September 10, 2018 (Last Updated January 19, 2021)Marcy G.
Every author has a different writing process. By researching some famous authors, it was interesting to see how each one differs in their individual approaches. We are continuing this series by investigating more of our favorite writers. For a look back at our first post, click here!
Maya Angelou likes to do the majority of her writing in a hotel room. In an interview with George Plimpton, Angelou described her writing routine: “I have kept a hotel room in every town I've ever lived in. I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses. I never allow the hotel people to change the bed, because I never sleep there. I stay until twelve-thirty or one-thirty in the afternoon, and then I go home and try to breathe; I look at the work around five; I have an orderly dinner—proper, quiet, lovely dinner; and then I go back to work the next morning.”
Notable works: I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, And Still I Rise
Quote: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Ernest Hemingway’s workspace was described as organized chaos – a cluster of newspapers, manuscripts, and books on top of a tiny desk, leaving just enough room for a typewriter for him to stand in front of. Hemingway famously stood while he wrote, switching back and forth between a reader board and pencil to his typewriter.
Notable works: The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises
Quote: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Toni Morrison started writing before dawn as a necessity, since it was the only free time she while raising her children. In a 1993 Paris Review interview, she revealed why she continued this routine: “I was involved in writing Beloved at that time—this was in 1983—and eventually I realized that I was clearer-headed, more confident and generally more intelligent in the morning. The habit of getting up early, which I had formed when the children were young, now became my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down…[ W]riters all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition.”
Notable Works: Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye
Quote: “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”
E.B. White believed that in order to write, he had to avoid distractions like music, but on the flipside, could write in an environment filled with diegetic sound: “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] writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
Notable Works: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little
Quote: “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.”
How would you describe your writing process to someone? What works for you? If you are still finding a hard time getting into a writing routine, experiment! Try out new environments, switch up your schedule, or warm up with a creative writing prompt!