Famous authors are notorious for their daily routines ...
... sometimes outrageous, usually obsessive, invariably peculiar.
Did you know that Wallace Stevens composed his poetry on slips of paper while walking --
an act like Stephen King, he saw as a creative stimulant — then handed them to his secretary to type up.
"Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake."
- Wallace Stevens
Edgar Allan Poe wrote his final drafts on separate pieces of paper
attached into a running scroll with sealing wax.
"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity."
- Edgar Allan Poe
Jack Kerouac was especially partial to scrolling: In 1951, planning the book for years and amassing ample notes in his Journal,
he wrote ON THE ROAD in one feverish burst,
letting it pour onto pages taped together into one enormously long strip of paper —
a format he thought lent itself particularly well to his project,
since it allowed him to maintain his rapid pace without pausing to reload the typewriter at the end of each page.
When he was done, he marched into his editor Robert Giroux’s office and proudly spun out the scroll across the floor.
He promptly stormed back out when he was told that the pages would have to be cut to be edited.
Take Virginia Woolf -
In her twenties, she spent two and a half hours every morning writing, on a three-and-half-foot tall desk
with an angled top that allowed her to look at her work both up-close and from afar.
But it truly was a by-product of sibling rivalry with her sister, Vanessa Bell.
Vanessa painted standing, and Virginia didn’t want to be outdone by her sister.
Woolf remained incredibly resourceful — an inventor of sorts, even.
After she switched from standing to sitting, she created a contraption of which she was very proud:
She used a piece of thin plywood as a writing board, to which she attached a tray for pens and ink
so she wouldn’t have to get up and disrupt her flow of inspiration should she run out of materials.
"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
- Virginia Woolf
John Steinbeck was driven by a similar fear of depletion of materials.
He liked to write his drafts in pencil, always kept exactly twelve perfectly sharpened pencils on his desk.
He used them so heavily that his editor had to send him round pencils
to alleviate the calluses Steinbeck had developed on his hands from the traditional hexagonal ones.
"A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it."
- John Steinbeck
Truman Capote wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday,
would change hotel rooms if the room phone number involved the number 13,
and never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray, tucking the extra ones into his coat pocket.
"Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act."
- Truman Capote
Jack London wrote 1,000 words a day every single day of his career and
William Golding once declared at a party that he wrote 3,000 words daily,
a number Norman Mailer and Arthur Conan Doyle shared.
Raymond Chandler, a man of strong opinions about writing wrote in spurts, sometimes reaching 5,000 words in a day!
Dorothy Parker, an obsessive reviser, skewed to the negative, once lamented,
“I can’t write five words but that I change seven.”
"From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.”
- Raymond Chandler
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