I’m always curious about how other writers set about the writing process. I read Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen over the weekend and was fascinated to learn that she (Jane not Claire!) wrote at a small desk, on small sheets of paper that she could quickly tuck away if interrupted. Apparently, between the front door and the room where she wrote there was a squeaky door that she refused to have oiled because it warned her of visitors. This preference for the diminutive was also shared by Vladimir Nabokov who wrote on index cards and Graham Greene who wrote with fountain pen, in small neat writing in a small black notebook. The notebook habit was adopted by Ralph W. Emerson as well.
Many writers start early in the day – perhaps because they are natural Skylarks (at their best in early morning) and or perhaps because needs must – children have to go to school; we have to go to what my father called “a proper job”. This to some extent dictates output. However some authors, are sticklers for a set word count. For example Greene and Hemingway both kept to 500 words a day and Greene would stop without fail, mid-scene when he got there. Stephen King goes for 10 pages (I’m assuming 250 words roughly to a page) and not surprisingly, is one of our most prolific writers.
Place seems to be important too. JK Rowling is famous for her cafe writing, Maya Angelou books into a hotel room from which all possible distractions (pictures, ornaments) are removed, Alan Titchmarsh not surprisingly has his garden shed.
Coffee, fags, deck of cards, mementoes of all kinds to stimulate the imagination seem to be a recurring theme too.
We all have preferences for how we like to work, but in reading about other authors’ habits and in setting up my own writing space I’m reminded of the saying “don’t lose the moon while counting the stars”. In other words do what it takes to help the writing along, but don’t spend all the time setting out the perfect writing environment, don’t lose sight of the goal, just get on and write.