The Daily Writing Routines of Famous Authors

The Daily Writing Routines of 20 Famous Authors

Do you write only when the mood strikes, or do you keep a firm writing schedule? Of course, creative inspiration is a wonderful feeling, but many authors find it hard to maintain productivity without at least a little structure.

Consider medieval monks, who copied numerous ancient texts and also wrote down plenty of new texts, scribbling furiously on parchment in candlelit rooms. They knew the productive power of a regular schedule (in fact, the English word “regular” comes from the Latin regula, which can also mean “monastic rule”).

Modern life has brought new conveniences and technologies that ostensibly make it easier than ever to write prolifically—but the human penchant for procrastination persists. Moreover, countless writers juggle their novels, essays, or blogs with 9-to-5 jobs, parenting duties, and other responsibilities. Carving out time just for writing remains imperative.

Hence the importance of a regular writing schedule.

This introduces you to the routines followed by famous authors. As you read on, you’ll learn how they circumvented distractions, pushed through writer’s block, and put words on the page every day, even when they weren’t feeling particularly inspired.

A few examples? Many authors—from Ernest Hemingway and Emily Post to Kurt Vonnegut and Will Self—formed a habit of waking at dawn to do some writing before the day slipped away. They found the peace and stillness of early morning hours highly conducive to creative productivity.

Other authors swear by a particular location. Edith Wharton, for example, insisted on writing while facing a window, while Karl Marx found inspiration from the British Museum Reading Room. Flannery O’Connor, in contrast, would have found such locations distracting; she wrote facing her plain wooden dresser. Likewise, Maya Angelou required a decoration-free room to allow her to concentrate fully on her craft.

You may have to experiment with different places to discover what works for you—cafés, libraries, home offices, and hotel rooms all have their pros and cons.

Finally, you’ll notice that several famous authors balanced writing with full-time jobs or family commitments. When John Grisham worked as a lawyer, he fit in time for writing by getting up at 5 a.m. and producing at least one page per day. As for E.B. White, he composed his works from home amidst his family. He knew that waiting for perfect, distraction-free conditions would mean waiting a very long time.