I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was a child. After outgrowing my Barbies and Polly Pockets, my favourite past time was typing out short stories on a chunky four-piece 1990s computer running an eyewateringly slow version of Windows 95.
Growing up reading was the trigger for my fascination with words. Every morning I would sit on the floor between my mother’s knees as she combed my hair, reading to her aloud from books — Babysitters Club books or the historically-influenced fiction of the female heroines in the American Girl books. But reading wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to learn how to do that — how to weave tales and create rich characters.
To fall in love with a book is to enter into a sacred unrequited love affair with the author. In the days before Google that meant scouring newspapers and magazines for interviews with your favourite author, just to catch a glimpse of who they were as a person. And one of the greatest glimpses into a writer is found in the way they write.
I’m not talking about how many of the Elements of Style they trample or the tone of their voice or the pacing that moves a piece along. I mean the unseen quirky habits, the rituals that writers deploy when they are in the act of creating. Things like this:
- James Joyce lying on his tummy in bed, dressed in a white coat writing with blue coloured pencils and crayons
- Virginia Woolf writing standing at an angled desk for up to three hours a day
- Truman Capote refusing to begin or end a piece of work on a Friday
- Victor Hugo writing The Hunchback of Notre Dame wearing nothing but a knitted grey shawl and never leaving his house
- Stephen King writing to “loud music — hard rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns ‘n Roses and Metallica”
- James Heller brainstorming story ideas while riding on buses
- Gertrude Stein writing in the car while her wife drove
The list of famous writers with quirky customs could go on forever. I am curious, though to discover if writers still approach the page as eccentrically as our literary forefathers and foremothers did.
So I put the question to you, writers on Medium: what does your writing ritual look like?