Writers are Weird: Writer's Routines (Part One)

Sorry, but it’s the truth.

Most are weird good, the type of weird that brings a smile to your face and an expedience to your typing. The kind of weird that your loved ones smirk at but sometimes don’t get, but they’re cool with it. But your pets are sometimes confused as hell when you’re wearing a wig and a baseball cap and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts with slippers in the shape of Scooby Doo. However some are weird WEIRD. I have tried to make a full and frank account of some of them here. Feel free to add your own habits and weird little things so we can compare and contrast and then nervously change the subject and then pretend we never said anything.

W. H. Auden was perhaps one of the first writers to uses stimulants as a  “labor-saving device”. He habitually used speed and swallowed Benzedrine every morning for twenty years. He balanced the somewhat uplifting effects of these amphetamines with the barbiturate Seconal when he wanted to sleep (as well as keeping a glass of vodka at the end of the bed if he woke up). Having such a haphazard approach to narcotics, he saw it as as a pragmatic approach to his workload that sometimes led to physical breakdown and mental collapses. Not to be recommended unless you have a very sturdy constitution.

Stephen King is probably the most prolific Horror writer of our generation so surely there is something to learn from his habits. He seems to put a lot down to routine. “There are certain things I do if I sit down to write,” he said. “I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.” So it seems a certain amount of compulsive tendencies may help upkeep the writing habit.
“It’s not any different than a bedtime routine,” he continued. “Do you go to bed a different way every night? Is there a certain side you sleep on? I mean I brush my teeth, I wash my hands. Why would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way. The open side of the pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I don’t know why.” Yep, definitely a freaky need for routine and order but then ho can argue with his portfolio. Also, I guess you have to admit that the process of writing needs selfish isolation sometimes, who can completely switch off the world around them to concentrate?

Finally for this part of an ongoing series a well known figure more for his leadership rather than his  writing prowess, Winston Churchill. HIs daily routine changed little during even the war years. He always awoke about 7:30 a.m. and stayed in bed waiting for his gargantuan  breakfast whilst he read his mail and papers. And then, get this for a great gig, he stayed in bed for a couple of hours working whilst he dictated to his secretaries. Then, it gets better, at 1100, he arose, had bath and perhaps took a walk around the garden in anticipation of his whisky and soda to his study.
At 1300 he usually joined guests and family for a three-course lunch. It seems like it was a boozy lunch too, his wife Clementine drank claret and Winston Pol Roger champagne served at a specific temperature (with the obligatory port brandy and cigars). Lunch ended about 1530 and he went back to his study to work or, if the mood took him, played cards or backgammon with Clementine. At 1700, after another whisky and soda, he had a nap for ninety minutes. Amazingly this little siesta, a habit he had learned from his time in Cuba, allowed him to work 1 1/2 days in every 24 hours. At 1830, he woke up, had another bath and dressed for a 2000 dinner, which was the focal point and highlight of Churchill’s day. The talk of the day, usually dominated by Winston, was probably more important that was on their plates. Depending on the guests drinks and cigars went into the the wee hours. The guests retired and Churchill returned to his study for another hour or so of work.
So there you have it, part one of this ongoing series shows that writer’s routines are weird, even weirder than you. (So far).





4 responses
  1. Lorna Doone Brewer Avatar
    Lorna Doone Brewer

    Weird and embarrassing fact about me: My office almost always smells like French fries. I’m not saying I work better that way, but it may well be ingrained into my writer’s psyche by now.

  2. Simon J. James Avatar

    French Fries? Is that an intentional thing? Maybe you rent some space in a McD’s franchise? IMagine the productvity!

  3. Jodee Avatar

    What a great post! Thank you for sharing these interesting facts. I don’t feel nearly as bad about my caffeine addiction now. 😉

  4. Simon J. James Avatar

    @Jodee – You should read Part Two about the loner, obsessive and ritualistic Brits! You will never feel guilty again.


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