Writers' Routines

Writers’ routines – from Patricia to Isabel, and even Jack Kerouac Interesting piece in the Irish Times the other day by Frank McNally about writers and how they start their writing day.

Here’s Isabel Allende on the subject: ‘I light some candles for the spirits and the muses. I meditate for a while. I always have fresh flowers and incense. And I open myself completely to the experience that begins in that moment . . . And slowly the story seems to unfold itself, in spite of me.’

Patricia Scanlan also lights candles before she starts writing, and says a little writing prayer.

Jack Kerouac went about things a little differently. ‘You think about what actually happened, you tell friends long stories about it, you mull it over in your mind, you connect it together at leisure, then when the time comes to pay the rent again, you force yourself to sit at the typewrite, or at the writing notebook and get it over with as fast as you can.’

And Patrick Dennis (no, me neither. Apparently he was a big writer in the 1950’s.) said ‘I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.’

Gore Vidal: ‘First coffee, then a bowel movement, then the muse joins me.’

And finally, William Styron. 'I like to stay up late at night and get drunk and sleep late. I wish I could break the habit but I can't. The afternoon is the only time I have left and I try to use it to the best advantage, with a hangover.' Lived till 81 all the same.

Just goes to show – every writer is very, very different!

So how do I start my writing day?

Breakfast (with the kids – often with CBEEBies on – I can just about stand it as it doesn’t have an ads, I’ve banned everything else in the morning) I try to read the Sunday papers while eating – this goes on until Friday generally – and zone out the noise. Get the kids to school. Walk – usually for about 30 mins – gets rid of the cobwebs and stretches my neck and back out. Usually down the West pier in Dun Laoghaire. No music, just my own thoughts to amuse me. Ideally I think about the scene I’m about to write – but usually I just worry about the teenager and pipes bursting and the usual stuff. (No, we didn't leave our taps running - honest. Not guilty!) Home. Try to avoid talking to anyone. Sit down at my desk. And here’s my one quirk I guess – switch on the pink fairy lights over my desk. That’s when I know I’m supposed to be writing – when my lights are on. Try not to mess around on the internet. Fail. Check emails, Facebook. Check out the cute kids singing Eye of the Tiger on You Tube. Tell myself to get on with the writing. Start writing. (It can take me a good hour to get to this stage I am ashamed to admit.) Look up two to three hours later and wonder where the time has gone. And if I’m lucky, I’ll get my 2,000 words done in that time. And that’s my writing morning. Afternoon – edit, write other bits and bobs, do my blogs etc. No candles I’m afraid – will fairy lights do?

What's your own routine like?

Yours in writing,

Sarah X

PS I’m going to ask some of my writer friends for their routines and post them for you. I bet Martina Devlin is far more disciplined than I am!!!