Thursday, December 17, 2009

Writing Habits

”Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” - Jim Ryun

When it comes to writing habits, mine are pretty boring. I sit down in front of my computer and write. Some days I write more or better than other days, but the routine is the same.

According an article in the Wall Street Journal by Alexandra Alter, “How to Write A Great Novel,” there are plenty of authors who have interesting writing behaviors.

Richard Powers has one of the more unique approaches to writing. According to the article:

“Richard Powers, whose books are often concept-driven, intricately plotted and stuffed with arcane science, wrote his last three novels while lying in bed, speaking to a lap-top computer with voice-recognition software.”

The article goes on to say that he worked like this for eight or nine hours a day on his most recent novel, Generosity: An Enhancement.

I hope he has a really good mattress. In some ways, seven or eight hours in bed sleeping plus eight or nine in bed writing sounds heavenly, but I don’t think I could do it. I tend to fall asleep anytime I’m in a reclined position, whether I’m sleepy or not.

Nicholson Baker, “…rises at 4 a.m. to write at his home in South Berwick, Maine. Leaving the lights off, he sets his laptop screen to black and the text to gray, so that the darkness is uninterrupted. After a couple of hours of writing in what he calls a dreamlike state, he goes back to bed, then rises at 8:30 to edit his work.”

I’ve read some of my notes written in a dreamlike state—the only editing needed is a quick click on the delete button.

But there’s more on Nicholson Baker. “…he grew out a beard to resemble his character, put on a floppy brown hat, set up a video camera on a tripod and videotaped himself giving poetry lectures. He transcribed about 40 hours worth of tape, and ended up with some 1,000 pages of notes and transcription. Creating the voice of a rambling professor "was something I had to work on a lot in order to get the feeling of being sloppy," said Mr. Baker.”

Watching myself for 40 hours trying to do anything sounds like the most painful and boring experience I can imagine.

Junot Diaz, “He often listens to orchestral movie soundtracks as he writes, because he's easily distracted by lyrics. When he needs to seal himself off from the world, he retreats into the bathroom and sits on the edge of the tub. "It drove my ex crazy," he says. "She would always know I was going to write because I would grab a notebook and run into the bathroom."

The music I could deal with, but sitting on the edge of the tub sounds completely uncomfortable.

The author I identified with the most was Kate Christensen who said, “…she's played 30 games of solitaire before typing a first sentence.”

Oh, Kate, we are such kindred spirits.

There are seventeen authors mentioned in the article. I thought they were all interesting. If you’d like to read it in its entirety you can find it here. Thanks to my sister for passing it along to me.

I’ll be at the Holiday Book Festival at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron Street, Port Charlotte, FL from 10 AM to 4:00 PM today. Come say hello if you’re in the area.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Jim Ryun, Wall Street Journal, Richard Powers, Nicholson Baker, Kate Christensen, Charlotte Country, writing habits


Tamika: said...

What an interesting post! Wow! Writers are peculiar people.

I wonder what strange things we will conjure up next in the name of creativity. I love it!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Jane, the habits were almost as funny as your comments after each one!

I'd hit the delete button, too.

Helen Ginger said...

I am not weird! Okay, I'm probably weird, but apparently not as weird as some writers. Perhaps weird is not the right word. Quirky. That's it.

Straight From Hel

Joanne said...

It's always fascinating to see how other writers produce their work. I'm much more regimented than the ones you mentioned, sitting down at the computer at set times and just getting to the business of writing, without the distractions of going back to sleep or sitting on a tub! I couldn't even fathom that.

Carol Kilgore said...

Sometimes we writers possess weird habits. Love the quote at the top.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Oh, yes, dreamlike state is a charitable way of describing most anything I do. Another would be Homer Simpsonesque.

Have fun and success at the Holiday book festival, Jane..

Best Regards, Galen.

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Karen Walker said...

Writers are peculiar, aren't we? Edges of tubs, lying in bed all day. Oy vay! Maybe I need to get quirkier than I am to be more productive.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I'm another who will play scary numbers of solitaire or freecell or whatever before I start. I can't seem to just sit down and do it. There are days when scrubbing the kitchen floor strikes me as a more delightful pastime than putting fingers to keyboard!


Morgan Mandel said...

I can't imagine laying down all day and writing. I couldn't do that and not get a sore back or shoulder or something. I do lots of writing on the commuter train and also on the desktop computer at home, never with a pen or pencil unless I'm desperate to remember something.

Morgan Mandel

Anonymous said...

I've tried the dream-like state and it doesn't work for me. I need a decent breakfast in my tummy and a couple cups of coffee coarsing through my veins before I write.

Stephen Tremp

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many future writers will say they spent three hours on twitter before starting to write?

The Old Silly said...

Writers are weird and they all have their own style. I read in "On Writing" by Stephen King, that one author he knew of was a post office employee. His writing time was from 5:00 a.m. to 7:45 a.m., when he had to stop and go to work. When he would finish a ms at say, 7:30 a.m. and type "The End", he would put another sheet of paper in his typewriter and start writing his next book for the rest of the 15 minutes he had left.

Incredible discipline.

Marvin D Wilson

Bob Sanchez said...

I enjoyed your post, Jane. Writers can have strange habits, but the best habit is to sit in your chair and just type one word after another.

Bob Sanchez

Patricia Stoltey said...

I really enjoyed these stories. They made me feel a little less peculiar with my "binge-writing" habits. My current home retreat is an effort to become more disciplined. I want to write every day in my office with the door closed (and that means cutting back on a lot of Twitter, e-mail, blog-hopping, and Facebook time).

Cat Connor said...

I don't feel so weird now, thanks Jane!

I do try and write every day... I just have to be listening to Bon Jovi when I do it, that's all. lol



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Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world