How we roll

Whether we’re writers or not, most of us have little routines or rituals we perform before getting down to work, be it the morning cup of coffee or the blog check. When I started writing with the goal of publication, I naturally looked to see how published writers did it. What I discovered is that a lot of writers are basically crazy-ass whackos, and that I was probably better off gawping at their habits than emulating them. But if you’re looking for examples, you should check out Daily Routines, a blog devoted to the subject of “how writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their daily lives.”

You will find many accounts of creative people whose lives are quite ordinary and perhaps not so dissimilar to your own, with creative work bracketed by domestic duties and unglamorous obligations. Like anyone else, writers accumulate children who need to be fed and garbage that must be dealt with. And then there are others, like Flaubert, who probably needed to be slapped around a little:

Days were as unvaried as the notes of the cuckoo. Flaubert, a man of nocturnal habits, usually awoke at 10 a.m. and announced the event with his bell cord. Only then did people dare speak above a whisper.

Me, I don’t have a bell cord. I down a cup of coffee, have some cereal for breakfast, fart around on the computer, and try to get working by 9:00 AM. Several hours later, I stop. When I had a day job, I worked almost exclusively at my local coffee joint for one hour before grumpily breaking off and heading to the office.

And then there’s W.H. Auden, who would be one of the gawp-worthy ones:

Perhaps the finest writer ever to use speed systematically, however, was W. H. Auden. He swallowed Benzedrine every morning for twenty years, from 1938 onward, balancing its effect with the barbiturate Seconal when he wanted to sleep. (He also kept a glass of vodka by the bed, to swig if he woke up during the night.) He took a pragmatic attitude toward amphetamines, regarding them as a “labor-saving device” in the “mental kitchen,” with the important proviso that “these mechanisms are very crude, liable to injure the cook, and constantly breaking down.”


1 Response to “How we roll”

  1. 1 Matt
    March 10, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I found this entry, and the blogg that you linked, to be very interesting, especially for the similarities between all the different routines. I’m a big nerd about rituals.

    The cumulative effect seems to be bridging the known and the unknown, through providing a path to harness your creativity. It, in effect, unifies different parts of existence. I thought that Steven King put it best when he said that he was transitioning his mind to get ready to “dream.”

    Also interesting to me is the bridging of the human body and knowledge; a lot of these rituals rely on a certain physiological change as well, often chemically induced – coffee, alcohol, amphetamines. It ties the human body to the collective pool of knowledge and creativity that the writer is drawing upon.

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