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Friday, 7 May 2010

Writers Rituals

More about writer's rituals on the psychlogy website - here

Over on Gemma Noon's blog here you can find interviews with writers from Macmillan New Writing, along with an interview with our editor Will Atkins. All of us were debut writers until MNW "discovered" us, all of us have now embarked on that vigil with the pen or computer. I am sure we all have our different ways of getting the words out onto paper.

Personally, I write in the mornings before my verve has a chance to "dry up". I cannot function until I have had two cups of tea.The morning sitting is punctuated by a dose of email checking and a quick round up of other people's interesting blogs.

I drag myself away to take a deep breath and submerge myself again, until sitting over a computer threatens to give me a crick in the neck. It is like plunging into another world. For three hours I inhabit the seventeenth century, albeit with my fingers on a keyboard.

Afternoons and evenings are for my other jobs, and the time I do most of my research. I like to research from books not the internet, and there are always open books littering the front room. Best thinking time? - swimming up and down our local pool, or walking in the hills.

Below are some quotations from other writers about their rituals, Dan Brown's as you might expect, is not one I will be following.

"People think that you have these things called ideas and that writing is a matter of imposing them on the subject material, whereas it's only in the writing that I discover what it is that I think. I do have one very brutal writing ritual. If I'm working in the morning, I don't allow myself a cup of tea until I've written two paragraphs. It's harsh." Antony Lane (Feature writer, The Telegraph)

"How narrative is structured is similar to how ritual is structured. Writers are the shamans of our society; working in a direct line with people who led us to meet the gods. Similar to the essential components of rituals of passage." Michael Eaton (Screenwriter)

"Wherever he was in the world he would follow the same carefully crafted writing ritual. Each day he would rise, walk the dog, make coffee and then read The New York Times. He would then sit down to write all morning, using a pad and pencil, before taking a break at noon. After lunch, he would resume work until the early evening. At the end of the day he would rip out pages from his pad that he drafted over the previous few days and then rework them. He worked like this, seven days a week, "for many years", according to Morrison. Even on holiday he would never be without pencil and pad." (The Times, about Robert Ludlum, novelist)

‘Oh, I’m very strict with myself... During the summer months I have fun and think about books and I find myself looking forward to the time of year when nights draw in and the weather turns bad... I write nine to five, every day during the darker winter months, and often into the night also. I write directly into an AppleMac. Listening to Radio 1, usually, though I always have a CD cued up and ready to go also. I enjoy music very much.’ (Iain Banks, novelist)

"I write best in the morning, and have a lot of trouble staying focused in the afternoons. However, I have one ritual which almost always serves as the perfect cure for writers’ block or afternoon writer’s fatigue: a twenty minute nap. When you wake up it’s like starting the day over again!" (Anne Applebaum, novelist.)

"I do write exceptionally early in the morning. If I'm not at my desk by 4:00 A.M., I feel like I'm missing my most productive hours. In addition to starting early, I keep an antique hour glass on my desk and every hour break briefly to do pushups, sit-ups, and some quick stretches. I find this helps keep the blood (and ideas) flowing. I'm also a big fan of gravity boots. Hanging upside down seems to help me solve plot challenges by shifting my entire perspective. Okay, I guess all this does sound a little strange." (Dan Brown, novelist)

"I don’t really have a writing routine or ritual, although – unless it’s early in the day – I usually have a glass of red wine beside me.Too much wine makes for loose writing and an irritated read the next morning, but a little is freeing and encourages one to take
risks." (Matthew Sweeney, Poet)


  1. Oh dear. I have no routine at all. As for Dan Brown, perhaps if he dind't spend so much time hanging upside down...? Oh, never mind. I'm probably just jealous.

  2. If hanging upside down would turn my book into a best seller, maybe I'd give it a go!

  3. I don't get into gravity boots, but I do shoulderstands and headstands.

    I even have a device much like a stool with a big gap cut into it that allows you to stand on your shoulders with your head hanging free. This is not only good for putting blood back in the brain, it also puches my shoulders away from my ears. (My shoulders tend to creep upwards as I hunch over my computer...).

    Doesn't seem to have increased my sales, though.