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Daily Routines of Bestselling Authors

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What is the natural habitat of the happily published, career author? Is it sat in a boutique café with a deconstructed coffee, thundering through chapters on the newest laptop? Maybe it’s perched in the corner of the living room at midnight, clicking away on a vintage typewriter?

What does a real daily routine look like, and what can we learn from them?

In this article, we’ll take a peek at the reported daily work routines of several successful writers – what time they get up, where they do their work, and what targets they set themselves each day.

In a dreamy moment of wishful thinking, you might imagine that a successful author’s day looks something like this:

6:00 am – wake at dawn, go for a quick run to prepare for the day ahead.

9:30 am – with 2,000 words nailed down, it’s time for a break. Spouse has made a healthy, balanced breakfast. Straight back to writing once eaten.

12:30 pm – working lunch with a movie producer at a five-star restaurant. His treat, because he’s so thrilled to be adapting this novel into what he’s sure will be the next Hollywood blockbuster.

2:30 pm – get back home, check emails before relaxing and catching up on some reading.

The reality is, unfortunately, often rather different.

Below are some real writers’ daily schedules, according to interviews:

 

Henry Miller – Playwright and Author

MORNINGS:
If groggy, type notes and allocate, to provide stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.

AFTERNOONS:
Work on section in hand, following the plan scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time to as close to final version as possible.

EVENINGS:
See friends. Read in cafés.

Explore unfamiliar settings — on foot if wet, on my bicycle if dry.

Write, if in the mood. Paint if empty or tired.

Make notes. Make charts and plans. Make corrections on the manuscript.

Note: allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an impromptu bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.

 

Kurt Vonnegut – Author

5:30 am — wake up, write

8:00 am — eat breakfast at home, and then write.

10:00 am — walk a few blocks into town, do errands, go to the nearby municipal swimming pool and swim for half an hour.

11:45 am — return home, read the mail.

12:00 pm — eat lunch.

In the afternoon, do schoolwork, either teach or prepare.

5:30 pm — home from school, I numb my twanging intellect with several belts of scotch and water. Cook supper, read and listen to jazz.

10:00 pm — sleep.

I do pushups and sit-ups all the time, and feel as though I am getting lean and sinewy, but maybe not.

 

Stephen King – Author

In Lisa Rogak’s book Haunted Heart, legendary author Stephen King expands on his particular routine. “There are certain things I do if I sit down to write,” says King. “I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning.

“I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.

“It’s not any different than a bedtime routine. Do you go to bed a different way every night? Is there a certain side you sleep on? I mean I brush my teeth, I wash my hands. Why would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way. The open side of the pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I don’t know why.”

As a younger writer, King set himself the goal of writing 2000 words a day – every day. Now it’s reported to be 1000 words each day, though he still sticks to writing every day.

Learning about the routines of other creatives is fascinating. Some of them believe in waking at dawn and working throughout the morning – like our imagined example. Others can only find the energy to work at night or during a few snatched hours in the day. Whether this is due to other life commitments or the will of the muse differs from writer to writer.

One thing is consistent, however: a habit of writing every day.

What kind of writing routine do you keep? Are there any other daily habits you’ve learned from famous authors that have helped keep you moving?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and share all the things you do to carve out time and stay motivated.

 

Join the Discussion on “Daily Routines of Bestselling Authors”

  1. Karleen Christopher says:

    Wow! Everyone is so organised. I did NaNoWriMo last November and during that I wrote every day. I completed my book of 50k words. Since then I’ve been editing it but I don’t naptime every day. I work fulltime and am on call most of the time. I get 2 hrs a day where I’m totally free. During that time is when I do my editing, planning and relaxing. So not very good for writing. I get I to a rhythm or on a roll and before I know it the 2 hrs are gone. Roll on November.

  2. Mark Gusack says:

    I find that I’m most creative late at night and when I have no other pressing matters to attend to. So, I wait until around 10:30 PM, get a snack of cheese and crackers, some fruit, and, of course, chocolate with tea or decaf coffee and sit down in front of a large computer screen in my lounge chair.

    Once settled in, I begin. First, I review what I wrote the day before and make edits and changes as seem appropriate. Then, I work on anything that comes to mind or from notes made at other times during the day and…night – keep a pad of paper and pen next to your bed! I write for about one hour, then, go back over what I wrote and do an immediate edit for about 30 minutes. Finally, I do some more writing for another 30 minutes to flesh out what I have already put down on ‘paper’, back everything up, and settle in to read a book.

    This routine has worked very well for me and I’ve been able to produce hundreds of well edited pages over a three year period writing six to seven days per week for no more than two hours per day. If you establish this type of routine you will find that you look forward to writing as a kind of therapy. Your book becomes a friend they you attend to and take care of.

  3. L. Thomas says:

    I am totally unorganized when it come to writing. But I have to say that I am obsessed with my story once I begin so I have little need for a schedule. I don’t even make an outline nor do I do a character study or even have more than a scrap piece of paper with the names of characters or places on it that for some reason I can’t remember.

    I once told my wife I am like a boy scout leader sitting around a campfire telling a ghost story. I just wing it and make it up as I go. I have a rough idea of where to start and where I would like to finish but 99 percent of the time the story completely surprises me by the time I am finished with it.

    Now keep in mind I spend many a night lying in bed thinking about my book and where I want it to go and the plot, theme and morality of the story.

    So when I sit down to write a novel I have only a rough idea of what I want to say, but somehow when my brain engages my fingers and my fingers touch a keyboard the story just comes to life for me. Of course the story is rough and in need of a bunch of fixing up but the most important lesson I have learned over my lifetime is:

    Just write. GET IT ON PAPER. Once you have it on paper you now have something to work with. Writing is a job. Its challenging, difficult and trying at times and when the creative juices stop flowing…..take a break and dwell on anything but your story.

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