Weird and Strange Habits of Writers

 Weird and Strange Habits of Writers by Teri Harman, @TeriHarman, #amwriting

It’s no secret that writers can be an eccentric, quirky bunch. Everyone has their odd habits and rituals, but artistic people tend to win the trophy for weirdness.

Here are a few strange habits and rituals of FAMOUS WRITERS:

ERNEST HEMINGWAY – In his later years, working on The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway would stand at his typewriter, write for a few hours and then spend the rest of the day drinking.

TRUMAN CAPOTE – Opposite of Hemingway, Capote couldn’t write unless he was laying down, in bed or on a sofa. He also had to be sipping coffee, tea or alcohol (depending on the time of day) and smoking. “Sipping and puffing,” he said.

AARON SORKIN – Writer of The West Wing and The Social Network prefers to act out his dialogue while looking at himself in the mirror. Once, so involved in the ritual and in his characters, he head-butted the mirror and broke his nose.

VICTOR HUGO: The man behind Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Norte Dame wrote completely naked. He even instructed his valet to hide his clothes, so he wouldn’t be tempted to leave the house.

MAYA ANGELOU – Gets up at 5 a.m., checks into a hotel room, in which the staff has removed everything from the walls. She brings legal pads, sherry, playing cards, a Bible and Roget’s thesaurus. She writes twelve pages by the afternoon and then edits those pages in the evening, at home.


Now, here are a few of MINE:

As a writer mom, I don’t have the luxury of being too specific in my habits. I have to write when I can, in whatever circumstances (the chaos of 3 little kids) or it doesn’t get done. I often have to stop writing a blissful kissing scene or stop mid-important-thought to change a gag-worthy diaper or clean up a colossal mess.

However, I still have a few habits that I rarely stray from.

1 – I sit at my desk with my laptop and turn on a small fan. I prefer the fan to music – although sometimes I do listen to instrumental tracks – because it drowns out ambient noise and is soothing. (I also sleep with this fan on – my husband thinks I’m crazy.)

2 – I open the window, if the weather is nice. I love fresh air flowing in my room.

3. I have to wear comfy jammie pants (my favorite pair has owls on it) and a T-shirt (favorite shirt is one my husband picked up in Spain, twelve years ago. It has a really big ugly bull on it, but, hey, it’s so comfortable).

4. I always have my big mug of ice water (which also has owls on it). Writing is thirsty work.

5. I write in Scrivener, a program designed for writers, and love it. Although Scrivener is great for keeping all notes and research in one place, I still keep notes all over the place, especially post-its on the wall above my desk.

6. Lastly, I have the horrible habit of chewing the inside of my cheeks or picking at my cuticles while I think.

Now it’s YOUR TURN! What are some of your weird habits or rituals while writing or working?


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4 thoughts on “Weird and Strange Habits of Writers

  1. I also have a big mug of water. I listen to Pandora, and snack more than a person should. I also tend to make expressions of the characters I'm writing. My husband has teased me for this because it always looks hilarious when he enters the room and I'm wrinkling my nose, then "glaring daggers" at the computer!

  2. Ha! My wife has slept with a fan running the whole 28 of our marriage. Now, when on business trips and sleeping in hotels, I find I miss it. No music for me while I write–at all. And yeah, the face thing Adrienne mentioned…I call that "method writing" (adapted from method acting.) LOL

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