Do our writing habits define what we write?


While catching up with a fellow blogger today (Holistic Wayfarer), I started to complain about my general ongoing lack of inspiration to write anything currently, when my mind went off on a weird tangent, as it is frequently wont to do.

I then posted some silly remark about my sitting in Ernest Hemingway’s favorite writing chair. Immediately after which I dimly recalled once reading how Hemingway always wrote standing up. See here for the article

Old grumpy-pants Ernie is not alone in this, evidently. Dickens, Churchill, Nabokov and Virginia Woolf also held to an anti-sendentary stance regarding the how-to’s of writing.

Which got me to thinking about the physical act of writing and how it affects the content of what we write. For instance, I grew up knowing quite a famous writer, who was a family friend of my parents. And he too wrote standing up, perching his typewriter atop of an old lectern.

I always felt as a child that this family friend looked like he was giving a lecture when he wrote. Or that he was preaching perhaps.

As for myself, I am currently writing this with my thumb on an iPhone. While sitting stretched out on a couch; a cool breeze licking around my heels, as it eddies in through the open patio doors. (See photo at top — borrowed from another article on famous writers’ weird habits). Hence my overly casual style maybe?

But what about you? What is your preferred method of getting words onto the page? Do you need absolute quiet, or does the erratic tinkle of a wind chime get your muse online? Is alcohol mandatory or verboten? Incense, candles or a strong cup of coffee — what of them? Don’t be shy about it, plenty of people write in bed or the bath or even the buff, allegedly?! And what if they do, does it change what they produce?

Let me know what you think…

About Lorem Ipsum

Just some guy trying to figure out where the "on" switch is hid on the remote control—ah, forget it. Because, you know what, I'm also the kinda guy who always likes the book waaay more than the movie! View all posts by Lorem Ipsum

20 responses to “Do our writing habits define what we write?

  • K. A. Bryce

    Soundtracks and The Beatles, also some occassional jazz, and Bach. I sit at my computer–when I get bored I take five steps and I’m in my collage studio on the other side of the room letting it all out–either way its music that gets me going. Smiles…>KB

  • dhonour

    Silence, cleanliness, and most of the things crossed off my to-do list. Which is probably why I don’t get as much writing done as I should. But I need to clear out my space–both physical and emotional in order to be able to sit still long enough. This month trying to keep up with the 50K challenge I’ve been writing on the couch. And honestly getting couch sores. I should be doing that right now, but am here instead. But generally, silence, coffee, daytime for writing. I can edit with wine at night though. I can’t imagine standing up, it reminds me too much of cooking and other kitchen drudgery.

    • Lorem Ipsum

      Yes, silence is paramount for me also. But when can you get that within the course of everyday family life? For that very reason I end up writing very late at night therefore, or at some obscenely early hour of the day. Couch sores, though, sound like the reason one might take to standing, I guess? However, along with the kitchen drudgery you mention, I suspect there might be an element of penitence behind why we write to begin with. How else can we explain the hours of toil and privation we writers willing subject ourselves to? That and the free book-signing lunches perhaps? I jest, of course. Keep at it, couch sores or not, you need to push past the pain and summit that literary Everest you’ve been scaling all these years!

  • daveb42

    Sentences form slowly for me, so talking–at least about substantive things–is not where I do well. Ideas rumble about inside until they rise to the surface, not like cream, but more like lava. I often have to write them down to see what they were and how they fit together. I write at a computer in my room where there are many computers, so not much quiet. Slowly and few words at a time.

    • Lorem Ipsum

      Ideas rising to the surface like lava is a powerful metaphor. I too find that it is only by writing things down sometimes that I can make sense of what my thoughts are. Thanks for sharing! Cheers

  • Holistic Wayfarer

    Good post, L. You brought to mind discussions I’ve had on the posture for prayer. How we are invited to pray anywhere at all times but how we are creatures of habit (there’s your word) and communicate with our body. Oh, this is a book…I can just hear the yogis. My boy and I both found your picture intriguing. =) My brain is too tired to come up with a clear answer to your questions but I write any chance I have, scrawling notes on stray paper and napkins and if I have it on hand, my blog book. Then I need silence to piece them together. Thanks for the mention. =)

    So nice to see you active again!


  • MuseWriter

    First, I have to agree with your idea of having a “muse” or, that moment of inspiration that seemingly comes from nowhere. My namesake! I seem to always get an idea at the worst possible moments, in the checkout line, in the shower, in a dead sleep haha I’ve written a lot of rambles on my cellphone too. But when I’m allotting time specifically to write, it’s usually late at night with ambient music, insense burning, and with some form of mind altering substance. I am in my comfortable space and the rest of the world doesn’t exist with me in those moments.

    • Lorem Ipsum

      Your muse seems to delight in teasing you, by inspiring you at the most inopportune times! I too prefer late at night, for writing, and have experimented with varying quantities of red wine etc over the years, although not always with the greatest success. Either way, the more I remove myself from the process the better the results, I find. I also think different seasons and times of the year prove more productive than others on reflection?!

  • TimKoppenhaver

    My three most effective writing environments:
    1. In the dark of early morning before the sun rises with a warm cup of coffee.
    2. In the dark approaching midnight after a few too many.
    3. In my car alone, with a notebook on my knees, scribbling nearly illegible thoughts as I whiz along at 70 MPH. (Commuting nearly 2 hours a day provides great thinking space.)

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