It would be admitting the obvious to say that writers are, well, odd. Even if you were to take out the obvious manifestations of strangeness — other people who spend all day locked in rooms talking to themselves tend to be there by institutional mandate — you’d still end up looking at a group of people who accept some off-the-wall behavior as a condition of getting their work done.
For those who wonder, “Am I the only one that does this? Am I the only one who is this weird?” — fret not. You’re probably not alone. And you haven’t been alone for a long time. Every week, we interview a contemporary writer who is at the top of the game — and we figure out how they do what they do. Today, we take a look at some of the peculiar writing rhythms of some of history’s greats.
Gertrude Stein needed a cow to write.
Yes, that wasn’t a typo: the great Gertrude Stein set up her writing days so that a cow would have to enter her field of vision as she wrote. This account from a 1934 New Yorker article testifies to her bovine-in-my-line-of-sight requirements:
Ray Bradbury wrote at a typewriter where he had to pay ten cents for every thirty minutes he used it.
He was a Pulitzer Prize winner who wrote a book that, to this day, is required reading for most American high school students. And he did it at a typewriter he didn’t even own!
Maya Angelou rented hotel rooms to write (even though she owned a house) and drank a cup of sherry (even at 6:15 in the morning).
It’s tough to recommend Angelou’s habit of having a cup of wine at any hour to get the juices flowing. But it’s also hard to compete with her credentials: one of the greatest poets, memoirists, and writers of her generation, she earned nominations for the Tony and the Pulitzer and won three Grammys. Here’s how she did it:
Dear Miss Angelou, let us change the sheets. We think they are moldy.
Anthony Trollope wrote 250 words every 15 minutes before going off to a job at the post office.
Anthony Trollope’s writing habit was the precise opposite of catch-as-catch-can: he was scarily disciplined, setting a habit of 250 words every quarter of an hour.
Alice Munro structured her writing sessions around the lives of her children — which is what prompted her to write short stories instead of novels, at least at the start of her career.
This will come as much comfort to any writer-parents out there: Alice Munro’s writing habits were shaped by having to take care of three children with little help:
Toni Morrison made a habit of watching the sun rise — and treating that as the signal to start her writing.
Nobel and Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Toni Morrison didn’t think she had a writing habit, other than getting up early. It wasn’t until a friend started her on a discussion of rituals that she realized she had one:
Kurt Vonnegut did pushups and sit-ups as he wrote.
He was most famous for his novel but it was his sixth novel, and was one work among a life filled with productive writing. So how did he do it? While getting in shape, apparently:
Read more: http://thoughtcatalog.com/