These writing habits of famous writers can help take your writing to the next level
When I was in my graduate writing program, we were required to read the work of great writers. In addition to this, we read books on craft and wrote essays studying the craft of great poets and authors. Why?
Because when you can study and identify the writing habits of famous writers, you can either emulate them or take parts of what worked in their writing and use it in your own. There was much that I learned about other authors that I didn’t think would benefit my studies, but overall, every single trick that I learned strengthened my writing in some way or another.
Consider these writing habits when structuring your writing routines!
Evaluate your writing instruments
Nowadays, many people sit down to the computer to begin to compose their writing.
Vladimir Nabokov didn’t have computers, of course. He composed all of his works on index cards. This allowed him to resequence all of his content so that scenes could later be moved around to wherever they best fit in his work. In an interview with The Paris Review, he said “My schedule is flexible, but I am rather particular about my instruments: lined Bristol cards and well sharpened, not too hard, pencils capped with erasers.”
What writing instruments do you use to achieve your best work? Other than the web, of course. Some writers I know prefer pen and paper, others use specific computer programs. When I was in graduate school and working elsewhere, my commute was very lengthy, and I used a voice recorder to note all of my thoughts.
Write even if you aren’t feeling particularly inspired
In his book On Writing, Stephen King, one of the most prolific authors of all time, says that he writes 10 pages every single day. There are no days off from writing – even holidays. Imagine the massive body of work you could amass if you wrote every single day, even if you only wrote half of a page. In addition to the amount of words you’d yield, your writing would significantly improve, as well. Just like any muscles in the body, the more you use your writing muscles, the stronger they become.
Figure out your most productive hours
What time of the day do you do your best writing? I find that I’m most productive in the early afternoon and also the evening. I have a poor attention span for writing first thing in the morning and later afternoon. Now that I’ve figured that out, I’m best able to plan my day.
I start my morning answering emails, planning, researching, or working on social media. Then I jump into writing. If I need to switch gears, I do, and then finish my day with writing, as well. Not everyone would benefit from my jumping-back-and-forth habits. In fact, the writing habits of famous writers can vary.
Many famous poets and authors wrote best in the very early morning, such as Sylvia Plath, Edith Wharton, Toni Morrison, and Kurt Vonnegut. Night writers include Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, and Rachel Carson. Try out different times to write and see what works best for you!
Create writing routines
Maya Angelou kept a hotel room where she did all of her writing. Paying for it monthly, she would go there every day, early in the morning to begin her writing. She’d keep nothing else in her hotel room other than a thesaurus, dictionary, and something small like a crossword puzzle for when she needed to clear her mind. She’d leave every day around 2pm, and go home to edit her work.
Consider your writing routines, whatever they may be. I find that my attention-sidetracked brain works best when I keep a notebook by my side at all times to jot down various notes throughout the day. Then, when I have more time to devote to writing, I’ll sit with my notebook and a computer, type up any thoughts and begin to expand on them.
Test your writing to see if it works
Aaron Sorkin, the award-winning screenwriter behind The West Wing and The Social Network, has admitted to acting out his scenes in front of a mirror. He does this to hear the dialogue out loud to be sure it sounds realistic. Reading your work out loud is something we definitely recommend at BuzzFarmers. If you feel uncomfortable reading aloud, find someone who can edit your work or even read it for you!
Of all of these writing habits of famous writers, which do you identify with most? Share your thoughts in the comments!
- Image 1 from page 74 of “114 proved plans to save a busy man time” (1918)
- Image 2 from page 265 of “Complete catalog and price list” (1900)
- Image 3 from page 745 of “Knight’s American mechanical dictionary” (1882)
- Image 4 from page 584 of “Text-book of nervous diseases” (1901)
- Image 5 from page 40 of “Usus et Fabrica Circini Cuiusdam Proportionis” (1655)
- Image 6 from page 63 of “Architectural drawing” (1920)