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
If groggy, type notes and allocate, to provide stimulus.
If in fine fettle, write.
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.
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.