culturesplashwritersrituals


Writers always get asked the same questions: where do you get your ideas from? How do you find inspiration? LOOK JUST HOW THE HELL DO YOU WRITE A BOOK ALREADY?!

But for a lot of themm the struggle begins long before they start putting their ideas on paper.

Whether it's a case of OCD, an irrational superstition or a need for military-like self-control, some of the world's most successful writers were (and are) held hostage to some weird rituals and routines before they can get down to business.

Here we've round up 12 of our favourite examples. Did we miss any good ones you've heard about?

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  • Alexander Dumas would dream up grand adventures like <em>The Count of Monte Cristo</em> and <em>The Three Musketeers</em> by sitting beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris every morning and eating an apple. We have no idea what type. Cortland seems like a fair bed. (wkimediacommons)

  • CS Lewis's approach to writing was to micro-manage worse than any overweight, middle-aged, desperately unhappy sadist you've ever endured in a menial office job anywhere. Writing, walking, eating and socialising was planned in advance down to the exact hour every day - right down to when the first pint of beer should be enjoyed. (PA)

  • Charity shop favourite Dan Brown takes a 'first year in the army'-style approach to writing discipline. Starting at 4am each morning, he writes with an antique hour glass next to him on his desk. When the last grain drops every 60 minutes, he leaps to his feet and does a round of push-ups, sit-ups and stretches. He also occasionally uses gravity boots to hang upside down, all of which, he says "keeps the blood and ideas flowing". (PA)

  • Gertrude Stein was famous for hanging out with some of the biggest names of the 1920s cultural landscape, including Picasso and Hemingway. But when she needed some time to write for herself? She liked to escape in her car, park up somewhere quiet and write it on scraps of paper. And why not. (PA)

  • Ever moaned that having a day job stops you from writing your brilliant first novel? Pitiful excuses like those won't hold much weight with thriller writer John Grisham. He used to go into his office job as a lawyer at 5am every morning and write until he'd finished a page every day - no matter how long that would take. <em>Then</em> he'd get on with his day job. (PA)

  • American writer John Cheever - known as the 'the Chekhov of the suburbs' - was fond of writing in his underwear, but that didn't stop him taking a pride in his appearance. Each morning he'd put on a fresh suit and ride a lift down to a basement room where he wrote. There he'd carefully undress and hang up his suit - before putting it back on again to go upstairs for lunch, and again at the end of the day when he'd go home. (PA)

  • P. G. Wodehouse composed his stories more like a team of TV writers would compose a drama - using a huge wall, a timeline and lots of pieces of paper. He'd sketch out the basic plot page by page, then arrange them higher up if they were working well or move them down if they weren't. Only when he was happy with the overall structure would he take each page and embellish the language into prose. (PA)

  • A bit like that other great children's writer, Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman writes all his books in a specially-designed shed. It includes a desk decorated with an old klim rug and an expensive orthopedic chair for his back. The difference is that Pullman is highly superstitious - he will only write in ballpoint on lined A4 paper that has two holes in it (not four) and refused to tidy up until the book he is working on is finished. (PA)

  • Stephen Fry does exactly what you'd expect of Stephen Fry when it's time for him to write another novel. He goes to a quiet home in the country and unplugs everything. "I just do it nonstop until I'm finished. I envy writers who can write on planes and take a break for a week and then get back to it. I have to get into a sort of zone," he once explained. (PA)

  • Stephen King spent a fair amount of his career writing drunk or high, but now all of that is behind him he has a far more regimented routine that involves starting the day with vitamin and tea before sitting at his desk at 8am sharp, with the papers on his desk arranged in the exact same way. And you thought David Beckham was bad.

  • "I've got to be puffing and sipping," Truman Capote once told the <em>Paris Review</em> of his writing ritual. "As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis." Capote claimed he couldn't think unless he was lying down on a bed or a sofa.

  • Will Self's study once attracted the attentions of a photographer, Phil Grey, who felt compelled to document it. Why? Because Self covers his walls with rows and rows of post-it notes. What's written on them? Our guess: lots of very long, very clever words. (REX)