writing rituals

Crazy Rituals of Famous Authors

Famous authors are not only famous for their bestselling novels, but also for their wit, knowledge, passion, and various other skills. One of such various other skills is having notoriously crazy writing rituals. From Victor Hugo to Dan Brown, many authors have crazy habits when it comes to writing. After all, masterpieces cannot be sculpted without abrasives. From lying down to standing up, from steaming infinite espresso shots to rotten apples, most of the famous authors have a crazy other side. If you know any author personally, you might have noticed some funny or weird habits of theirs that they follow when it comes to writing; be it superstition or a mere tendency, but most authors do have a unique writing ritual. For some of them, it can as simple as having a word count that they follow religiously. For others, it can be a bit crazier like writing while being naked or doing mono acting of their dialogues. The famous author Ernest Hemingway strongly preaches the habit of Write drunk, edit sober! Hemingway also preferred to write in a standing up posture. He used to spend hours together on his feet and moved only to shift the weight from a leg to another. After all, if these habits do help create some of the best works that people love, it’s absolutely okay to be quirky. Here are 9 crazy rituals of  famous authors:

  1. Authors Who Loved Their Beds: As readers, most of us might find it amusing and comfortable to lie down and read. However, when it comes to writing, does it work? Well, looks like it does. For successful writers, like Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Marcel Proust, Woody Allen, Truman Capote, and George Orwell, lying on their bed and writing was a comfortable writing ritual. They even believed that they were more creative and focused this way. That’s one amazing practice and talent to write a bestseller novel, while lying down, for many of us might fall asleep the moment we hit the bed. James Joyce, an Irish novelist and poet, wrote his works using a large blue pencil and by lying on bed on his stomach. He also clad himself in a white coat and composed some of his works with crayon pieces on cardboard. If you are wondering what kind of idiosyncrasy is that, you need to understand the pragmatic side of this. The author of Ulysses, Joyce, was nearly blind. As none of the 25 eye surgeries that he underwent improved his eyesight, he used the large crayons to help him see what he was writing. Obviously, the white coat was to reflect more light during nights.
  2. Authors Who Stand Up For Their Books: No! These are not the authors who stood up and defended their books from critics. On the other hand, these authors stood as they wrote their books. Writers like Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Philip Roth, and Lewis Carroll were quite opposite to the horizontal writers mentioned above. These authors wrote their best works on their standing desks. This writing habit is not just weird but has proven health benefits, too. Virginia Woolf, an author known for being a vertical writer, took sibling rivalry to a whole new level when she started writing novels by standing because her sister, Vanessa Woolf, an artist, painted standing. If this is not craziness, we do not know what is.
  3. Authors Who Loved Calculations And Daily Targets: If you are someone who works in a corporate, you will know how tedious it is to achieve daily targets. Due to procrastination, even feasible daily targets become tough to complete. Authors like Jack London, William Golding, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Wolfe, Anthony Trollope, and Norman Mailer wrote about 1000-3000 words daily. American author of contemporary horror, Stephen King, does whatever it takes to reach his daily quota of 2,000 adverbless words. No wonder we get amazing novels from him often.
  4. Author Who Embraced Nudity: No! The author was not writing erotic novels; he wrote both Les Misrables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame while he was nude. While one might think that this is some kind of fetish, this practice of writing when being naked was a way to stop procrastination. The dramatist of the Romantic Movement, Hugo, locked away his clothes to avoid any temptation of going outside. This way, he finished his novels weeks before the deadline.
  5. Authors Who Were More Organized Than Monica Geller: Colour coding, labelling, and organization immediately reminds us of OCD and eccentricity. If you thought Monica Geller from the Friends TV Series was obsessed about extreme organization, these authors have taken organization to an all new level. Author of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, composed all his works in index cards and kept them safe in slim boxes. This amazing method was not only helpful in organizing his work, but it also enabled him to write his scenes in a non-sequential manner and then rearrange the cards as and when he wished. Our all time favourite novel The Three Musketeers author Alexandre Dumas had a colour coded system for writing. He used blue papers for his fiction novels, pink for non-fiction or articles, and yellow for poetry. Author of the famous book The Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, was fond of blue ink. The reason behind it was that it dried faster than other colours; thus allowing him to keep writing without the fear of blotting. Virginia Woolf used different coloured inks in her pens, and her favourite was purple. Speaking on inks and pens, Khushwant Singh started each of his new books with the most expensive pen that was available at that time in the market. Additionally, he wrote only on yellow, ruled pads. These pads were imported from one particular shop in Paris, France. He is indeed a luxurious writer, isn’t he?
  6. Author Who Turns in to a Batman When He Has a Writer’s Block: According to The Da Vinci Code novelist, Dan Brown, hanging upside down is a cure to his writer’s block. Most writers suffer from writers block and they try anything and everything to get rid of it. Read How to deal with Writer’s block However, hanging upside down to move past writers block does sound crazy. Bats will not be able to launch into flight until they are upside down; similarly, this author too seems to be more productive and creative after he imitates the bat stunt. However, for The Inferno author, it does seem to do wonders. He also seems to do push-ups and stretches every hour once as and when he takes a break from writing. This surely seems to be of double advantage; not only is the writer’s block gone, his fitness is also in check. Thanks to his quirky hanging down habit, we got to read some amazing thriller fictions written by him.
  7. Author Who Were Obsessed About Their Food Intake While Writing: Well, who doesn’t love food? People have done crazy things for food, like marrying a pizza. Authors are no different. From coffees to waffles, they had their favourite food that they consumed in humongous quantities as they wrote their novels. For example, Agatha Christie hogged on apples in her bathtub while she pondered about the murder plots for her novels; Flannery O Connor was obsessed about crunched vanilla wafers, and the famous Vladimir Nabokov preferred to eat molasses. French novelist Honor de Balzac and French writer Voltaire consumed around 40-50 cups of coffee a day to fuel their creative talent. In comparison with them, our 4-5 cups of coffee drinking habit looks minuscule, isn’t it? Truman Capote, on the other hand, started his mornings with coffee, preferred drinking mint tea during the afternoons, moved to sherry in the evening, and martini by the night. He also loved to smoke his cigarettes along with his beverages or drinks.
  8. Author Who Made Apples Rot: Apples are like the most popular fruit in this world. From Eve to Steve Jobs, everyone had their fair share of adventures with Apple. However, German poet, Friedrich Schiller has a quirky writing custom with apples. Schiller deliberately lets the apples spoil in his desk’s drawer. The aroma of rotten apples inspired him and it is believed that he could not live or write without it. Some people even created a hypothesis on this quirky habit and said that the methane gas released from the rotten apples had a biological effect on Schiller’s mental state rather than simply being an olfactory stimulus.
  9. Authors Who Had an Obsession with Hotels: The author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou, rises at 5 in the morning every day and checks herself into a hotel.Great books written about women by women. She instructs her staff to remove all stimuli from her room’s walls. She goes well equipped with legal pads, a Sherry bottle, a few playing cards, a copy of the Bible, and a Thesaurus. She is also organized, when it comes to writing. She writes 12 pages every morning before leaving the hotel room in the afternoon. She does editing of those pages by the evening. This indeed was such a good practice. Despite being a lavish process, it was pious at all levels. If one is so dedicated about their work like her, he or she can be successful like her. However, another author, Truman Capote, who also checks in to a hotel room, either lies down on his bed or on the sleeping couch to write his books. His habits were more superstitious and less pragmatic. He never began or ended his work on a Friday. He would change his hotel rooms if the room phone number had number 13. Another superstitious practice he followed was that he never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray. He usually tucks the extra ones into his coat pocket.


Do you have any such crazy ritual that inspires you to write? Let us know on the comments section.


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Aishwarya Mukundarajan

Aishwarya is an MBA graduate from Symbiosis International University, Pune. When asked what her hobbies are she points to an overflowing bookcase.

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