Living life as a writer On Writing

Strange Behaviors of Famous Authors.

Flickr image by Miguelángel Guédez

To conclude our series on writing, I researched a few of my favorite writers and discovered these famous authors practiced some strange behaviors in an effort to get their groove on. 

Question: What do the following famous authors have in common?

  • Marcel Proust– French novelist considered by many to be the best author of all times
  • Mark Twain– Author and humorist wrote the great American novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Truman Capote– American author, playwright, and screenwriter famous for his novella Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Answer: They all liked to write lying down.

To writers, who complained they had difficulty writing, Twain said: “Writing is the easiest thing in the world…Just try it in bed sometime. I sit with a pipe in my mouth and a board on my knees, and I scribble away.”

Capote said, “I can’t think unless I’m lying down.” Another of his writing rituals included that he not approach his typewriter unless he had completed two full drafts—in longhand.

Come to think of it, I do some of my best mental writing lying in bed. But longhand, that would be a hard behavior to return to after the ease of my computer.

In Contrast

On the opposite end of the lying-down approach to writing, are the authors who only wrote while standing up. They include:

  • Ernest Hemingway-who is said to have written A Moveable Feast at a stand-up desk.
  • Philip Roth-who not only stood but also paced. Roughly calculated, his book Goodbye, Columbus, is equal to a 100 mile walk, since Roth estimated that each page of his book represented about a half a mile.
  • Charles Dickens-said of his walking-writing experiences: “Whenever I am in Paris, I am dragged by invisible forces into the Morgue.”

In the Nude

“Cosette Sweeping,” illustration from Victor Hugo, Les Misérable (1862). French illustrator Émile Bayard drew the sketch of Cosette for the first edition, and this engraving was prepared for an 1886 edition. The image has become emblematic of the entire story, being used in promotional art for various versions of the musical.

Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables, gave his clothes to his servants and locked himself in his room. His clothes were not to be returned until a day’s writing was complete.

D.H. Lawrence, author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, found inspiration climbing trees in the nude.

Playwright Edmond Rostand, best known for his play Cyrano de Bergerac, wrote while in the bathtub.

Upside Down

Gravity boots helped best-selling author,  Dan Brown, while writing anagrams for his book Angels & Demons. He continued the exercise as he worked on The Da Vinci Code. His routine breaks included push-up, sit-ups, and stretching.

Against All Odds

In 1959, author Anthony Burgess was told by doctors he had an inoperable brain tumor and had less than one year to live. Worried about leaving his wife financially strapped, he wrote five novels the next year.  In 1962 he published his acclaimed dystopian novella, A Clockwork Orange. He died of lung cancer in 1993 outliving his wife and writing 30 novels after his diagnosis.

Free to Write In the Nude, Lying Down, or However

As long as men are free to ask what they must,
free to say what they think, 
free to think what they will, 
freedom can never be lost 
and science can never regress.
—Marcel Proust

 How About You

Do you have any behaviors or rituals you use while writing?

Me?  Earl Grey, Golden Oreos, cloudy days, old flannel shirts, wool socks, music, candles, stacks and stacks of books, and a window, please.

Source of information: I Used to Know That Literature by C. Alan Joyce and Sarah Janssen.
Clara Bush
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