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Writing can be a wonderful hobby—whether you blog, write short stories or reflect in your daily journal. Writing can help you sort out your thoughts, discover new ideas and better understand yourself and the world. Writing can also be difficult. It can be a lot of work, and often sitting down to get started is the hardest part.
It can help to draw motivation and inspiration from the greats. Here are five famous writers on writing—they discuss their craft, their process and their daily struggles and victories.
Writers on Writing
In an interview with the Paris Review, E.B. White, author of Elements of Style and Charlotte’s Web, discussed the conditions in which he writes. He advises that ideal conditions will never happen, and if you wait for them, you’ll be waiting a long time. Instead of waiting around for your writing to happen, you should spend that time actually writing.
I never listen to music when I’m working. I haven’t that kind of attentiveness, and I wouldn’t like it at all. On the other hand, I’m able to work fairly well among ordinary distractions. My house has a living room that is at the core of everything that goes on: it is a passageway to the cellar, to the kitchen, to the closet where the phone lives. There’s a lot of traffic. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, and I often use it as a room to write in, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. A girl pushing a carpet sweeper under my typewriter table has never annoyed me particularly, nor has it taken my mind off my work, unless the girl was unusually pretty or unusually clumsy. My wife, thank God, has never been protective of me, as, I am told, the wives of some writers are. In consequence, the members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man—they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.
Haruki Murakami told the Paris Review about the strict routine he adheres to when he’s writing a novel. A healthy routine of work and exercise, and the act of repetition, helps him work long hours and enter a deeper state of mind.
When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.
In interview by Noah Charney, Jodi Picoult, author of My Sister’s Keeper, discussed her morning routine. Like Murakami, Picoult is aided by repetition and predictability, as well as getting out and talking to people.
I get up at 5 a.m. and walk for three miles with a friend (I do it for the gossip). I come home, shower, get my daughter off to school, make coffee and a bowl of yogurt with banana, and head up to my office.
Picoult also shared her views on writer’s block, which she believes doesn’t actually exist:
I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it—when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.
In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott advises writers to break through the barriers and fears standing in their way by writing a terrible first draft (she uses more colorful language). She writes that it’s okay to mess up, make mistakes, and trudge forward and experiment:
Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived…Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.
In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives. And as your mind and body grow accustomed to a certain amount of sleep each night — six hours, seven, maybe the recommended eight — so can you train your waking mind to sleep creatively and work out the vividly imagined waking dreams which are successful works of fiction.
Are you a writer? What process or routine helps you with your writing? If you love to read and write, consider submitting a book review of one of the books sold on our website!