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Day 14: The Writing Rituals of 5 Famous Novelists & When Enough is Enough

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Day 14:  The Writing Rituals of 5 Famous Novelists & When Enough is Enough


1.  Draw something every day

2.  Learn about art

3.  Read blogs and learn how to promote my own

My boyfriend, Paul, has a PhD in Physics as well as a Masters in Applied Mathematics, and though he’ll deny it, he’s obviously super smart. (At least, he’s super smart about science and math and philosophy; I often have to school him on things like literature and pop songs.)

Last Sunday, he had to leave a really fun cook-out early in order to drive to Philadelphia for a conference. He had to be there by nine because he was slated for a “poster session” from nine to eleven pm. (I put “poster session” in quotation marks to emphasize how ridiculous I find the image of scientists walking around a hotel conference room, looking a posters set up on tables, like they’re at a middle school science fair.)

I was sad he had to leave. And nine to eleven on a Sunday night – seriously? That would never fly at a writers’ conference – them’s drinkin’ hours. But, I kissed him goodbye, and off he went.

The other day I decided that coloring counted as drawing.  Hey, I was studying the lines as I colored them in!

The other day I decided that coloring counted as drawing. Hey, I was studying the lines as I colored them in!

Sergey (my Ukrainian tutee) and I are working our way through a new ESL book – American English File Level 4. We’re both really happy with it, and the reading and listening exercises are interesting for both of us. The other day, we read mini-interviews from five famous novelists who discussed their writing habits and rituals.

Toni Morrison, for example, wakes up around five in the morning and writes everything first in pencil. “Much later,” she says, “when everything is put together, I type into a computer, and then I begin to revise.”

Luisa Valenzuela wakes up early, too. She says she enjoys “jumping out of bed and onto the computer – from dream to word, with no time to repent.” Haruki Murakami says that when he is writing a novel, “I get up at four am and work for five or six hours. In the afternoon I run for 10 kilometers or swim for 1,500 meters…I keep up this routine every day without variation.”

“Wow,” I said when Sergey was done reading.

“Is that what you do?” he asked me, grinning.

“Well, I like to write in the mornings,” I said. Of course, for me that means sitting down at the computer at 8:00 and working for two or three hours. “I don’t think I’m quite as strict with myself as Murakami is,” I said.

So I’m not as disciplined as Murakami. I’m also not as zen-like as Rick Moody who says, “I always write with music on… I sometimes meditate before starting work, to make sure there is the potential for calm.”

I definitely don’t write by hand like Toni Morrison. Paul Auster (one of my favorite writers), also says he writes by hand because “you feel that the words are coming out of your body, and then you dig the words into the page.” If I write more than half a page by hand my fingers start cramping. I write everything on the computer these days – even poems. Is that my problem?

One thing is for sure: I’m certainly not as confident as these famous writers.

As Sergey answered the comprehension questions, I started to feel, as I always do when I read interviews of writers, that I’m not disciplined enough, smart enough, passionate enough, etc. to be a “real” writer.

“Let’s move on to phrasal verbs,” I told Sergey quickly, flipping to the next page in my teacher book. (“Move on,” by the way, is a phrasal verb.)

I drew this upside down.

I drew this upside down.

On Monday night, Paul called, and I asked him how the conference was going.

“Good,” he said. “But I sort of feel the way you did when you had your melt-down the other day.” (See My Complete Melt-Down post.)

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. Everybody here is so smart, and they’re doing really important work. I worry that maybe the problems I’m working on aren’t meaningful enough, or maybe I’m not smart enough to tackle really important questions.”

“Well that’s absurd,” I told him. “You’re insanely smart. And you have your whole career ahead of you to work on all sorts of things.”

He laughed.  “Haven’t I told you that exact thing?”

“You can’t compare yourself to others,” I went on. “I mean, of course we all do. It’s human nature. But very little good can come out of it.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said.

“Just work on the problems you want to work on. Maybe it’ll turn out that they’re super important down the road. Or maybe it won’t, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re working on problems that interest you.”

It’s amazing how I can give such good advice to others, yet never take the advice to heart. HEY EVA, guess what: Don’t compare yourself to others!  Just work on the type of writing you want to do and don’t worry whether or not it will ever be “important.” It’s important to you. That’s enough.

Enough is enough.  Go sit down and write.


Related Reading:  

Should Fiction Writers Train Like the Spanish Football Team? (from The Incompetent Writer)

Top 10 Things I Do to Avoid Writing by Jen Violi, Writer & Book Coach

This Week’s Top ESL Blogs from Teaching English in a Foreign Land



About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

One response »

  1. Pingback: Day 18: Camel Spit & Llama Sex, or, When It’s OK to Break a Writing Routine | In the Garden of Eva

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