Last updated: March 2022
Famous writers attract enormous attention. Not only do their fans try to copy behavior or wardrobe to become closer to the star. Bloggers, content makers, and other writing people try to learn famous writers’ habits and daily rituals to get the source of their inspiration and productivity.
Do those habits truly matter for effective writing? Do famous writers themselves consider their daily routine an instrument for more productive work?
Below you’ll find an infographic visualizing a spectrum of habits famous writers had and tried for effective writing. Sure, we need to consider the circumstances that let writers to those habits: They lived at different times and had a different mentality. But let’s give it a try and look at their practices from a rational point of view.
Morning vs. Night Routine of Famous Writers
What is the best time for effective writing?
Most authors ask this question, and tons of articles and blog posts live online, trying to answer it. In short, everything depends on your biological clocks and environmental circumstances.
Thus, Tom Wolfe wrote at night for better inspiration: “Night-time awakens more alert chemistry in me,” he said. At the same time, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote at night because it was his only free time when attending an engineering school. But for whatever reason, the results of their night writings were substantive.
So, we can draw valuable insights from this habit:
- According to a circadian rhythm theory, famous writers could have the peak of their creativity at night.
- The noise pollution is at its lowest level in the night period, making it easier to focus on writing.
- The chance of being interrupted is minimal, though this point is still controversial.
- According to Alice Flaherty’s model of creative brain activity, we have a better chance of coming up with great ideas when tired. This theory may explain the excellent results of authors who wrote after coming home after work/study.
Based on the above, mornings must be a dead spot of writers’ creativity. But the research shows that many famous writers were super productive at this time of the day.
Thus, Katherine Anne Porter loved writing in the mornings because of “perfect silence.” Toni Morrison wrote early in the morning before her children woke up.
Most online articles on morning productivity don’t sound persuasive enough, so we’ve done our best to come up with the benefits of morning time for effective writing:
- The morning (natural) light stimulates brain activity.
- The creativity center of our brain (frontal cortex) has a peak activity after waking up.
- It’s easier to think positively at the start of a day; positive thinking leads to better results.
Drinking vs. Walking vs. Cats and Dogs for Effective Writing
As you can see from the infographic, the habits of famous writers are diverse. But each of them can offer a benefit:
- Tea contains theanine enhancing creativity and helping to stay focused.
- Coffee increases the serotonin level in our brain and helps us think more positively, while caffeine stimulates our memory.
- Long-distance walks increase brain volume, while travels develop imagination.
- This research proves that a laying position can help with creativity by far.
- Owning both cats and dogs reduces stress, anxiety, and the risk of depression.
When Good Writing Habits Work Bad
What could be a more practical writing habit than acquiring an academic writing skill? We all wrote essays and other papers in college, and we all got A+ grades for our grammatically correct critical or argumentative MLA-style writings.
But were those writings award-winning? Have we ever thought of anything like, “Whom do I write my essay?”
More often than not, we wrote essays for teachers and grades:
The educational system teaches a lot of bad habits to students. Yes, it’s natural to create well-meaning and structured academic writing at school, but any famous writer or essayist would use essay language to share their stories with readers.
Writing for college professors and writing for thousands of people who will read and love your works are two different things. And, naturally, students write differently for academics:
- trying to sound more formal
- crafting long paragraphs
- not expressing themselves in writings
- relying on sources, expressing others’ thoughts rather than theirs
- staying unemotional
The goal is to please a teacher and write an essay that would look award-winning from the educators’ perspective. The habit of writing like that can play Old Harry with the students who dream of worldwide fame as bestselling authors.
Famous writers have different habits, but none learned writing by reading academic manuals, sitting in courses, listening to educational style guides, or browsing writing blogs to find more books on pencraft.
When students, we write for academics; when writers, we change our writing habits and take benefits from them. Yes, even if those habits are awkward.
Awkward Habits of Famous Writers
Some famous writers’ habits are… let’s call them awkward. And yet, they have an entirely rational explanation:
- Friedrich Schiller couldn’t write without a box of rotten apples under his table. Well, that’s strange, but, on the other hand, Schiller wrote at night to avoid interruptions.
- Edith Sitwell had a habit of laying in an open coffin for a few minutes every morning before writing. On the other hand, Edith had notebooks in every corner of her flat (more than 300), collecting all writing ideas.
- Victor Hugo wrote naked. The explanation was simple: He locked clothes to resist the temptation of going outdoors. That saved his time and helped him finish his work on time.
- William Faulkner enjoyed typing with his toes, carrying shoes on his hands. We know him as the author of the words, “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!” He learned something and expanded his imagination all the time.
- Carson McCullers made a lucky sweater from rabbit feet and only wrote when she was wearing it. But despite having a paralyzed left arm, she did not stop writing.
Differentiating Between Benefits and Fables
As we see, famous writers’ habits (even if awkward) couldn’t stop them on the road to success. They chose the most rewarding routines for effective writing and creative life intuitively. Their habits are the result of their attitude to good writing.
The only tenable explanation for some writers’ most extraordinary habits is that they simply wanted to attract notice.
For example, Hunter Thompson asked to fire his remains into the sky. Sure, such stories are interesting to tell your friends in a bar, but, unfortunately, we can not find any other practical use for them.
The black swan theory by Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains why it’s wrong to judge success by who is a winner. And it’s the reason to opt-out ideas to sniff rotten apples or write blindfolded unless you find a rational advantage of this ritual.
What Can We Learn From This Info?
The debate concerning the best writing habit is never-ending. But any information is useless without practical insights. Hence, if you’re serious about your writing, here go several suggestions:
- Take a morningness-eveningness test.
- Improve your daily regime according to your morningness/eveningness.
- Every detail of your interior or writing process is helpful for your creativity. Try experimenting as much as you can.
- Avoid subjective evaluation of your experiments by asking someone else to judge your work.
- Your habits do not need any rational explanations if they lead to effective writing and are resulting.
It’s not easy to find your way. Sometimes it takes years to succeed, and some famous writers have already proved it. That’s why good writing masterpieces are so valuable. So, welcome to the world of uncertainty! =)