Am I weird enough to be a writer?


Over at the Barnes and Noble Book Blog, Sara Jonsson  writes about The 9 Weirdest Writing Habits Of Highly Effective Authors.

For example:

Honoré de Balzac: De Balzac’s daily schedule would make even the hardest working author balk. He’d eat a light dinner and be in bed by 6 p.m., before rising at 1 a.m. for his first seven-hour stretch of writing. At 8 a.m., he took a 90-minute cat nap, then woke up and wrote until 4 p.m. Then he would take a walk, visit with friends, and take a bath, bringing him back to his 6 p.m. bed time. It’s remarkable he could sleep at all, as he was known to drink around 50 cups of coffee a day!

If that’s what it takes, I may never be a great writer.

For one thing…50 cups of coffee a day?  I love my coffee, but I don’t think I’ve every approached that much in a single day.  The heart palpitations alone would keep me from writing. Not to mention the bathroom trips.

Not to be indelicate, but if I drink coffee after dinner, I’m up half the night.

I don’t think that it was coffee alone that made Balzac a great writer.  But the full list of habits is fascinating and it shows that, just perhaps, being a little quirky may have its advantages.

Stephen King listens to rock music while writing.  Likewise in On Writing, King talked about how he locks himself away to write.

Hemingway, and others, drank heavily while writing.

I often joke about “writer fluid” or post a picture of my wine glass on Instagram.  But I don’t see alcohol as a necessity for writing.

After Christopher Hitchens died, Brian Palmer wrote at Slate, “While the effect of alcohol on creative writing is still very much in dispute, a number of other studies suggest that drinking has no effect, or even a negative effect, on other forms of creativity. A 2002 experiment showed that drinking doesn’t improve performance in word association games. (When asked to evaluate their own performance, however, the drinkers gave themselves higher scores.)”

My home office doesn’t allow that.  Because we converted the dining room into a shared office, I’m generally in the room next to at least one television.  Then there’s the cat, and up until recently, the dog (stay tuned, a sequel is likely this fall).  And, in a house of four people, none of us have what I would call “regular” sleeping habits, so someone is always awake.

A lot of times I’ll stick in the ear buds and crank up Spotify or Netflix.  Sometimes that helps.  Netflix much less so than Spotify.  It depends on what I’m writing.   Cranking out blog posts for a client requires different background music than writing the novel.

There’s nothing consistent about my writing habits other than being in the same chair at the same keyboard.

Maybe if I’m going to produce that great American novel, I need to develop some quirky habits.  Or at least some consistencies in my writing environment.

I’ve seen this quote attributed to both Mary Heaton Vorse and Kingsley Amis.  I don’t know who actually said it first, but I credit Mrs. Baker, my high school creative writing teacher, who had it posted on her bulletin board.

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of one’s trousers to the seat of one’s chair.”

So maybe.  Just maybe.  I just need to sit down and write.

How about you?  Any habits that help you write?

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