The Strange Writing Habits of Famous Authors

People often believe that writing is all about inspiration, which is a sort of esoteric mambo jumbo. Some writers went as far as to develop strange habits, rituals almost, as if to persuade the muse.

Truman Capote

The author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s would never begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, would change hotel rooms if the room’s phone number included the number 13, and never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray, tucking the extra ones into his coat pocket. He  would supposedly write supine, with a glass of sherry in one hand and a pencil in another. He explained his creative process in an interview:

“I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. No, I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand.”

John Cheever

“To publish a definitive collection of short stories in one’s late 60s seems to me, as an American writer, a traditional and a dignified occasion, eclipsed in no way by the fact that a great many of the stories in my current collection were written in my underwear.”

This Pulitzer-Prize winner also walked around the room, talking loudly to himself. But isn’t something we all do? Right? Right?

Ernest Hemingway

Just like Graham Green, Hemingway used to write 500 words a day, mostly in the mornings, to avoid the heat. He also admitted to writing one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit.

William Faulkner

He drank a lot of whiskey. Even by the standards of a writer.

Vladimir Nabokov

The author of Lolita wrote his novels on 3 x 5 inch cards, which would be paper-clipped and stored in slim boxes.

Isabel Allende

The Chilean author always begins writing her novels on the same date: January 8.

“At the beginning it was superstition, because the first book had been so lucky. Now it’s just discipline. My life is busy, so I need to save some months of the year to be in a retreat. I need time and silence, or I will never be able to write. Having a start date is good for me and everybody around me. They know that on January 8, I’m not available anymore.”

John Steinbeck

He used to keep exactly twelve perfectly sharpened pencils on his desk.

Victor Hugo

The French author set out to write The Hunchback of Notre Dame against what seemed as an impossible deadline. He bought an entire bottle of ink and pretty much put himself under house arrest, locking away his clothes to avoid being tempted into going outside. He did finish writing the book before the deadline, using up the entire bottle of ink.

Friedrich Schiller

He left apples to spoil in a drawer because he believed the aroma inspired him. Nothing strange at all with that.

44 thoughts on “The Strange Writing Habits of Famous Authors

  1. I find it comforting to see these strange habits by famous authors. It reminds me we are all different, and one person’s way of writing doesn’t necessarily work for another writer. So my OWN way of writing is OK, as long as it works for me.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Interesting…especially reference the drinking habits of some or most of these famed authors. But what about the women writers? Personally, I have no habits, I used to, in my early days, only write on hotel stationary…great post!


  3. I like Capote’s idea. I do a lot of writing lying down too, but because of ill health rather than affectation. I’m worried I’m not a real writer though, because I don’t drink coffee or alcohol!


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