virginia Woolf spent a couple of hours in the morning writing on a three-and-half-foot tall desk with an angled top, that Friedrich Schiller was inspired by the stench of rotting apples, and that Gertrude Stein wrote while doing errands with her partner.

The Present

Nowadays, writers have since adapted to the daily habits at par with the times. Ever since blog writing became popular, everyone with a portable computer or other mobile device can just jot down ideas and publish them online at any time or place. Some novelists, like Donna Tartt, still keep a notebook on hand and write on the bus or the library. Meanwhile, Anthony Doerr admits that he’s easily distracted—especially when doing research online—so he uses writing apps like Freedom to keep his writing in check. Writers such as Daniel Handler and Emily Griffin spend their time writing in coffee shops.

Personal Routines

Looking at how writers’ routines have changed through the times, it seems that many stick to personal quirks developed through time or chance, and those that have proven effective for them. In the book "The Artist’s Way," Julia Cameron wrote the following lines:

"I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow."

There are a number of articles online that admonish the proper ways to write, suggesting the best time of day, and even suggesting the proper posture when writing. However, much like how a writer distinguishes him or herself by the way words are ordered or disordered, there is no one list of habits that will ensure one’s path to being a great writer.

Writing style is a product of a unique voice, which can only come from a highly creative and profound individual. Technology may have found ways to ensure that writers can get the most of their time when it comes to research and publication. However, style is still inherent to one’s person. Remember that the times will change and routines will always be different depending on the writer, but one thing will remain the same: passion will drive the pen.

Posted 2 October, 2015

Rowena Diocton

Technical Writer | Online Content Creator

Hello there! I am a technical writer and editor who writes for technology companies. I have written about technical marketing, news and journalism, digital marketing, travel, and lifestyle topics. I have edited newsletters, fiction and nonfiction manuscripts, white papers, and web articles. I work as a full-time technical writer, but I accept editing and writing assignments during my free time....

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