By Christine Andas
November 13, 2020
Read on to know the creative rituals of prominent writers that may help you feel inspired to keep writing!
It’s understandable that most people find it harder to write during a difficult time. But fret not because we have discovered how authors — from early to contemporary years — had dealt with the same dilemma we now call writer’s block.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the author who coined the term, once described it as an “indefinite indescribable terror” for writers who are unable to produce work. While psychologist Susan Reynolds claims that it is not a real psychological phenomenon, there are actual writers who struggle with writer’s block. Myth or not, the reasons for writer’s block can be different for each writer. The factors that contribute to it can be social, behavioural, and environmental.
When you’re stuck and unsure about what to write next, it’s best to take a break. After a while, you can always return and try again. But if your writer’s block isn’t cured even after a short break with a good cup of coffee, maybe it’s time to ask for help. As they say, it’s wise to learn from the masters of literature.
Maya Angelou begins writing around 6:30 am, after having coffee with her husband, in a small hotel room. In Daily Rituals, Maya mentioned that she always kept her essentials with her. “I keep a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards, and a bottle of sherry in the room,” she shared. The American poet ended her writing session depending on how well (or badly) she’s writing. Maya was scrupulous with her work; she edited while she wrote then reread it within the day.
Simone de Beauvoir
In contrast to Maya’s solitary writing session, French writer Simone de Beauvoir prefers to see her friends in between her writing. Simone shared in a 1965 Paris interview that she first has tea before working. Then she meets with her friends. Afterwards, Simone returns to her writing without struggling to “pick up the thread in the afternoon.”
Virginia Woolf, the author of A Room of One’s Own, had a brilliant idea to create her own standing desk, where she worked on for two and a half hours. She created the desk after her sister Vanessa Bell argued that writing while standing was far more exhausting than sitting down. Personally, I think I would agree more with Virginia since most of us are always hunched over our desks for long periods of time. Perhaps writing in a different angle or perspective can also help refresh our minds once in a while.
American Novelist Stephen King has his vitamin pill and his music before attempting to consistently write six pages a day, refusing to break a healthy habit unless an intervention stops him. Stephen thrives in the pressure that he must face on the daily which eventually works. Instead of cramming everything right before the deadline, Stephen gives himself enough time to think through his piece every day.
Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer, reveals his own healthy way of spending his days when writing through a Paris review interview in 2004. Haruki leaves his bed as early as 4 am to work on his novel for five to six hours. But he keeps himself physically active either by running for ten kilometres or swimming for 1500 metres. After that, Haruki reads while music plays in the background. Then, he’s back on the bed by nine in the evening.
John Steinbeck, the author of The Grapes of Wrath, suggests writing one page per day as fast and free as you can. Working on your story daily helps lose track of the pages left for you to write. He also does not condone correcting or rewriting as it only distracts you from the “flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material,” he shared in an interview. He also suggests forgetting the audience or reader at that moment, only to think of them once the work is done. In terms of writing tools, John always kept 12 sharp hexagonal pencils on his desk which eventually gave him callouses on his fingers. Considering that John wrote for hours, his editor had to give him round pencils to avoid having calloused hands.
Honoré de Balzac
Coffee drinkers might relate to French novelist Honoré de Balzac who also loved drinking black coffee. But Honoré enjoyed his caffeine a little too much — almost fifty cups a day. And when the coffee buzz had died down, he would chew on coffee beans. Aside from his coffee intake, Honoré went to the extremes with his writing. Honoré finished his works in a couple of months or weeks by writing for more than 48 hours.