Where do your best ideas come from? I always get my ideas for my next blog post or piece of fiction while in the middle of doing something else. As of late, the shower, the treadmill, and my bed have been my greatest sources for finding inspiration for writing. It’s in these places that the part of my brain that generates ideas can finally relax and spew out ideas as it pleases. If I sit down at a blank computer screen and say, “Write! Write! Write!” there’s too much pressure to produce. But, if I’m standing in the shower focusing on getting the perfect shampoo lather for my hair, the pressure’s off and ideas are born!
Do you have a specific writing ritual that is conducive to coming up with great ideas? I’ve always been interested by the unique writing rituals of famous authors. My writing rituals aren’t too quirky (yet)–I like to write while sitting cross-legged on my bed, on the floor of my living room, or while sipping a glass of Sauvignon blanc. Here’s a look at some of my favorite writing rituals of famous authors:
- Truman Capote wrote lying down while “puffing and sipping.”
- Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. He always wrote in the morning to avoid the heat and limited himself to 500 words a day.
- William Faulkner drank a lot of whiskey while writing.
- Vladimir Nabokov wrote most of his novels on 3×5 index cards and was very particular about the writing utensils he used: note cards and well-sharpened pencils capped with erasers.
- Eudora Welty physically pinned her stories together across the room.
- Maya Angelou checks into a hotel and does her writing there.
- Junot Diaz sometimes writes in the bathroom.
- Richard Powers lies in bed and speaks his stories to his laptop which has voice recognition software.
- Hilary Mantel hops into the shower whenever she needs inspiration.
- Colum McCann writes in 8 point Times New Roman. He also would print out sections of his book in large font and read it in Central Park, pretending that he was reading someone else’s story.
- John Irving always starts his writing with the last sentence.
- Orhan Pamuk will rewrite the first line of his story 50-100 times.
Perhaps it’s time to adopt a quirkier writing ritual. I used to be very particular about the kinds of pens that I used when writing, but that habit has dissolved now that most of my writing is done on the computer. Maybe I should create some sort elaborate writing den in my apartment. Or incorporate sitting in Central Park or maybe a long stroll down Park Avenue into my daily writing routine.
A little vitamin V helps. So does fear. Or excitement. I also really like to read what I write to people, or have them read it to me.
I agree, fear is also a good motivator! Sometimes I read what I’ve written aloud before posting to make sure that it flows and makes sense. That’s also a great way to find grammatical errors.
I’ll admit, I do like to sit down to write with a glass of wine in hand. But, sometimes that’s just not practical.
I love sitting cross-legged on the couch — or sitting in the sun-drenched living room with a cup of coffee. Coffee shops also work for me.
When it comes to process, I find that writing down random thoughts on the topic and then shifting around the paragraphs sometimes helps if I’m having a bit of writer’s block. This is a “newfangled” trick, since writing on the computer makes it a lot easier to rearrange thoughts!
Also, good writing sometimes happens in the edit. There’s nothing like vomiting forth a stream of word salad and then deleting everything that isn’t good.
Lo–I agree, coffee is also a necessity in the process. I love writing with a good cup of coffee. The computer has certainly made it easier to rearrange ideas. Scott, you bring up a good point about how a lot of the good writing happens in the edit. It’s important to vomit that word salad first and then get rid of the ideas that don’t work.
I had a creative writing teacher who always advised us not to stop ourselves before we start. It can be easy to filter your ideas in your head, but the important thing is to get them all down and rearrange/edit them later.
I found simply making time to write is important. Creativity has to be practiced to be sharp. So make writing time as regular as you would eating times.
Like you, I do most of my writing that will be shared with others on the computer. I type faster than I write with a pen (Zebra F-701, fine, black) and it is easier to read.
The idea of just getting words on the page and sorting them out later is very solid. I tend to start, then start again, then start again, not deleting those false starts until something else takes root.
The most important habit I have to writing is that I carry a moleskine journal with me and write ideas down when they strike me. Being prepared to write sets the stage for the writing itself.
You’re right, making time to write is the most important. I must find more time to write and be more regimented about my writing.
I use the notepad on my iPhone a lot to record ideas as they strike me. I used to carry a small notebook, but I don’t always have a large enough purse to keep it in (lame excuse, I know). You make another great point, being prepared to write sets the stage for writing itself!
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