What Is The Morning Writing Effect?

Many writers anecdotally report they write best first thing early in the morning, apparently even if they are not morning people. Do they, and why?
psychology, survey, bibliography
2011-05-112020-06-29 in progress certainty: possible importance: 4

Er­ic­s­son 1993 notes that many ma­jor writ­ers or re­searchers pri­or­i­tized writ­ing by mak­ing it the first ac­tiv­ity of their day, often get­ting up early in the morn­ing. This is based largely on writ­ers anec­do­tally re­port­ing they write best first thing early in the morn­ing, ap­par­ently even if they are not morn­ing peo­ple, al­though there is some ad­di­tional sur­vey/­soft­ware-log­ging ev­i­dence of morn­ing writ­ing be­ing effec­tive. I com­pile all the anec­dotes of writ­ers dis­cussing their writ­ing times I have come across thus far. Do they, and why?

In­ter­views with writ­ers often touch on their writ­ing process to try to ex­plain how it is done; the hope of the reader is, deep down, to learn how they do the things they do and per­haps the reader can do the same thing. For the most part, the les­son I’ve taken away from such pro­files is that every writer is differ­ent and there do not seem to be many gen­er­al­iz­able prac­tices, if in­deed any of them mat­ter (con­sider how many writ­ers seem to ben­e­fit from a stint in jail); for every writer that thrives on writ­ing in long­hand with goose quills on parch­ment, an­other is un­able to think out­side a com­puter text ed­i­tor, or needs to in­hale rot­ting ba­nanas, or sharpen pen­cils, or write in a cork-lined room, or in­sist on a loud phono­graph/­party for in­spi­ra­tion. (All real ex­am­ples.)

But in , Er­ic­s­son 1993 (a­mong oth­ers), Er­ic­s­son draws on some anec­dotes and par­tic­u­lar long-run­ning & some­what-s­tan­dard­ized in­ter­views of fa­mous writ­ers to make some in­ter­est­ing points about the rel­a­tive brevity of most writ­ing ses­sions (per­haps not too sur­pris­ing as the phys­i­cal typ­ing/writ­ing is not the bot­tle­neck) but also the tim­ing of it typ­i­cally in the morn­ing:

The best data on sus­tained in­tel­lec­tual ac­tiv­ity comes from fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent au­thors. While com­plet­ing a novel fa­mous au­thors tend to write only for 4 hr dur­ing the morn­ing, leav­ing the rest of the day for rest and re­cu­per­a­tion ([­Cow­ley, M. (Ed.). (1959). Writ­ers at work: The .]; [ (Ed.). (1977). Writ­ers at work: The Paris re­view. In­ter­views, sec­ond se­ries.]). Hence suc­cess­ful au­thors, who can con­trol their work habits and are mo­ti­vated to op­ti­mize their pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, limit their most im­por­tant in­tel­lec­tual ac­tiv­ity to a fixed daily amount when work­ing on projects re­quir­ing long pe­ri­ods of time to com­plete…Bi­ogra­phies re­port that fa­mous sci­en­tists such as Charles Dar­win, (Eras­mus Dar­win, 1888), Pavlov (Babkin, 1949), Hans Se­lye (Se­lye, 1964), and B.F. Skin­ner (Skin­ner, 1983) ad­hered to a rigid daily sched­ule where the first ma­jor ac­tiv­ity of each morn­ing in­volved writ­ing for a cou­ple of hours. In a large ques­tion­naire study of sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing fac­ul­ty, Kel­logg (1986) found that writ­ing on ar­ti­cles oc­curred most fre­quently be­fore lunch and that lim­it­ing writ­ing ses­sions to a du­ra­tion of 1–2 hr was re­lated to higher re­ported pro­duc­tiv­i­ty…In this re­gard, it is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing to ex­am­ine the way in which fa­mous au­thors al­lo­cate their time. These au­thors often re­treat when they are ready to write a book and make writ­ing their sole pur­pose. Al­most with­out ex­cep­tion, they tend to sched­ule 3–4 hr of writ­ing every morn­ing and to spend the rest of the day on walk­ing, cor­re­spon­dence, nap­ping, and other less de­mand­ing ac­tiv­i­ties (Cow­ley, 1959; Plimp­ton, 1977).

in his in­tro­duc­tion (“How Writ­ers Write”) to the first an­thol­ogy of Paris Re­view in­ter­views (Writ­ers At Work: The Paris Re­view In­ter­views, First Se­ries, ed Cow­ley 1958) sum­ma­rizes his im­pres­sions of the writer’s sit­u­a­tion:

…Ap­par­ently the hard­est prob­lem for al­most any writer, what­ever his medi­um, is get­ting to work in the morn­ing (or in the after­noon, if he is a late riser like Sty­ron, or even at night). Thorn­ton Wilder says, “Many writ­ers have told me that they have built up mnemonic de­vices to start them off on each day’s writ­ing task. Hem­ing­way once told me he sharp­ened twenty pen­cils2; Willa Cather that she read a pas­sage from the Bible—not from piety, she was quick to add, but to get in touch with fine prose; she also re­gret­ted that she had formed this habit, for the prose rhythms of 1611 were not those she was in search of. My spring­board has al­ways been long walks.” Those long walks alone are a fairly com­mon de­vice; Thomas Wolfe would some­times roam through the streets of Brook­lyn all night. Read­ing the Bible be­fore writ­ing is a much less com­mon prac­tice, and, in spite of Miss Cather’s dis­claimer, I sus­pect that it did in­volve a touch of piety. De­pen­dent for suc­cess on forces partly be­yond his con­trol, an au­thor may try to pro­pi­ti­ate the un­known pow­ers. I knew one nov­el­ist, an ag­nos­tic, who said he often got down on his knees started the work­ing day with prayer.

The usual work­ing day is three or four hours. Whether these au­thors write with pen­cils, with a pen, or at a type­writer—and—and some do all three in the course of com­plet­ing a man­u­scrip­t—an im­por­tant point seems to be that they all work with their hands; the only ex­cep­tion is Thurber in his six­ties. I have often heard said by psy­chi­a­trists that writ­ers be­long to the “oral type.” The truth seems to be that most of them are man­ual types. Words are not merely sounds for them, but mag­i­cal de­signs that their hands make on pa­per. “I al­ways think of writ­ing as a phys­i­cal thing”, Nel­son Al­gren says. “I am an ar­ti­san”, Simenon ex­plains. “I need to work with my hands. I would like to carve my novel in a piece of wood.” Hem­ing­way used to have the feel­ing that his fin­gers did much of his think­ing for him. After an au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dent in Mon­tana, when the doc­tors said he might lose the use of his right arm, he was afraid he would have to stop writ­ing. Thurber used to have the sense of think­ing with his fin­gers on the key­board of a type­writer. When they were work­ing to­gether on their play The Male An­i­mal, El­liott Nu­gent used to say to him, “Well, Thurber, we’ve got our prob­lem, we’ve got all these peo­ple in the liv­ing room. What are we go­ing to do with them?” Thurber would an­swer that he did­n’t know and could­n’t tell him un­til he’d sat down at the type­writer and found out. After his vi­sion be­came too weak for the type­writer, he wrote very lit­tle for a num­ber of years (us­ing black crayon on yel­low pa­per, about twenty scrawled words to the page); then painfully he taught him­self to com­pose sto­ries in his head and dic­tate them to a stenog­ra­ph­er.

Dic­ta­tion, for most au­thors, is a craft which, if ac­quired at all, is learned rather late in life—and I think with a sense of jump­ing over one step in the process of com­po­si­tion. In­stead of giv­ing dic­ta­tion, many writ­ers seem to them­selves to be tak­ing it. “I lis­ten to the voices”, Faulkner once said to me, “and when I’ve put down what the voices say, it’s right. I don’t al­ways like what they say, but I don’t try to change it.” Mau­riac says, “Dur­ing a cre­ative pe­riod I write every day; a novel should not be in­ter­rupt­ed. When I cease to be car­ried along, when I no longer feel as though I were tak­ing down dic­ta­tion, I stop.” Lis­ten­ing as they do to an in­ner voice that speaks or falls silent as if by caprice, many writ­ers from the be­gin­ning have per­son­i­fied the voice as a be­nign or evil spir­it. For Hawthorne it was evil or at least fright­en­ing. “The Devil him­self al­ways seems to get into my ink­stand”, he said in a let­ter to his pub­lish­er, “and I can only ex­or­cise him by pens­ful at a time.” For Kipling the Dae­mon that lived in his pen was tyran­ni­cal but well-mean­ing. “When your Dae­mon is in charge”, he said, “do not try to think con­scious­ly. Drift, wait, and obey.”

Other ex­am­ples in­clude Frank P. Ram­sey (“…I would­n’t have said he worked for more than say four hours a day … he worked in the morn­ings, prob­a­bly went for walks in the after­noon, played the gramo­phone in the evening. Some­thing of that sort.”)

This was in­ter­est­ing to me be­cause I gen­er­ally do not write in the morn­ing, so know­ing that morn­ing is bet­ter would be valu­able to me, and be­cause it con­fused me why it would be true. If you are a morn­ing per­son, you should write in the morn­ing, and vice-versa if you are an evening per­son. Why would you write when you are mis­er­able? I was es­pe­cially not a morn­ing per­son when I was a teenager, and it cer­tainly showed in my first pe­riod class at 8:20AM after wak­ing up at 6AM; cer­tainly I never no­ticed any hid­den gift for writ­ing nov­els man­i­fest­ing, even when it was a lit­er­a­ture class. (Although I did no­tice a hid­den gift for com­pletely for­get­ting any­thing said in the first pe­ri­od.)

Some of the post hoc ex­pla­na­tions for why morn­ing might be bet­ter make no sense. It is true peo­ple are less likely to in­ter­rupt you early in the morn­ing; but they are less likely to in­ter­rupt you at mid­night. It is true peo­ple can find time for writ­ing by get­ting up be­fore their job; but they can sac­ri­fice the same amount of sleep to write by stay­ing up later at night. It is true that the morn­ing might not be a cir­ca­dian nadir; but that’s not help­ful to any­one who is an owl, who by de­fi­n­i­tion is slug­gish in the morn­ing, and where does all this en­ergy come from for walk­ing or ex­er­cis­ing or par­ty­ing or re­search­ing in the evening, when not writ­ing, if the writer is hope­lessly fashed after the vi­cis­si­tudes of the day? (If the se­cret of morn­ing writ­ing is merely the nigh-tau­to­log­i­cal “if you’re a morn­ing per­son who writes best in the morn­ing, you should write in the morn­ing, and if you’re an evening per­son, you should write in the evening”, then it’s surely of no val­ue—is there any­one who does­n’t al­ready know whether they are more of a morn­ing or evening per­son?)

Fur­ther, morn­ing writ­ing runs counter to the usual in­tel­lec­tual stereo­type of great writ­ers as ris­ing late and be­ing “night owls”. The chrono­type is usu­ally linked with cre­ativ­ity & in­tel­li­gence while morn­ing are con­sid­ered less cre­ative (but more in­dus­tri­ous & fa­vored in many con­texts like schools, to the detri­ment of owls & es­pe­cially teenager­s), so one would ex­pect the op­po­site: writ­ers to re­port writ­ing mostly in the evening. (And amus­ing­ly, the Wikipedia ar­ti­cle on “owls” in­cludes a list of dozens of writ­ers & other cre­ative types while the “lark” ar­ti­cle is de­void.) What could be more writerly or bo­hemian than spend­ing the day re­search­ing or en­joy­ing na­ture or drink­ing to jazz at the club and then re­turn­ing to one’s at­tic in the witch­ing hours to au­thor death­less verse? Nev­er­the­less, great au­thors rou­tinely re­hearse the ad­van­tages of liv­ing like a farmer and ris­ing with the sun to milk the Mus­es. (Cal New­port’s Deep Work book points this way, and there is even a writer self­-help fad, “The Mir­a­cle Morn­ing”, whose cen­tral gim­mick is get­ting up ear­ly.)

Puz­zled, I be­gan notic­ing in au­thor in­ter­views or writ­ings that when writ­ing times were men­tioned, it was in­deed more, often than not, par­tially or en­tirely in the morn­ing (some­times dis­gust­ingly early like pre-dawn), rather than usu­ally in the evening as ex­pect­ed, and it be­came star­tling when I ran into an ex­cep­tion like Ian Flem­ing or Win­ston Churchill, who wrote at all in the evening, or Bran­don Sander­son or Robert Frost, who work en­tirely into the wee hours. I am, again, not a morn­ing per­son but I forced my­self up early a few days and skipped my usual email & news-read­ing rou­tine to fo­cus on writ­ing, and darn if it did­n’t seem to work and the writ­ing was worth the price in after­noon cir­ca­dian slumps. Still could­n’t make my­self do it reg­u­lar­ly, though.


“Be reg­u­lar and or­derly in your life like a bour­geois, so that you may be vi­o­lent and orig­i­nal in your work.”

, 18763

If the morn­ing writ­ing effect is real (in the sense that suc­cess­ful writ­ers do dis­pro­por­tion­ately write in the morn­ing—which is still in doubt given the ex­ist­ing sys­tem­atic sur­vey ev­i­dence is lim­ited to or­di­nary writ­ers while the elite writ­ers are rep­re­sented so far purely by hap­haz­ard­ly-s­e­lected anec­dotes), what is caus­ing it?

  • One pos­si­bil­ity is that there is some sort of eco­log­i­cal fal­lacy go­ing on: it is pos­si­ble that, cre­ativ­ity re­ally is higher in owls at night, owls do not im­prove by writ­ing in the morn­ing, but the best au­thors are still larks (rather than owls as one would as­sume from the pop­u­la­tion-level cor­re­la­tion) and do ben­e­fit from writ­ing in the morn­ing (or at least aren’t hurt); and this is be­cause larks have other ad­van­tages in be­com­ing the best au­thors, per­haps re­lated to sheer writ­ing vol­ume & con­sis­tent out­put. No mat­ter how cre­ative it is, an un­writ­ten book is no good. Larks then could write fine at any time and would be over­rep­re­sented among the best au­thors ei­ther way, be­cause writ­ing time is con­founded with other Con­sci­en­tious­ness-re­lated at­trib­ut­es.

    Look­ing through the anec­dotes so far, while it’s true that devo­tees of “The Mir­a­cle Morn­ing” and oth­ers fre­quently claim to not be larks and strug­gle to reap the ben­e­fits of morn­ing writ­ing, the elite writ­ers who hap­pen to write in the morn­ing (cur­rent­ly) do not men­tion ma­jor strug­gles with get­ting up early or fo­cus­ing in the morn­ing, im­ply­ing that they may well all be larks in the first place!

    (Si­mon­ton’s “equal-odds rule” sug­gests that vol­ume of writ­ing out­put is much more im­por­tant than it is usu­ally given credit for be­ing, and that writ­ing or re­search is too ran­dom a process to per­mit sit­ting down for sev­eral years and de­cide to bang out a beloved mas­ter­piece: one can only try as many things as pos­si­ble and be sur­prised when one turns out well, or hap­pens to be­come a hit.)

    • A re­lated but some­what sim­pler pos­si­bil­ity is that work­ing is eas­ier than start­ing: peo­ple are bad at sched­ul­ing and while late-night writ­ing is no differ­ent than morn­ing writ­ing and just as effec­tive in the­o­ry, peo­ple tend to choose to fill up their sched­ules, and re­peat­edly ‘ac­ci­den­tally’ find them­selves with too lit­tle time to write at night; every hour of evening writ­ing that peo­ple do get done is just as effec­tive as morn­ing hours, but there are fewer such hours. Do­ing it in the morn­ing is then sim­ply a lit­tle trick to make sure that other oblig­a­tion­s/ex­cuses lit­er­ally can­not come first.
  • An­other pos­si­bil­ity is that the day re­ally does use up some sort of ‘willpower’ or ‘cre­ativ­ity’: all the lit­tle things one does be­fore the writ­ing late in evening fill up one’s mind. There is noth­ing spe­cial about morn­ing hours, they merely hap­pen to be the con­scious hours clos­est in time to sleep push­ing the big re­set but­ton on the brain. If some­one slept dur­ing the day & woke up at mid­night, that per­son would then be best off writ­ing at mid­night, right after wak­ing up, rather than 8 hours later in the morn­ing, equiv­a­lent to their after­noon. (Tonon­i’s SHY the­ory of sleep would be a low-level neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion along these lines.) These sorts of the­o­ries have a prob­lem with the ex­is­tence of au­thors who pre­fer to work at the end of their (sub­jec­tive) day and are en­er­gized at night—why are they not just im­mune to what should be generic effects of bi­ol­o­gy/psy­chol­o­gy, but pos­i­tively en­er­gized?

    • A ver­sion of this ‘thing build­ing up­/wear­ing out over the day’ is that it is re­lated to ego de­ple­tion or ‘de­ci­sion fa­tigue’4 or op­por­tu­nity cost, where the in­creas­ing num­ber of ac­com­plished ac­tiv­i­ties it be­comes an ex­cuse to write less—“I had a busy day, I can take it easy tonight.”—or one has diffi­culty truly fo­cus­ing be­cause there are so many other things which one could do ().
  • Yet an­other ver­sion might be that sleep it­self is the key: sleep, aside from any re­set­ting, is also re­spon­si­ble for mem­ory for­ma­tion and ap­pears in­volved in un­con­scious processes of cre­ativ­i­ty.

    Sleep is a long time pe­riod in be­tween phases of work­ing, al­low­ing for 5 to op­er­ate, and the in­cu­ba­tion effect may be par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fited by sleep. So, one wakes up primed to work on the next piece of writ­ing (that one has likely been mulling a long time), and by in­stead put­ter­ing around mak­ing tea or break­fast, one dis­si­pates the po­ten­tial. In this mod­el, in­stead of one’s writ­ing po­ten­tial grad­u­ally de­te­ri­o­rat­ing over the course of the day as the mind fills up­/willpower is used up, it falls sharply and then hits a base­line and per­haps fol­lows the usual cir­ca­dian rhythms there­after with a nadir at siesta time etc.

    • Or, per­haps there is some­thing spe­cial about the lim­i­nal half-sleep state, which makes fan­ta­siz­ing or imag­ing eas­i­er. One par­al­lel we might draw is with the an­cient con­nec­tion be­tween fic­tion writ­ers and al­co­hol: writ­ers are no­to­ri­ous for drink­ing, often to ex­cess. Is there some­thing about the de­pres­sant or loos­en­ing of in­hi­bi­tions of al­co­hol which as­sists writ­ing, which might also be re­pro­duced in the morn­ing? On the other hand, non­fic­tion writ­ers like jour­nal­ists or philoso­phers or sci­en­tists tend to be as­so­ci­ated with stim­u­lants, par­tic­u­larly , caffeine, and (not to men­tion )6; while those, par­tic­u­larly am­phet­a­mi­nes, are less as­so­ci­ated with fic­tion writ­ers.7 (This makes me won­der if there is a con­nec­tion to an­other anom­alous anec­do­tal phe­nom­e­non, the so-called al­co­hol “after­glow” effect, and if my poor re­sults re­flect my own non­fic­tion ten­den­cies.)

      This half-asleep ex­pla­na­tion neatly ex­plains why evening does­n’t work. It would­n’t ap­ply to falling asleep as there is an asym­me­try: a half-asleep per­son in the morn­ing who is writ­ing is get­ting grad­u­ally more alert and spend­ing the rest of the day awake, and can build on what­ever men­tal seeds were plant­ed; while a half-asleep per­son in the evening would frus­trate sleep by try­ing to write, can’t write for long be­fore falling asleep, and when they do fall asleep, would for­get the pre­ced­ing ~10 min­utes.

      In read­ing through the sev­eral hun­dred Goodreads in­ter­views, I have been struck by the ex­tent to which morn­ing fic­tion au­thors (but much less so non­fic­tion au­thors), while prais­ing the ben­e­fits of rou­tine & sitzfleisch in sim­ply get­ting writ­ing done at all, re­peat­edly in­voke lan­guage in­volv­ing al­tered states of con­scious­ness, de­scrib­ing the ben­e­fit of the morn­ing (e­spe­cially early morn­ing) as en­abling rever­ies/­day­dream­s/­trances/­fan­tasies/­dream-like states where they can go through a ‘por­tal’ and be ab­sorbed into their fic­tional world for sev­eral hours with­out in­ter­rup­tion, with the effect wear­ing off be­fore noon (con­sis­tent with the cir­ca­dian rhythm & the late-morn­ing peak), and later in the day be­ing re­served for plan­ning/­world-build­ing/re­view/edit­ing and more quo­tid­ian tasks—and, com­ple­men­tar­i­ly, how evening writ­ers seem to tilt to­wards non­fic­tion but, in an ex­cep­tion which proves the rule, some­times use sim­i­lar lan­guage for their writ­ing in late evening, like past mid­night to dawn.

      I am re­minded of noth­ing so much as method Wake Ini­ti­ated Lu­cid Dreams (WILD), which also in­volves get­ting up early in the morn­ing, be­ing wake­ful for a short time, and then at­tempt­ing to en­ter an al­tered state of con­scious­ness (sleep) where one can ex­pe­ri­ence & con­trol an un­fold­ing nar­ra­tive (lu­cid dream). This raises some in­ter­est­ing pos­si­ble con­nec­tions: would fic­tion writ­ers ben­e­fit from use of dis­so­cia­tive or psy­che­delic drugs in the morn­ing? (Al­co­hol comes to mind. And I met a woman once who told me her best fic­tion, with the most vivid im­ages, was al­ways writ­ten after tak­ing 4g of psilo­cy­bin mush­room­s.) Do any of the lu­cid dream meth­ods (eg drug use greatly in­creases lu­cid­ity odds) trans­fer to fic­tion writ­ing?

      In this par­a­digm, non­fic­tion au­thors do not par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fit from morn­ing writ­ing aside from the ben­e­fits of hav­ing a reg­u­lar habit, be­cause their work is much less heavy on in­spi­ra­tion: they do not need to bang out thou­sands of words in a trance to make the fic­tion come to life, but are piec­ing to­gether their re­search, with a much smaller ra­tio of in­spi­ra­tion:­words. The nec­es­sary in­spi­ra­tion can hap­pen at any time, while most of their time is spent do­ing the back­ground re­search; their sub­con­scious can mull over all the notes at leisure (in­cu­ba­tion effect) and the fi­nal re­sults writ­ten down when­ev­er. Fic­tion au­thors can sub­sti­tute the morn­ing with evening use of al­co­hol or sleep de­pri­va­tion or bing­ing to main­tain the flow (or, like Maya An­gelou, com­bine all four by drink­ing in the morn­ing while get­ting up ex­tremely early to write in pe­ri­odic book-writ­ing binges).

    • Or, per­haps it is a lack of sleep: sleep de­pri­va­tion can cause odd men­tal states in­clud­ing ma­nia and loss of in­hi­bi­tions, and there is a where acute sleep de­pri­va­tion in peo­ple with ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der sub­stan­tially tem­porar­ily re­lieves their symp­toms (“Meta-Analy­sis of the An­ti­de­pres­sant Effects of Acute Sleep De­pri­va­tion”, Boland et al 2017). Many writ­ers are melan­cholic, so early morn­ings, es­pe­cially cross-chrono­type, might be an in­ad­ver­tent re­dis­cov­ery of this to the ex­tent that they short­change sleep in or­der to get up. Per­haps most peo­ple are not in the throes of full MDD, but there might be a more mild effect. If the sleep­-de­pri­va­tion effect is the cul­prit, then writ­ers who do this need to be cut­ting sleep con­sid­er­ably and the effects will be only tem­po­rary, since chronic sleep de­pri­va­tion does­n’t help (and wors­ens cog­ni­tion); this might also ex­plain anec­dotes where the per­son main­tains that morn­ing-writ­ing works for them but they could only do it for a few days or once in a while—­nat­u­ral­ly, the more sleep de­pri­va­tion the harder it is to get up, and as both the sleep deficit builds up & the an­ti-de­pres­sant effect dis­ap­pears, they will find morn­ing-writ­ing in­creas­ingly use­less and will stop. This might seem like an un­de­sir­able hy­poth­e­sis but it still al­lows oc­ca­sional ben­e­fits on care­ful­ly-cho­sen oc­ca­sions, such as fin­ish­ing or start­ing a nov­el.


There are a few things one could do to gen­er­ate a lit­tle more data on this:

  1. sys­tem­at­i­cally go through the Paris Re­view in­ter­views and the sim­i­lar GoodReads in­ter­views to note down all cases where an au­thor is asked about writ­ing time, rather than a few ex­am­ples; this avoids the risk that morn­ing writ­ing ad­vo­cates have se­lec­tively cho­sen ex­am­ples from the in­ter­views. As the writ­ers are not cho­sen for their writ­ing habits and the in­ter­view ques­tion are fairly for­mu­laic, pre­sum­ably the in­ter­view se­ries could be con­sid­ered a qua­si­-ran­dom sur­vey sam­ple of suc­cess­ful au­thors.

  2. run a pop­u­la­tion-sam­ple sur­vey (I have done one USA sur­vey my­self but more ex­ten­sive sur­veys & sur­veys else­where would be use­ful)

    • run sur­veys in more elite-writer sam­ples
  3. run a (non-blind­ed) self­-ex­per­i­ment: cre­ate a list of things to sys­tem­at­i­cally work on; flip a coin to de­cide whether to get up ear­ly, record to­tal word­s-writ­ten+­time-spent etc. (I can’t de­cide if I would be bi­ased to­wards want­ing it to work or want­ing it to fail: of course I want to be bet­ter at writ­ing, but on the other hand, I re­ally hate wak­ing up ear­ly—­surely there’s some eas­ier way!)


  • Kel­logg 1986, “Writ­ing method and pro­duc­tiv­ity of sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing fac­ulty”: to go into more de­tail, it re­ports:

    The re­spon­dents tended to sched­ule their work be­tween 8AM and 8PM, with the morn­ing hours be­ing the most com­mon time of day (Table 3). Pos­i­tive but non­signifi­cant cor­re­la­tions were ob­tained for these time in­ter­vals. Night owls were rare and not unique in their pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. In terms of the du­ra­tion of writ­ing ses­sions, the data in­di­cate a pref­er­ence for one to three hours. Work­ing for 1 to 2 hours was sig­nifi­cantly cor­re­lated with pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. But as will be ex­plained later in de­scrib­ing the mul­ti­ple re­gres­sion analy­ses, this effect is best at­trib­uted to other fac­tors cor­re­lated with the fre­quency of work­ing for 1 to 2 hours. Highly reg­u­lar work sched­ul­ing was not the rule; the most com­mon re­sponse was only a 3 on the 7 point scale. “Write in spurts” and “marathon writ­ing just be­fore a dead­line” were com­ments listed by re­spon­dents that match the pat­tern com­monly ob­served in Boice and John­son’s (op. cit.) sur­vey. As in Boice and John­son’s study, reg­u­lar writ­ing was pos­i­tively cor­re­lated with pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, but here the re­la­tion­ship was weak and non­signifi­cant.

    Sur­vey Item Mean Mode Std. Dev. Pro­duc­tiv­ity Cor­re­la­tion (r)
    Midnight–4AM (hour of day) 1.76 1.00 1.29 0.01
    4AM8AM 1.87 1.00 1.49 0.04
    8AM–Noon 4.61 6.00 1.44 0.17
    Noon–4PM 4.34 4.00 1.33 0.15
    4PM8PM 3.60 4.00 1.54 0.13
    8PM–Midnight 3.80 2.00 1.80 0.05
    0–1 hour (Du­ra­tion) 3.50 2.0 1.58 0.09
    1–2 hours 4.46 6.0 1.40 0.22*
    2–3 hours 4.44 6.0 1.36 0.07
    3–4 hours 3.49 4.0 1.63 -0.04
    More than 4 hours 2.76 1.0 1.73 -0.12
    Every work­ing day (reg­u­lar­i­ty) 3.01 3.0 1.50 0.11

    Ta­ble 3: Analy­sis of Work Sched­ul­ing (n = 121; The re­sponse scale ranged from “Never” (1) to “Al­ways” (7). * = p < 0.05)

    An­other in­ter­est­ing as­pect of Kel­logg 1986 is that al­most all vari­ables cor­re­late non-s­ta­tis­ti­cal­ly-sig­nifi­cantly with “pro­duc­tiv­ity” (de­fined in Kel­logg as the to­tal num­ber of book­s/­pa­per­s/re­port­s/­grant-ap­pli­ca­tion­s/­grant-re­ports writ­ten in the pre­vi­ous 3 years), and most are of small mag­ni­tude. Mea­sure­ment er­ror & range re­stric­tion come to mind as bi­as­ing effects to­wards ze­ro, but it’s still con­sis­tent with my own ex­pe­ri­ence that it is diffi­cult to find any­thing which strongly cor­re­lates with ‘pro­duc­tiv­ity’, much less causes it.

  • Hart­ley & Bran­th­waite 1989, “The psy­chol­o­gist as word­smith: a ques­tion­naire study of the writ­ing strate­gies of pro­duc­tive British psy­chol­o­gists”, con­duct a sim­i­lar sur­vey as Kel­logg but do not give any sta­tis­ti­cal de­tails that I can find, say­ing merely

    In the present study most of our pro­duc­tive psy­chol­o­gists had no real pref­er­ence for any time of day at which to work. The morn­ing ap­peared to be slightly pre­ferred to the after­noon and the after­noon slightly pre­ferred to the evening. Reg­u­lar work­ing times were cor­re­lated with over­all pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, but pro­duc­tive book writ­ers wrote spo­rad­i­cally (in term time). These find­ings were very sim­i­lar to those of Kel­logg (1986) who showed that the ma­jor­ity of his 121 en­gi­neers worked in the morn­ing, and then the after­noon, but that a highly reg­u­lar work sched­ule was not the rule.

  • Boice 1997,

    Boice 1997 sum­ma­rizes a sub­set of sev­eral of his ear­lier pub­li­ca­tions, fo­cus­ing on writ­ing in rare long bursts (“bing­ing”) or in smaller fre­quent ses­sions: he ob­served for 2 years 16 new­ly-hired post­grad­u­ates while they worked on re­search writ­ing at reg­u­larly sched­uled times (ap­par­ently no fic­tion writ­ers were in­cluded in this par­tic­u­lar sam­ple), di­vid­ing them into 8 “binge” & 8 reg­u­lar writ­ers. He ob­served that the reg­u­lars wrote ~12 days/­month vs ~2, 12 pages/­month vs <2, and pub­lished >1 man­u­script vs <1.

  • Res­cue­Time 2018, “Pro­duc­tiv­ity in 2017: What we learned from an­a­lyz­ing 225 mil­lion hours of work time”; an­a­lyt­ics over hun­dreds of thou­sands of users:

    Look­ing at the time spent in soft­ware de­vel­op­ment tools, our data paints a pic­ture of a work­day that does­n’t get go­ing un­til the late morn­ing and peaks be­tween 2–6pm dai­ly…While writ­ers are more likely to be early bird­s…Writ­ing apps were used more evenly through­out each day with the most pro­duc­tive writ­ing time hap­pen­ing on Tues­days at 10AM.

    “Time spent in writ­ing tools (light blue)”: Res­cue­Time analy­sis of dis­trib­ut­ing of writ­ing app use over time of day over the week: note in­tense band 10–11AM every day

    Al­low­ing for the differ­ent time buck­ets, the Res­cue­Time re­sults closely par­al­lel Kel­logg 1986’s sur­vey re­spons­es. Aside from be­ing an enor­mous data sam­ple, Res­cue­Time notes an in­ter­est­ing con­trast: de­spite be­ing ap­par­ently sim­i­lar ac­tiv­i­ties (both mostly in­volve sling­ing tex­t), the tem­po­ral tim­ing of soft­ware de­vel­op­ment & writ­ing are strik­ingly differ­ent. Think­ing back, I don’t re­call ear­ly-morn­ing pro­gram­ming be­ing a trend among pro­gram­mers (pro­gram­mers are in­fa­mous for pre­fer­ring to come in late and late-night pro­gram­ming ses­sions which may wrap around the clock, es­pe­cially in col­lege—though the orig­i­nal rea­son, that “the com­put­ers are less busy at night”, has long since ex­pired). It’s fas­ci­nat­ing that the stereo­types about writ­ing vs pro­gram­ming line up so well with the Res­cue­Time da­ta.

  • 2018 Google Sur­veys, gen­eral USA pop­u­la­tion sam­ple, ask­ing self­-i­den­ti­fied writ­er­s/re­searcher­s/­sci­en­tists their chrono­type & ideal writ­ing time, Gw­ern:

    I ran this sur­vey in Oc­to­ber 2018, us­ing , ask­ing a ques­tion akin to Kel­logg 1986’s sur­vey, like “if you are a pro­fes­sional writer, blog­ger, re­searcher, or sci­en­tist do you find you write best at: [not a writer]/[Midnight–4AM]/[4–8AM]/etc?” At $0.10 a re­spon­se, if 5% of the pop­u­la­tion could be con­sid­ered some sort of writer (which sounds rea­son­able to me) and we want an­other n = 121 to equal Kel­logg 1986’s sam­ple size, the sur­vey would only cost . A sec­ond ques­tion could be added to ask if the re­spon­dent con­sid­ers them­selves more of a morn­ing or evening per­son, how­ev­er, it dec­tu­ples the cost; as in my , it should be pos­si­ble to com­bine the ques­tions into a sin­gle ques­tion which can hope­fully pro­vide a use­ful dat­a­point. (GS tries for a rep­re­sen­ta­tive pop­u­la­tion sam­ple by tech­niques like reweight­ing; I don’t know if they take time-of-day into ac­count and thus lark/owl type, but the sur­veys typ­i­cally run over sev­eral days so hope­fully they wind up be­ing in­her­ently bal­anced any­way.)

    If morn­ing is the most com­mon (repli­cat­ing the Kel­logg 1986 & Res­cue­Time re­sult­s), and if many evening-pre­fer­ring re­spon­dents still an­swer that morn­ings work bet­ter for writ­ing, that would be pretty good ev­i­dence for morn­ing writ­ing be­ing a real phe­nom­e­non (although still leav­ing the causal sta­tus am­bigu­ous and not an­swer­ing the ques­tion of whether owl­s—­like me—­would ben­e­fit from switch­ing to morn­ing writ­ing).

    On 2018-10-27, I launched an al­l-ages al­l-gen­der USA pop­u­la­tion sur­vey on Google Sur­veys. Be­cause of the need to run as a 1-ques­tion sur­vey, I con­densed the two ques­tions into one and sim­pli­fied it con­sid­er­ably into just morn­ing/evening pref­er­ence and morn­ing/evening self­-es­ti­mated writ­ing per­for­mance, giv­ing 5 pos­si­ble re­sponses (1+2x2=5). As most re­spon­dents will be use­less—I guessti­mate 5% would con­sider them pro­fes­sional writ­ers of some sort, so for a few hun­dred re­spons­es, I need 20x as many; I set­tled on n = 5000/$500 for the sur­vey, which should de­liver a pre­cise enough re­sult. The ques­tion looked as fol­lows:

    1. If you are a writer/re­searcher/­sci­en­tist, are you a morn­ing/evening per­son & when do you write best? [an­swers dis­played ei­ther as­cend­ing or de­scend­ing at ran­dom]

      • I don’t write or blog
      • Morn­ing per­son; best writ­ing dur­ing morn­ing
      • Morn­ing per­son; best writ­ing dur­ing evening
      • Evening per­son; best writ­ing dur­ing morn­ing
      • Evening per­son; best writ­ing dur­ing evening

    The sur­vey fin­ished 2018-10-29 with the fol­low­ing re­sults (per­cent­age is pop­u­la­tion-weighted out of equiv­a­lent n = 3,999; n is raw counts out of the n = 5004 ac­tu­ally col­lect­ed; CSV)

    1. 70% (3515)
    2. 9.9% (467)
    3. 4.0% (196)
    4. 4.0% (193)
    5. 12.1% (633)

    The per­cent­age of peo­ple will­ing to claim to be writ­ers was ~6x larger than I ex­pect­ed, which is trou­bling (do re­ally that many peo­ple write?). Oth­er­wise, the re­sponses ap­pear rea­son­ably evenly bal­anced: 663 morn­ing peo­ple vs 826 evening peo­ple. The per­cent­age of over­all coun­ter-chrono­type self­-rated writ­ing per­for­mance is 26%. On av­er­age, 55% of re­spon­dents thought evening-writ­ing was best. The key ques­tion, of course, is whether morn­ing-writ­ing is more pre­ferred for coun­ter-chrono­type writ­ing: there is a slight pref­er­ence here, but it is the op­po­site of pre­dict­ed, with 29% of morn­ing peo­ple be­liev­ing they write best in evening ver­sus 23% of evening peo­ple say­ing morn­ing is best for them. (The differ­ence is sta­tis­ti­cal­ly-sig­nifi­cant at p = 0.008/P≅1.8)

    This does not strongly en­dorse morn­ing-writ­ing, al­though it is sur­pris­ing how many peo­ple think they write best coun­ter-chrono­type. Of course, the fact that fewer peo­ple be­lieve they write bet­ter in the morn­ing rather than evening does­n’t prove morn­ing-writ­ing is­n’t a thing: one pos­si­bil­ity is that peo­ple sim­ply haven’t given it a fair try, or that it only works for pro­fes­sional writ­ers at a high lev­el, or that it is het­ero­ge­neous and there is a small frac­tion of peo­ple for whom morn­ing-writ­ing works re­ally well (and so every­one should give it a try just in case). The over­all even split of chrono­type does give a base­line ex­pec­ta­tion for elite writ­ers, though.

  • 2019 Google Sur­veys, gen­eral USA pop­u­la­tion sam­ple, ask­ing self­-i­den­ti­fied pub­lished writ­ers writ­ing time, Gw­ern:

    Com­pil­ing the anec­dotes from Goodreads & The Paris Re­view, I no­ticed what seemed like a trend to­wards fic­tion writ­ers em­pha­siz­ing the morn­ing as the best time to write, and avoid­ing after­noon­s/evenings ex­cept as con­tin­u­a­tions of morn­ing writ­ing or not­ing that after­noon­s/evenings were use­ful for sec­ondary tasks (re­view/edit­ing/back­ground re­search/­cor­re­spon­dence), while non­fic­tion writ­ers can write at any time. If there is a genre split, this would ex­plain why the anec­dotes are po­lar­ized but the Res­cue­Time/Twit­ter/GS gen­eral sur­veys show bal­ance: the non­fic­tion writ­ers are mask­ing the fic­tion writ­ers when ag­gre­gat­ed, and since these sur­veys do not split re­sponses by type of writ­ing (and Kel­logg 1986/Hart­ley & Bran­th­waite 1989 pre­sum­ably ex­clude fic­tion writ­ers en­tirely by sur­vey­ing STEM or psy­chol­ogy fac­ulty on­ly), no analy­sis can re­veal this het­ero­gene­ity. There were too few non­fic­tion au­thors in the anec­dote com­pi­la­tion to al­low easy for­mal sta­tis­ti­cal mod­el­ing, but this does gen­er­ate a testable hy­poth­e­sis: if I run new sur­veys which do col­lect non­fic­tion vs fic­tion co­vari­ates, there should be a dis­tinct differ­ence in morn­ing vs evening writ­ing pref­er­ence.

    As be­fore, a 1-ques­tion forced-choice sur­vey is most cost-effec­tive, so I do an­other 5-way split be­tween non­fic­tion/­fic­tion/­morn­ing/after­noon–evening. One ad­just­ment I make is to rephrase it in terms of ‘after­noon–evening’ since based on the anec­dotes since, it’s be­come clear that writ­ing in the evening is un­usual and after­noon–evening is more com­mon.

    1. If you are a pub­lished writer of fic­tion or non­fic­tion, when do you write best?
    • Non­fic­tion; morn­ing
    • Non­fic­tion; after­noon–evening
    • Fic­tion; morn­ing
    • Fic­tion; after­noon–evening
    • I’m not a writer/NA

    The morn­ing/­fic­tion cor­re­late feels large, pos­si­bly a dou­bling of the base­line 1:1 odds, so a quick power analy­sis sug­gests a to­tal n = 120 of re­spon­ders (power.prop.test(p1 =2/4, p2 = 3/4, power=0.80)), and since 30% of the first sur­vey re­spon­dents pro­vided a writer re­spon­se, n = 120 writ­ers re­quires a to­tal sam­ple size of n = 400. I’m sus­pi­cious that <30% will re­spond or that the effect will be so big un­der­neath the mea­sure­ment er­ror and thus that n = 400 is a loose lower bound at best, so I dou­bled it to n = 800.

    I launched the sur­vey on 2019-07-20, ran­dom re­versed or­der, n = 800 ($80). Re­sponse rates turned out to be lower and im­bal­anced to­wards non­fic­tion re­spons­es, so I dou­bled the sam­ple with ad­di­tional sur­veys, com­bined with coupons. The fi­nal n = 2103 with n = 462 (22%) use­ful writer re­sponses (CSV). Break­down:

    • Fic­tion:

      • “Fic­tion; after­noon–evening”: 76
      • “Fic­tion; morn­ing”: 95 (55%)
    • Non­fic­tion:

      • “Non­fic­tion; after­noon–evening”: 87
      • “Non­fic­tion; morn­ing”: 204 (70%)

    The re­sult was the op­po­site of pre­dict­ed, with non­fic­tion writ­ers more likely to re­spond with morn­ing pref­er­ence (P≅1):

    df <- data.frame(Morning=c(95,204), Fiction=c(TRUE,FALSE), N=c(171,291))
    #   Morning Fiction   N
    # 1      95    TRUE 171
    # 2     204   FALSE 291
    prop.test(df$Morning, df$N)
    #   2-sample test for equality of proportions with continuity correction
    # data:  df$Morning out of df$N
    # X-squared = 9.355829, df = 1, p-value = 0.00222277
    # alternative hypothesis: two.sided
    # 95 percent confidence interval:
    #  -0.2412962960 -0.0496544486
    # sample estimates:
    #      prop 1      prop 2
    # 0.555555556 0.701030928
    brm(Morning|trials(N) ~ Fiction, family=binomial, data=df)
    # ...Population-Level Effects:
    #             Estimate Est.Error l-95% CI u-95% CI Eff.Sample Rhat
    # Intercept       0.86      0.12     0.62     1.11       4307 1.00
    # FictionTRUE    -0.63      0.20    -1.03    -0.24       3244 1.00



Com­pi­la­tion of sur­vey data on re­ported writ­ing time pref­er­ences.
Au­thor Date Type Time Hours Source Note
Kel­logg sur­vey 1986 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM12PM, 12PM4PM Kel­logg 1986 sur­vey Top 2 time-ranges; or­di­nal scale mean rat­ings >4 for those buck­ets, oth­ers, like 4AM8AM, can be half or less.
Res­cue­Time users 2018 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing 10AM11AM Res­cue­Time blog an­a­lyt­ics This is the peak writ­ing time; ag­gre­gate writ­ing times span the clock.
Gw­ern Google Sur­veys 2018 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Evening ? Google Sur­veys On av­er­age, re­spon­dents thought they wrote best at evening; sur­vey re­spon­dents were more likely to pre­fer evening when writ­ing coun­ter-chrono­type.
Gw­ern Google Sur­veys 2019 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Google Sur­veys n = 95
Gw­ern Google Sur­veys 2019 Fic­tion After­noon–evening ? Google Sur­veys n = 76
Gw­ern Google Sur­veys 2019 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing ? Google Sur­veys n = 204
Gw­ern Google Sur­veys 2019 Non­fic­tion After­noon–evening ? Google Sur­veys n = 87
Com­pi­la­tion of in­di­vid­ual au­thors’ re­ported writ­ing time pref­er­ences.
Au­thor Date Type Time Hours Source Note
Kazuo Ishig­uro 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9AM–10:30AM The Guardian in­ter­view
Dan Brown 2017 Fic­tion Morn­ing 4AM12PM The New York Times in­ter­view
Philip Pull­man 2017 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10AM1PM The New York Times in­ter­view
Ian Flem­ing 1964 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 10AM12PM, 6–7PM Play­boy in­ter­view
Joseph Camp­bell ? Non­fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 9AM6PM Bi­og­ra­phy Camp­bell refers to “read­ing” in this anec­dote of his youth; un­clear if that in­cludes writ­ing or if he changed lat­er.
Charles Dick­ens ? Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM2PM Bi­og­ra­phy
Robert Frost ? Fic­tion After­noon–evening 1PM?–3AM Bi­og­ra­phy
Win­ston Churchill ? Non­fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 11AM1PM, 11PM2AM Bi­og­ra­phy
Frank Her­bert 1969 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 5AM7AM, 5PM1AM Mc­Nelly in­ter­view
Harry Har­ri­son 1968 Fic­tion After­noon 12:30PM5PM Mc­Nelly in­ter­view
Toni Mor­ri­son 2015 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM10AM Goodreads
Michael Con­nelly 2017 Fic­tion Morn­ing 4AM7AM Goodreads In­fer­ring times from his pref­er­ence to write “be­fore the light gets up in the sky…be­fore the rest of the city wakes up­…­dark morn­ing hours”
Stephe­nie Meyer 2016 Fic­tion Evening 8PM12PM Goodreads
Stephen King 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM12PM Goodreads
Paulo Coelho 2014 Fic­tion Evening ?PM4AM Goodreads
Bran­don Sander­son 2012 Fic­tion Evening 12PM4PM, 4PM3AM FAQ, on­line in­ter­view
Mar­garet At­wood 1990 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10AM4PM Paris Re­view Her later GoodReads in­ter­view sug­gests she loos­ened her sched­ule after her daugh­ter grew up.
Sain­t-Ex­upéry 1947 Fic­tion Evening 11PM8AM Bi­og­ra­phy
Neil Gaiman 2004 Fic­tion Evening ?PM?AM In­ter­view an­thol­ogy
John Irv­ing 1986 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Paris Re­view in­ter­view In­ferred from his de­scrip­tion 8-hour days which ter­mi­nate be­fore “the evening”, re­served for re­search.
Don­ald Hall 2018 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 5AM?PM Paris Re­view in­ter­view
Hunter Thomp­son ? Non­fic­tion Evening 12AM?–6AM? Bi­og­ra­phy
Michel Houelle­becq 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing 1AM?AM Paris Re­view
Joyce Cary 1954 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9AM–? Paris Re­view in­ter­view “He rose, he said, ear­ly, and was al­ways at his desk by nine.”
Ur­sula K. Le Guin 1988 Fic­tion Morn­ing 7:15AM12PM Pol­ish in­ter­view Based on her “ideal sched­ule”: “7:15 a.m.—get to work writ­ing, writ­ing, writ­ing. / Noon—lunch.”
William Gib­son 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM?PM Paris Re­view in­ter­view Sched­ule varies in how late Gib­son goes into the after­noon/evening, but as­sum­ing his Pi­lates classes are 1 hour, he does­n’t start be­fore ~9AM.
Gene Wolfe 2002 Fic­tion Morn­ing 4AM–? 2002 Lo­cus in­ter­view
Beat­riz Williams 2018 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 7AM?-1PM, 7PM-?PM Goodreads Writ­ing starts after “kids are off to school” (which for Amer­i­cans would gen­er­ally be 7–9AM de­pend­ing on age), and re­sumes in “the evening” (pre­sum­ably after a fam­ily din­ner)
Deb­o­rah Hark­ness 2018 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–evening ?AM-?PM Goodreads Hark­ness de­scribes writ­ing for the first hour every day as a “war­m-up…the rest of the day kind of clicks along”.
Ruth Ware 2018 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 7AM?–?PM Goodreads Like Williams, writ­ing is done in be­tween chil­dren go­ing to school & re­turn­ing.
Naomi Novik 2018 Fic­tion After­noon–evening Noon?–3AM? Goodreads “I bit­terly lament the loss of my for­mer sched­ule. [Laughs] I would go to sleep at 3 a.m. and wake up at 11, and that was so nice.”
Max Lu­ga­vere 2019 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 8AM?–1AM? New York Times pro­file
Chloe Ben­jamin 2018 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM–noon Goodreads
Josiah Ban­croft 2018 Fic­tion Any Any Goodreads
Janet Fitch 2017 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9:30AM3PM Goodreads
Ce­leste Ng 2017 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 7AM?–?PM Goodreads Dur­ing school hours.
Meg Wolitzer 2018 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?PM Goodreads Pre­vi­ously dur­ing school hours.
Lisa Gen­ova 2018 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM1PM? Goodreads Gen­ova writes for 4 hours reg­u­larly at Star­bucks; that sug­gests start­ing around 9AM and fin­ish­ing around 1PM.
A.E. Hous­man 1933 Fic­tion After­noon 1PM4PM? The Name And Na­ture Of Po­etry “Hav­ing drunk a pint of beer at lun­cheon…I would go out for a walk of two or three hours”
John Peale Bishop <1952 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? At­trib­uted by Ghis­elin 1952 “John Peale Bishop rec­om­mended go­ing as soon as pos­si­ble from sleep to the writ­ing desk.”
Mohsin Hamid 2017 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening ? Goodreads Hamid pre­ferred “late at night…a vam­pire-like ex­is­tence” but due to chil­dren now fol­lows “com­pletely differ­ent” school-hours .
Col­son White­head 2016 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10AM3PM Goodreads
Michael Chabon 2012 Fic­tion Evening 10PM4AM Goodreads
Au­gusten Bur­roughs 2016 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Any ? Goodreads
Nora Roberts 2016 Fic­tion Morn­ing 7:30AM–3:00PM Goodreads
Elin Hilder­brand 2016 Fic­tion Any ? Goodreads
Ju­lian Fel­lowes 2016 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 9:30AM8PM Goodreads
Anony­mous 2016 ? Morn­ing 5AM–noon Goodreads As de­scribed by Ju­lian Fel­lowes
Michael J. Sul­li­van 2016 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9AM?–noon Goodreads “…Most peo­ple write from when­ever they wake up un­til noon or one. That’s your writ­ing pe­ri­od. I do it every day…­dur­ing that pe­riod of three or four hours.”
Jay McIn­er­ney 2016 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9:30AM–12:30PM Goodreads
Iris Mur­doch 1990 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–evening ?AM–noon, 4:30PM8PM Paris Re­view
Is­abel Al­lende 2015 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?–noon? Goodreads “I work many hours a day, usu­ally start­ing in the morn­ing. I’m much bet­ter then than in the after­noon or the evening.”
Conor Franta 2016 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads
Paula Hawkins 2015 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM?–5PM? Goodreads “I’m used to just get­ting up, com­ing down­stairs, sit­ting at my desk and writ­ing. Some­times if the writ­ing’s go­ing re­ally well I can write al­most all day and all night but usu­ally it’s a pretty nor­mal day, not quite 9 to 5 but not that far off.”
He­len Oyeyemi 2016 Fic­tion Evening? ? Goodreads “It changes from book to book. With these sto­ries, I think I was up very late at night, writ­ing, like, at 2 a.m. And then I’d just sleep a lot and wake up and write some more. But with other books, I’ve had much more struc­ture.”
Danielle Steele 2019 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 8AM4AM? Glam­our pro­file “To pull it off, she works 20 to 22 hours a day…She gets to her office—­down the hall from her bed­room—by 8:00 A.M…‘If I have four hours [of sleep], it’s re­ally a good night for me’”. May be a ‘short sleeper’.
Alan Bradley 2015 Fic­tion Morn­ing 4:30AM10AM Goodreads
Erik Lar­son 2011 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing 4:30AM–noon Goodreads
Lau­rell K. Hamil­ton 2015 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? ? Goodreads Mul­ti­ple sched­ules re­port­ed: 5AM8AM? (be­fore day job), 10AM3PM (ful­l-time writer), then mis­cel­la­neous (while chil­drea­r­ing).
Judy Blume 2015 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–noon Goodreads After walk/break­fast/show­er, un­til noon.
Orhan Pa­muk 2015 Fic­tion Evening? ?PM4AM Goodreads Pa­muk thanks “coffee and tea” and says “es­pe­cially be­fore my daugh­ter was born I used to write un­til four in the morn­ing.”, sug­gest­ing start­ing only in the evening.
Yu Hua 2015 Fic­tion Any ? Goodreads
An­thony Do­err 2015 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads
Liane Mo­ri­arty 2014 Fic­tion Any ? Goodreads “when I have child-free time”
Pierce Brown 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM?–noon, 3PM7PM Goodreads 8 hours to­tal, morn­ing un­til noon (=8AM), after­noon un­til 7–8PM (=3–4PM)
David Mitchell 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM?–4PM? Goodreads “I…write at the kitchen ta­ble when the kids are at school.”
Sarah Wa­ters 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM–4:30PM Goodreads
Jacque­line Win­spear 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 6AM?AM,?AM?PM Goodreads Win­spear gives a de­tailed ide­al­ized sched­ule: she wakes ~5:30AM, writes for sev­eral hours, walk­s/break­fasts, writes ad­di­tional hours, ex­er­cis­es, writes ad­di­tional hours, and stops some­time be­fore din­ner.
Nick Hark­away 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8:30AM–noon, ?PM6PM Goodreads
Di­ana Ga­bal­don 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing, after­noon, evening 11AM–noon, 1PM?–2PM?, midnight–4AM Goodreads Ga­bal­don writes briefly dur­ing the day, then wakes up at mid­night to do her main writ­ing.
Her­man Koch 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9AM11AM Goodreads
Char­laine Har­ris 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9AM?–? Goodreads
Michael Cun­ning­ham 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads “I need to write first thing in the morn­ing…I’m at the com­puter any­where from four to six hours.”
Jane Green 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9AM?–noon? Goodreads “Once my kids have gone to school, I…just switch off for three hours.”
Laura Lipp­man 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM–noon Goodreads
Sue Monk Kidd 2014 Fic­tion Any ? Goodreads “But I write all day long.”
Ish­mael Beah 2014 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing, evening ?PM-?AM Goodreads Both late night & early morn­ing: “I like to write late at night when every­thing is re­ally qui­et—e­spe­cially here in New York—and I’ll work right through un­til the morn­ing. But if I’m home in Sierra Leone, it’s differ­ent, and I usu­ally write early in the morn­ing or when I can”
Ruth Ozeki 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM3PM? Goodreads Starts in the morn­ing after med­i­ta­tion, then “Usu­ally I write un­til mid-after­noon”.
Wal­ter Mosley 2017 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Su­san Cain 2013 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads “I wake up in the morn­ing, and the first thing I do is go to my fa­vorite café.”
M. L. Sted­man 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ? Goodreads “I only write in the day­time—n­ever at night.”
George Saun­ders 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Goodreads “On a per­fect day I walk the dogs, get a cup of coffee, and go over there and just stay for seven or eight hours.”
Melanie Ben­jamin 2013 Fic­tion After­noon 1?PM–4?PM Goodreads “I sit down in the after­noon to write gen­er­al­ly. I don’t write more than two, three hours at a time.”
Har­lan Coben 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM–noon Goodreads
Eliz­a­beth Strout 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads
Kate Atkin­son 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads
Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie 2013 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads “When the writ­ing is go­ing well, I’m ob­ses­sive—I roll out of bed and go to work.”
Colum Mc­Cann 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM8AM? Goodreads “…wak­ing up at about five o’­clock in the morn­ing…I have a cou­ple of hours be­fore any of my kids have woken up, and that’s what I call the ‘Dream Time’.”
Bar­bara Delin­sky 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM–noon Goodreads
Khaled Hos­seini 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9:30AM2PM Goodreads
Melissa Marr 2013 Fic­tion Evening ?PM5AM Goodreads
Thomas Ke­neally 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening ?AM–7:30PM Goodreads Mul­ti­ple stints.
Mar­isha Pessl 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10:30AM5PM Goodreads
Jojo Moyes 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 6AM7PM Goodreads
Wally Lamb 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM2PM Goodreads
Anita Shreve 2013 Fic­tion Morn­ing 7:30AM–12:30PM Goodreads
Karen Marie Mon­ing 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing 4:30AM10AM? Goodreads Writes for 4 hours, takes a break for break­fast, then ed­its, ap­par­ently stop­ping be­fore lunch.
Kate Mor­ton 2012 Fic­tion Any Goodreads
Zadie Smith 2016 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10AM3PM Goodreads In­ferred from child­care de­scrip­tion.
Junot Díaz 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–noon Goodreads
Mar­tin Amis 2012 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–evening ?AM7PM Goodreads “after break­fast…un­til 7 o’­clock”
Sher­ri­lyn Kenyon 2011 Fic­tion Evening 7PM–3:30AM Per­sonal web­site
Jonathan Trop­per 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 9AM?PM Goodreads
Emily Giffin 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing, evening ?AM?PM? Goodreads “I al­ways start out my writ­ing day with a strong cup of black coffee and find that my writ­ing flows more the first thing in the morn­ing (after I get my chil­dren off to school) or very late at night.”
Stephen Bax­ter 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM5PM Goodreads
Terry Pratch­ett 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM5PM Goodreads Same in­ter­view as Stephen Bax­ter, “It’s pretty much like that for me.”
Richard Ford 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8:30AM1PM, 3:15PM5PM Goodreads
Pe­ter Carey 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9AM–12:30PM Goodreads
Li­onel Shriver 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening? ?AM?PM Goodreads “When I get up, I read the pa­per at the kitchen coun­ter…then I go up to the office…and I stand in front of the desk 12 hours a day.”
Anne Lam­ott 2012 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing? 9AM?–? Goodreads Lam­ott seems to im­ply she starts at 9AM in dis­cussing the im­por­tance of rou­tine.
Lisa Lutz 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM Goodreads
Alan Zweibel 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM?PM Goodreads
Dave Barry 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?PM Goodreads
Daniel Han­dler 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? 9AM?–?PM Goodreads
Veron­ica Roth 2011 Fic­tion After­noon? ?PM5PM Goodreads Roth is face­tious about try­ing & fail­ing to write in the morn­ing, so per­haps she writes in the morn­ing as well.
Paula McLain 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM2PM Goodreads
Jon Ron­son 2011 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing 7AM11AM Goodreads
Erin Mor­gen­stern 2011 Fic­tion Any any Goodreads
Sue Grafton 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM3PM? Goodreads
David Guter­son 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing 4AM–? Goodreads
Jeffrey Eu­genides 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM Goodreads
Marisa de los San­tos 2008 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads
Steven Press­field 2008 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion After­noon? ? Goodreads
Jackie Collins 2008 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM4PM Goodreads
Christina Schwarz 2008 Fic­tion Any ? Goodreads
Rob Walker 2008 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing? ? Goodreads Walker ap­pears to have been both: “I’m defi­nitely not an up­-al­l-night kind of writer, though I used to be. Now I’m more of an early ris­er.”
Selden Ed­wards 2008 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–noon Goodreads “break­fast till lunch”
Di­ane John­son 2008 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing?–after­noon? ?-3PM? Goodreads “my gym has a coffee room with two cu­bi­cles. I go there, write, work out and take the bus home mid-after­noon.”
Neal Stephen­son 2008 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? ?AM11AM, ?PM?PM Goodreads Stephen­son writes in the morn­ing as usual but also “Then I go ex­er­cise and spend the after­noon work­ing on some­thing com­pletely un­re­lat­ed.”—more fic­tion writ­ing, or one of his many non-writ­ing pro­jects?
Thomas Frank 2008 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing–evening ?AM?PM Goodreads
Anne Rice 2008 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Goodreads “Best time is late morn­ing or early after­noon.”
Anita Shreve 2008 Fic­tion Morn­ing 7:30AM–noon Goodreads
Den­nis Lehane 2008 Fic­tion Morn­ing, evening ? Goodreads “I usu­ally write in the morn­ing or very late at night”
John Gro­gan 2008 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing? 5AM7AM? Goodreads Gro­gan wrote 5AM7AM for his first book be­fore his jour­nal­ist job, but quit & switched to an un­spec­i­fied sched­ule after­wards.
Mal­colm Glad­well 2008 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–noon Goodreads “I might write for a cou­ple of hours, and then I head out to have lunch and read the pa­per. Then I write for a lit­tle bit longer if I can”
Maeve Binchy 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8:30AM1PM Goodreads
Gor­don Snell 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8:30AM1PM Goodreads Binchy in­ter­view.
Christo­pher Moore 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?AM Goodreads
Dan Sim­mons 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads Sim­mons de­scribes “won­der­fully wasted” morn­ings with slow break­fasts but still seems to start be­fore the after­noon.
Jodi Pi­coult 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ? Goodreads
Joyce Carol Oates 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing, evening 8AM1PM, ?PM?PM Goodreads, NYRB
Alexan­der Mc­Call Smith 2009 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing 10AM–noon Goodreads Not quite a pure morn­ing writ­ing: “al­though I some­times write later in the after­noon and in the evening.”
El­more Leonard 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 9AM6PM Goodreads Orig­i­nally 5AM7PM be­fore job; in­creas­ingly lat­er.
China Miéville 2009 Fic­tion Any ? Goodreads
Lisa See 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9AM11AM? Goodreads “I be­gin to write in earnest around 9…­Some­times I can get that [1000 words] done in 2 hours; some­times it takes all day.”
Al­ice Hoff­man 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing 4:45AM?AM Goodreads
Lev Gross­man 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Goodreads
Re­becca Wells 2009 Fic­tion Evening ? Goodreads Wells gives sev­eral sched­ules over the years, but her cur­rent one seems quite late, pos­si­bly start­ing at mid­night.
Anita Dia­mant 2009 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? ?AM Goodreads
James Ell­roy 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM-?PM Goodreads “I get up very early in the morn­ing…I work every day for a long pe­riod of hours, drink­ing lots of coffee…”
Nick Hornby 2009 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM5PM Goodreads
Au­drey Niff­eneg­ger 2009 Fic­tion Evening ? Goodreads
Greg Morten­son 2009 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing 4AM–7:30AM Goodreads
Eliz­a­beth Gilbert 2010 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 7AM3PM? Goodreads “By mid-after­noon I’m sort of spent.”
Chris Bo­h­jalian 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM–10:30AM Goodreads
Elif Shafak 2010 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Any ? Goodreads
Frances Mayes 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM8AM Goodreads
Chang-rae Lee 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Goodreads
Anna Quindlen 2010 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? 10AM?PM Goodreads Quindlen does­n’t spec­ify an end-time but as a pro­lific au­thor only start­ing at 10AM, she pre­sum­ably must go into the after­noon.
Yann Mar­tel 2010 Fic­tion Any ? Goodreads
Char­laine Har­ris 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM?–?PM Goodreads Orig­i­nally a more typ­i­cal 8AM–11:30AM.
Bret Eas­ton El­lis 2010 Fic­tion Any ? Goodreads
Terry Brooks 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM–noon Goodreads
Philippa Gre­gory 2010 Fic­tion After­noon–evening ?PM?PM Goodreads “then in the after­noon I have the plea­sure of writ­ing. If I am try­ing to get through a scene or get on with the nov­el, then I reread and write again at night.”
Janet Evanovich 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM–noon Goodreads
Sara Gruen 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM?–?PM Goodreads After kids leave for school, a 1.5 hour de­lay to get into the mind­set, then she’s “good for 2,000 words”, so per­haps to noon?
Ken Fol­lett 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 7AM5PM Goodreads
David Sedaris 2010 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon, evening 10:30AM–1:30PM, 8PM–9:30PM Goodreads
Paul Auster 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9:30AM–4:30PM Goodreads
Lau­ren Oliver 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing?–after­noon? ?AM?PM? Goodreads “I do most of my own writ­ing when I’m shut­tling be­tween meet­ings on the sub­way”, which sug­gests dur­ing the work­ing day.
Justin Cronin 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing, evening 9AM?–3PM?, 10PM12PM? Goodreads “I think I’d write at night all the time if I could do it any way I want­ed, but that’s not con­comi­tant with the de­mands of a house with chil­dren in it.”
Re­becca Skloot 2010 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM10AM Goodreads
Aimee Ben­der 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM10AM Goodreads
Kim Ed­wards 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM?–?AM Goodreads
Or­son Scott Card 2011 Fic­tion Any ? Goodreads
Jonathan Evi­son 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM?AM Goodreads
Karen Rus­sell 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?AM Goodreads “now I’m back in my old Star­buck­s…I try to write for four hours in the morn­ing.”
Ted Dekker 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?AM Goodreads
Jean M. Auel 2011 Fic­tion Evening Midnight?–5AM? Goodreads Auel starts writ­ing when her hus­band goes to bed, and she says “I often catch the sun ris­ing.”
Geral­dine Brooks 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM?–3PM? Goodreads School sched­ule.
Jeffery Deaver 2011 Fic­tion Any? ? Goodreads
Ann Patch­ett 2011 Fic­tion Any? ? Goodreads Some­what con­tra­dic­tory to Eliz­a­beth Gilbert; see ex­cerpts.
Ben Mezrich 2011 Non­fic­tion Any? ? Goodreads
Sap­phire 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?AM Goodreads
Grant Mor­ri­son 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 8:30AM?PM Goodreads
Richelle Mead 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? ?AM5PM? Goodreads
Ar­avind Adiga 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing, evening 6AM?AM, ?PM?PM Goodreads
Madeleine Wick­ham 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM3PM Goodreads
Ellen Hop­kins 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM?–noon? Goodreads “up with first light” means dawn or ~5–6AM & “6 to 8 hours is the goal”, so she pre­sum­ably fin­ishes by noon or 1PM.
Um­berto Eco 2008 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing, evening ?AM?PM, 11PM2AM Paris Re­view Eco dis­claims a reg­u­lar sched­ule but ad­mits when he can, he writes in two seg­ments: morn­ing, and then late evening.
David Mc­Cul­lough 1999 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8:30AM–noon, 1PM?–?PM Paris Re­view
Hermione Lee 2013 Non­fic­tion Any ?AM3PM, ?PM?PM Paris Re­view “Then we’ll make sup­per, and then I’ll prob­a­bly do a bit more writ­ing in the evening.”
Michael Hol­royd 2012 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Richard Holmes 2017 Non­fic­tion After­noon ? Paris Re­view
Rose Tremain 2017 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Robert Caro 2016 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ? Paris Re­view Caro says he skips lunch with friends while writ­ing, gets up ear­lier and ear­lier dur­ing a chap­ter, and works “pretty long days”.
Stacy Schiff 2017 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? ? Paris Re­view Schiff im­plies she starts writ­ing in the morn­ing through to after­noon by re­fer­ring to skip­ping lunch with friends, like Caro: “there is the prob­lem of lunch, in which the writer’s day craters. I avoid mid­day com­mit­ments when I’m writ­ing, which en­dears me to no one.”
Robert Crumb 2010 Fic­tion Any? ? Paris Re­view “I could never work reg­u­larly like that. I work in er­ratic spurts.”
Harold Bloom 1991 Non­fic­tion Any? ? Paris Re­view “There is­n’t one for me. I write in des­per­a­tion.”
George Steiner 1995 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–noon? Paris Re­view “All my best work tends to be done in the morn­ing, es­pe­cially the early morn­ing, when some­how my mind and sen­si­bil­ity op­er­ate much more effi­cient­ly. I read and take notes in the after­noon, then sketch the writ­ing I want to do the next morn­ing. The after­noon is the time for charg­ing the bat­tery.”
He­len Vendler 1996 Non­fic­tion Any? ? Paris Re­view “I have no rou­tine. I hate rou­tines. I have no fixed hours for sleep­ing, eat­ing, wak­ing, work­ing…I’m a night per­son, so I tend to write later in the day rather than ear­lier, but I have no fixed hours”
Si­mone de Beau­voir 1965 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 10AM1PM, 5PM9PM Paris Re­view
Jean Genet 1965 Fic­tion Any? ? Paris Re­view Si­mone de Beau­voir: “Genet, for ex­am­ple, works quite differ­ently [than me]. He puts in about twelve hours a day for six months when he’s work­ing on some­thing”
Ken­neth Roberts 1969 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view De­scrip­tion by E.B. White
Hilton Als 2018 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Mary Karr 2009 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM?AM Paris Re­view
Adam Phillips 2014 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM–? Paris Re­view Phillips seems to write on non-work Wednes­days but comes in at 6AM on work days; how­ev­er, he “claims to re­quire very lit­tle sleep” and prob­a­bly starts around then on Wednes­days too.
Ge­off Dyer 2013 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Any? ? Paris Re­view
Gay Talese 2009 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing, evening ?AM?PM, 5PM–? Paris Re­view First thing in morn­ing, break, then after ‘lunch’ re­sumes.
B.F. Skin­ner 1993 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing, evening 12AM1AM, 5AM7AM Bjork bi­og­ra­phy Skin­ner had a bipha­sic sched­ule.
John McPhee 2010 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 9AM7PM Paris Re­view McPhee says he starts at 9AM but is “gong­ing around” un­til 5PM when he ac­tu­ally starts writ­ing for 2 hours.
Luc Sante 2016 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Amy Clampitt 1993 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
An­drei Voz­ne­sen­sky 1980 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
W. H. Au­den 1988 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM3PM Paris Re­view Ac­cord­ing to An­thony Hecht.
Aharon Ap­pelfeld 2014 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10AM1PM, ?PM?PM Paris Re­view An ad­di­tional two hours after a late after­noon lunch.
Can­dace Bush­nell 2019 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing 11–12AM New York Times
Alain Robbe-Gril­let 1986 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 11AM4PM, 8PM12AM Paris Re­view
Alan Hollinghurst 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ? Paris Re­view Hollinghurst was a “evening-and-al­co­hol writer” for his first novel but turned him­self into a “morn­ing-and-caffeine writer” for all later ones,
Robert Fa­gles 1999 Fic­tion Morn­ing–? 7:30AM–? Paris Re­view
Au­gust Klein­zahler 2007 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM1AM Paris Re­view
Matthew Weiner 2014 Fic­tion Evening ? Paris Re­view
Al­berto Moravia 1954 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9AM–noon Paris Re­view
Al­dous Hux­ley 1969 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view “four or five hours” in the morn­ing
Al­ice Munro 1994 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM11AM Paris Re­view His­tor­i­cal­ly, mixed sched­ule around school & work; cur­rent­ly, ex­clu­sively morn­ing.
Ali Smith 2017 Fic­tion after­noon–evening 2PM9PM Paris Re­view
Amos Oz 1996 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion 7AM3PM Paris Re­view Starts ~6:45AM, then is there “at least seven or eight hours every day”.
Amy Hempel 2003 Fic­tion Evening? ? Paris Re­view Used to be “All night” but shifted to at least partly day­time.
An­drea Bar­rett 2003 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
An­gus Wil­son 1957 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM4PM Paris Re­view
Carl Phillips 2019 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
Anita Brookner 1987 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening ?AM?PM Paris Re­view
Ann Beat­tie 2011 Fic­tion After­noon–evening? ?–?PM Paris Re­view Beat­tie ap­par­ently had a rep­u­ta­tion for writ­ing late at night, but dis­claims it now.
David Mamet 1997 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
An­nie Proulx 2009 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
An­thony Burgess 1973 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ? Paris Re­view
Thomas Mann 1973 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM1PM Paris Re­view As de­scribed by in­ter­viewer & Burgess.
An­thony Pow­ell 1978 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Arthur Koestler 1984 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9:30AM1PM Paris Re­view
William Weaver 2002 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–noon Paris Re­view
Barry Han­nah 2004 Fic­tion Evening ?PM?AM Paris Re­view Han­nah de­scribes writ­ing after his col­lege teach­ing job when he was younger, some­times as late as 4AM.
Beryl Bain­bridge 2000 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
Charles Wright 1989 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view Wright says he did work in the after­noon for years, but that was not his most com­mon pat­tern, in­stead work­ing on things at any time of day where pos­si­ble.
Blaise Cen­drars 1950 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM?AM Paris Re­view As­cribed to Cen­drars by PR.
Car­los Fuentes 1981 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8:30AM–12:30PM Paris Re­view
Chinua Achebe 1994 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening? ? Paris Re­view <q“>I am not an ear­ly-morn­ing per­son; I don’t like to get out of bed, and so I don’t be­gin writ­ing at five A.M…I write once my day has start­ed. And I can work late into the night, al­so.”
John Guare 1992 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ?AM Paris Re­view “I like to get up in the morn­ing and go to work.”
Christo­pher Ish­er­wood 1974 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ?AM Paris Re­view At­trib­uted by the in­ter­view­er: “Ish­er­wood works every morn­ing and then usu­ally walks to the ocean to swim.”
Cyn­thia Oz­ick 1987 Fic­tion Evening ? Paris Re­view “all night” and “through the night”.
Claude Si­mon 1992 Fic­tion After­noon–evening 3:30PM8PM Paris Re­view
Al­ice Mc­Der­mott 2019 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 9AM6PM Paris Re­view Pre­vi­ous­ly, un­til 3PM when her chil­dren re­turned home.
Dag Sol­stad 2016 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ? Paris Re­view Sol­stad im­plies that he does­n’t write in the after­noon by de­scrib­ing how on one day of his “3-1-3 sys­tem” that he gets drunk in the after­noon; on the other hand, he might be im­ply­ing that he writes in the after­noon on all the other days.
David Gross­man 2007 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM12PM Paris Re­view
Don DeLillo 1993 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM, ?PM?PM Paris Re­view He works for 4 hours in the morn­ing, breaks for run, then 3 hours in the after­noon.
Ed­mund White 1988 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Edna O’Brien 1984 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM2PM Paris Re­view
Czes­law Milosz 1994 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Elias Khoury 2017 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
Elie Wiesel 1984 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view 4 hours.
David Ig­na­tow 1979 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view At evening dur­ing orig­i­nal print­ing job; morn­ing while on grants; but any time at time of in­ter­view while a teacher.
Eliz­a­beth Spencer 1989 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM?–2PM Paris Re­view
Ernest Hem­ing­way 1958 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM–noon Paris Re­view
Eu­dora Welty 1972 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ? Paris Re­view
Er­sk­ine Cald­well 1982 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 6AM11AM, 4PM7PM Paris Re­view
Derek Wal­cott 1986 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM9AM Paris Re­view
Francine du Plessix Gray 1987 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 11AM7PM Paris Re­view
Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez 1981 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM–2:30PM Paris Re­view As a jour­nal­ist, wrote late at night.
Gore Vi­dal 1987 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?AM Paris Re­view For 3 hours in the morn­ing after wak­ing.
Gra­ham Greene 1953 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ?AM Paris Re­view He seems to im­ply reg­u­larly writ­ing in the morn­ing after reread­ing pre­vi­ous day’s work.
Gün­ter Grass 1991 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 10AM?PM, ?PM7PM Paris Re­view Break for coffee.
Guy Dav­en­port 2002 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
Gustaw Her­ling 2000 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view As de­scribed by PR: “Most morn­ings..Her­ling rose…and went to his desk to con­tinue”
Ha Jin 2009 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 7AM?PM Paris Re­view Short break for break­fast, then writ­ing un­til “late after­noon”
Harry Math­ews 2007 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 11AM?PM Paris Re­view Pre­vi­ous­ly, be­gan at 9AM.
Haruki Mu­rakami 2004 Fic­tion Morn­ing 4AM10AM Paris Re­view
Hein­rich Böll 1983 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM–12:30PM, ?PM?PM Paris Re­view
Henry Green 1958 Fic­tion Evening ? Paris Re­view As sum­ma­rized by Paris Re­view, based in part on Green’s mem­oir.
Henry Miller 1962 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view Miller also men­tions writ­ing mid­night–­dawn, or morn­ing–after­noon, when he was younger (pre-1950s).
Hi­lary Man­tel 2015 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Ian McE­wan 2002 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9:30AM–? Paris Re­view
Isaac Ba­she­vis Singer 1968 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? Paris Re­view
Italo Calvino 1992 Fic­tion After­noon ? Paris Re­view
Is­mail Kadare 1998 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view Only 2 hours.
James Bald­win 1984 Fic­tion Evening 12AM?–6AM Paris Re­view
William Sty­ron 1984 Fic­tion Morn­ing? 6AM–? Paris Re­view As de­scribed by James Bald­win while stay­ing at Sty­ron’s guest house, both start­ing/end­ing at dawn.
Jack Ker­ouac 1968 Fic­tion Evening 12AM6AM Paris Re­view “mid­night till dawn”
James Jones 1958 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8:30AM–2:30PM Paris Re­view Up at 7, fid­dles ~1.5 hours, writes ~6 hours.
Fred­er­ick Sei­del 2009 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view “…quite early in the morn­ing and work through­out the day with oc­ca­sional in­ter­rup­tions. And again at night”
Javier Marías 2006 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
Ge­offrey Hill 2000 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
Sam Shep­ard 1997 Fic­tion Morn­ing 7AM?–noon Paris Re­view
Jeffrey Eu­genides 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 10AM6PM? Paris Re­view
Jerzy Kosiński 1972 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view Kosiński slept bipha­si­cal­ly, but em­pha­sizes writ­ing at any time.
J. G. Bal­lard 1984 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?AM, ?PM?PM Paris Re­view 2 hours in late morn­ing, 2 early after­noon.
Ish­mael Reed 2016 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–? Paris Re­view
Joan Did­ion 1978 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion After­noon? ? Paris Re­view Did­ion em­pha­sizes need­ing to re­view what she wrote “an hour alone be­fore din­ner”
Jim Har­ri­son 1988 Fic­tion After­noon, evening 2PM4PM, 11PM1AM Paris Re­view
Ten­nessee Williams 1981 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM?AM Paris Re­view ‘dawn’/‘day­break’, stop­ping ap­par­ently be­fore lunch.
John Barth 1985 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM–noon Paris Re­view
John Dos Pas­sos 1969 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM?–1PM Paris Re­view Dos Pas­sos says he can’t sleep past 7AM and de­scribes get­ting up “early in the morn­ing” to fin­ish by 1PM, sug­gest­ing be­fore 7AM.
Arthur Miller 1999 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–? __­Paris Re­view_
Jack Gilbert 2005 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
John Edgar Wide­man 2002 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?AM Paris Re­view 4–5 hours, start­ing from “early morn­ing”
Tom Stop­pard 1988 Fic­tion Evening 11PM?–? Paris Re­view Stop­pard writes “when every­body has gone to bed and I feel com­pletely at peace”
Sin­clair Lewis 1986 Fic­tion Evening ?AM?AM Paris Re­view As de­scribed by his for­mer as­sis­tant, John Hersey: he would “get up in the mid­dle of the night, cook up some coffee, and work for two or three hours”
John Mor­timer 1988 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM Paris Re­view
John le Carré 1997 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM–noon Paris Re­view
John Up­dike 1968 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM Paris Re­view
Jonathan Lethem 2003 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM Paris Re­view
Joseph Heller 1974 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Paris Re­view
Joyce Carol Oates 1978 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–noon? Paris Re­view Oates writes be­fore break­fast, and on good days, eats only at 2–3PM
José Sara­m­ago 1998 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ? Paris Re­view Sara­m­ago de­scribes him­self as “very reg­u­lar…very dis­ci­plined” and men­tions writ­ing 2 pages that morn­ing and im­ply­ing an­other 2 “to­mor­row”
Pe­ter Mor­gan 2019 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM?AM New York Times
Bren­dan Be­han ? Fic­tion Morn­ing 7AM–noon Wikipedia
J. P. Don­leavy 1975 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM?–4PM? Paris Re­view
Ju­lian Barnes 2000 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10AM1PM Paris Re­view
J. H. Prynne 2016 Fic­tion Evening ?PM?AM Paris Re­view
Kather­ine Anne Porter 1963 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?AM Paris Re­view Porter tries to start work­ing when she gets up “very early in the morn­ing” and works 3–5 hours.
Ken­z­aburo Oe 2007 Fic­tion Morn­ing 7AM11AM Paris Re­view
Ken Ke­sey 1994 Fic­tion Evening ? Paris Re­view
John Ash­bery 1983 Fic­tion After­noon ?PM?PM Paris Re­view “late after­noon”
Kings­ley Amis 1975 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10:30AM–2:15PM Paris Re­view
John Hall Whee­lock 1976 Fic­tion Evening ?PM?PM Paris Re­view
An­thony Trol­lope 1883 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5:30AM–8:30AM Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy
Louis Auch­in­closs 1994 Fic­tion Evening ?PM Paris Re­view Auch­in­closs qual­i­fies this by not­ing he wrote dur­ing work and week­ends as well.
Louis Be­g­ley 2002 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening? ? Paris Re­view Based on movies & after­noon naps in­ter­rupt­ing writ­ing.
Luisa Valen­zuela 2002 Fic­tion Evening ? Paris Re­view
Karl Shapiro 1986 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ? Paris Re­view While writ­ing his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, oth­er­wise, any time.
Kay Ryan 2008 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 7AM?–1PM? Paris Re­view
Manuel Puig 1989 Fic­tion After­noon–evening 4PM8PM Paris Re­view
Mar­guerite Young 1977 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM5PM Paris Re­view Dur­ing the writ­ing of her ma­jor nov­el, Miss Mac­In­tosh, My Dar­ling
Mar­garet Drab­ble 1978 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9:45AM–noon Paris Re­view
Mar­i­lynne Robin­son 2008 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
Mark Hel­prin 1993 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing 5:30AM9AM Paris Re­view
Mario Var­gas Llosa 1990 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?AM Paris Re­view
Mar­tin Amis 1998 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 11AM1PM Paris Re­view
Mary Mc­Carthy 1962 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM2PM Paris Re­view
Mary Lee Set­tle 1990 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM?–7AM? Paris Re­view Set­tle rises with the sun and writes for an hour.
May Sar­ton 1983 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM?–11PM Paris Re­view Sar­ton wakes at 5AM but lis­tens to mu­sic or writes let­ters to get start­ed, writes for 2–3 hours, and fin­ishes at 11AM.
Mavis Gal­lant 1999 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Oc­tavio Paz 1991 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ? Paris Re­view Paz orig­i­nally wrote any­time or often late at night, but by ’91 had shifted to “late morn­ing and into the after­noon”.
Maya An­gelou 1990 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 6:30AM–1:30PM Paris Re­view
Pablo Neruda 1971 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Na­dine Gordimer 1983 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM?–noon? Paris Re­view Gordimer writes in the morn­ing but for 4 hours after break­fast, im­ply­ing start­ing ~7–8AM to fin­ish while still ‘morn­ing’.
Paul Mul­doon 2004 Fic­tion After­noon noon?–?PM Paris Re­view
Jerry Saltz 2018 Non­fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?PM Long­form pod­cast
Nathalie Sar­raute 1990 Fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
Naguib Mah­fouz 1992 Fic­tion After­noon–evening 4PM7PM Paris Re­view
Pe­ter Levi 1979 Fic­tion Any? ? Paris Re­view
Mary Oliver 2006 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM9AM? Paris Re­view
Philip Larkin 1982 Fic­tion Evening 8–10PM Paris Re­view
Nor­man Mailer 1964 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10AM–12:30PM, 2:30PM–4:30PM Paris Re­view
Orhan Pa­muk 2005 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? ? Paris Re­view
Nor­man Rush 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM?PM Paris Re­view
Patrick O’Brian 1995 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9AM?–noon, 3:30PM?–5PM? Paris Re­view After break­fast, then “after tea I go on un­til about din­ner­time”
Paula Fox 2004 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9:30AM–1:30PM Paris Re­view
P. D. James 1995 Fic­tion Morn­ing 8AM?–noon Paris Re­view
Pene­lope Lively 2018 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 9:30AM5PM Paris Re­view
Robert Pin­sky 1997 Fic­tion Any ? Paris Re­view
Pe­ter Tay­lor 1987 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM?–2PM Paris Re­view
P. G. Wode­house 1975 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 8AM?–7PM Paris Re­view
Philip Roth 1984 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Paris Re­view
Ray Brad­bury 2010 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Paris Re­view Brad­bury men­tions a bipha­sic sleep sched­ule.
Ray­mond Carver 1983 Fic­tion Morn­ing?–evening? ?AM?PM Paris Re­view Carver writes up to 15 hours at a stint, cy­cling through days.
Reynolds Price 1991 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 9AM?PM Paris Re­view Price al­ways be­gins in the morn­ing but says when be­gin­ning, “more or less all day and some­times at night”
Richard Pow­ers 2002 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 6AM?–5PM Paris Re­view “sunup to sun­down”
Richard Price 1996 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10AM4PM Paris Re­view
Roberto Calasso 2012 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM–3:30PM Paris Re­view
W. D. Snod­grass 1994 Fic­tion Morn­ing 5AM7AM Paris Re­view
T. S. Eliot 1959 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 10AM1PM Paris Re­view Eliot caveats that a sched­ule is kept only for his plays or ‘oc­ca­sional verse’ and his ma­jor po­ems like the Quar­tets were not writ­ten on a sched­ule.
Robert Stone 1985 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? ?AM?PM Paris Re­view
Rus­sell Banks 1998 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 8AM?–1PM Paris Re­view While with kids, 10PM2AM; es­ti­mate based on “4–5 hours” stop­ping at “one o’­clock”
Salman Rushdie 2005 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ?AM?AM Paris Re­view Rushdie starts im­me­di­ately on wak­ing and de­scribes a few hours of writ­ing and a “few hun­dred words”, so prob­a­bly does­n’t go into the after­noon.
Samuel R. De­lany 2011 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon 5AM5PM Paris Re­view
Shirley Haz­zard 2005 Fic­tion Morn­ing, evening ? Paris Re­view “mostly early morn­ing and then late in the day”
Shelby Foote 1999 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing ? Paris Re­view
T. Cor­aghes­san Boyle 2000 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? ? Paris Re­view
Tahar Ben Jel­loun 1999 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Paris Re­view
John Cheever 2004 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?8AM–noon, 1PM?–5PM? Paris Re­view To­bias Wolff de­scribes Cheever as im­i­tat­ing banker hours
To­bias Wolff 2004 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ? Paris Re­view Wolff sug­gests it’s some­what like Cheev­er’s.
Thomas McGuane 1985 Fic­tion After­noon ?PM?PM Paris Re­view
Tom Wolfe 1991 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Paris Re­view
Vladimir Nabokov 1967 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon? ?AM?PM Paris Re­view As sum­ma­rized by in­ter­view­er.
Wal­lace Steg­ner 1990 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6AM?–noon Paris Re­view As sum­ma­rized by in­ter­view­er, start­ing “be­fore first light”.
William F. Buck­ley Jr. 1996 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Evening 4:45PM–7:15PM Paris Re­view
William Faulkner 1956 Fic­tion Morn­ing? ? Paris Re­view Some­what in­ferred from Faulkn­er’s de­scrip­tion of the ideal writ­ing en­vi­ron­ment (a broth­el) and pat­tern­ing him­self after Sher­wood An­der­son.
Sher­wood An­der­son 1956 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–noon Paris Re­view As de­scribed by Faulkner in Paris Re­view.
William Gass 1977 Fic­tion Morn­ing 9:30AM–afternoon Paris Re­view
William S. Bur­roughs 1965 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening 9AM7PM Paris Re­view
William Maxwell 1982 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM–12:30PM Paris Re­view
Wright Mor­ris 1991 Fic­tion Morn­ing–after­noon ?AM?PM Paris Re­view
William Trevor 1989 Fic­tion Morn­ing 6:40AM–noon Paris Re­view Trevor notes he used to work from 4:30AM to “break­fast time”.
William Sty­ron 1954 Fic­tion After­noon ?PM?PM Paris Re­view
Zoey El­lis 2020 Fic­tion Morn­ing 4AM?AM NYT
Jack Lon­don 1903 Fic­tion+non­fic­tion Morn­ing? ?AM?AM Es­say Im­plies he wrote in the morn­ing, and re­ported word­count would­n’t ex­tent to after­noon/evening.
Astrid Lind­gren 2020? Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM–noon? Offi­cial web­site Fin­ished writ­ing “be­fore lunch” due to job.
Joseph Con­rad 1898 Fic­tion Morn­ing–evening ?AM?PM Let­ter 8 hours, but he wrote lit­tle & Boice 1997 de­scribes it as mostly in the evening.
Su­sanna Clarke 2020 Fic­tion Morn­ing ?AM?AM New Yorker A “few hours” early in the morn­ing, done “by the after­noon”
Kevin Kelly 2017 Non­fic­tion Evening ? Blog in­ter­view
Ed­widge Dan­ti­cat 2020 Fic­tion Evening ? Pod­cast in­ter­view


Ad­di­tional anec­dotes of writ­ers’ pre­ferred time I’ve col­lect­ed:

  • (2014 in­ter­view): morn­ing+evening

    I would, for a four-week pe­ri­od, ruth­lessly clear my di­ary and go on what we some­what mys­te­ri­ously called a “Crash”. Dur­ing the Crash, I would do noth­ing but write from 9AM to 10:30PM, Mon­day through Sat­ur­day. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for din­ner.

    The Paris Re­view (The Art of Fic­tion No. 196, 2008) out­lines non-crash writ­ing:

    I usu­ally write from ten o’­clock in the morn­ing un­til about six o’­clock. I try not to at­tend to e-mails or tele­phone calls un­til about four o’­clock.

  • (pro­file): morn­ing (>4AM–noon)

    Mr. Brown, 53, spent four years writ­ing and re­search­ing the book. He is noth­ing if not dis­ci­plined. He rises at 4AM each day and pre­pares a smoothie com­pris­ing “blue­ber­ries, spinach, ba­nana, co­conut wa­ter, chia seeds, hemp seeds and … what’s the other kind of seed?” he asked. “Flax seeds, and this sort of weird pro­tein pow­der made out of peas.” He also makes so-called bul­let­proof coffee, with but­ter and co­conut oil, which he says changes “the way your brain processes the caffeine” so as to sharpen your mind. His com­puter is pro­grammed to freeze for 60 sec­onds each hour, dur­ing which time Mr. Brown per­forms push-ups, situps and any­thing else he needs to do. Though he stops writ­ing at noon, it’s hard for him to get the sto­ries out of his head. “It’s mad­ness,” he said of his char­ac­ters. “They talk to you all day.”

  • (pro­file): late morn­ing–early after­noon (10AM1PM)

    Every day from roughly 10 un­til 1, Pull­man sits at his desk in a monk­ish study at the top of the house and pro­duces three pages, long­hand. He has writ­ten three pages a day ever since he started writ­ing. Habit, he is fond of say­ing, has writ­ten far more books than tal­ent. The rit­ual is sa­cred. As is the space. “No­body’s pho­tographed this, and no­body will ever pho­to­graph this,” he told me, both fierce and faintly amused by the sever­ity of his own rule. “I’m su­per­sti­tious about that, very su­per­sti­tious about that.”…For a man whose nov­els are rest­less, whose char­ac­ters never stop trav­el­ing, Pull­man leads a rel­a­tively sta­tic life. After the morn­ing shift at his desk, he spends his after­noons ei­ther tend­ing to the 800-odd trees he and Ju­dith have planted in the fields be­hind their house or in his car­pen­try work­shop, where he makes things like read­ing stands and chop­sticks. Oc­ca­sion­al­ly, he dri­ves an el­derly woman in the vil­lage to the li­brary, and he goes to the cin­ema once a week with his pub­lisher and close friend David Fick­ling and their wives. “I have the com­pany of the peo­ple I’m writ­ing about,” Pull­man told me. “Jude and I are quite happy here with our her­mit-like ex­is­tence.”

  • (Play­boy In­ter­views II, De­cem­ber 1964 in­ter­view; pg56–57): morn­ing+evening (10AM–noon, 6–7PM)

    Play­boy: “Do you spend most of your time there at the type­writer?”

    Ian Flem­ing: “By no means. I get up with the birds, which is about half-past 7, be­cause they wake one up, and then I go and bathe in the ocean be­fore break­fast. We don’t have to wear a swim­suit there, be­cause it’s so pri­vate; my wife and I bathe and swim a hun­dred yards or so and come back and have a mar­velous proper break­fast with some splen­did scram­bled eggs made by my house­keep­er, who’s par­tic­u­larly good at them, and then I sit out in the gar­den to get a sun­burn un­til about 10. Only then do I set to work. I sit in my bed­room and type about fifteen hun­dred words straight­away, with­out look­ing back on what I wrote the day be­fore. I have more or less thought out what I’m go­ing to write, and, in any case, even if I make a lot of mis­takes, I think, well, hell, when the book’s fin­ished I can change it all. I think the main thing is to write fast and cur­sively in or­der to get nar­ra­tive speed.”

    “Then, about quar­ter-past 12, I chuck that and go down, with a snorkel and a spear, around the reefs look­ing for lob­sters or what­ever there may be, some­times find them, some­times don’t, and then I come back, I have a cou­ple of pink gins, and we have a very good lunch, or­di­nary Ja­maican food, and I have a siesta from about half-past 2 un­til 4. Then I sit again in the gar­den for about an hour or so, have an­other swim, and then I spend from 6 to 7—the dusk comes very sud­denly in Ja­maica; at 6 o’­clock it sud­denly gets very dark­—­do­ing an­other five hun­dred words. I then num­ber the pages, of which by that time there are about sev­en, put them away 1n a fold­er, and have a cou­ple of pow­er­ful drinks, then din­ner, oc­ca­sion­ally a game of Scrab­ble with my wife—at which she thinks she is very much bet­ter than I am, but I know I’m the best—and straight off to bed and into a dead sleep.”

    Play­boy: “And you re­turn to Eng­land in March with a com­pleted man­u­script?”

    Ian Flem­ing: “Ex­cept for mi­nor re­vi­sions, yes.”

  • Joseph Camp­bell (quoted from The Hero’s Jour­ney: Joseph Camp­bell on His Life and Work): re­searched/s­tud­ied in mul­ti­ple blocks morn­ing-evening

    So dur­ing the years of the De­pres­sion I had arranged a sched­ule for my­self. When you don’t have a job or any­one to tell you what to do, you’ve got to fix one for your­self. I di­vided the day into 4 four-hour pe­ri­ods, of which I would be read­ing in three of the four-hour pe­ri­ods, and free one of them. By get­ting up a 8 o’­clock in the morn­ing, by 9 I could sit down to read. That meant that I used the first hour to pre­pare my own break­fast and take care of the house and put things to­gether in what­ever shack I hap­pened to be liv­ing in at the time. Then three hours of that first four-hour pe­riod went to read­ing. Then came an hour break for lunch and an­other three­-hour unit. And then comes the op­tional next sec­tion. It should nor­mally be three hours of read­ing and then an hour out for din­ner and then three hours free and an hour get­ting to bed so I’m in bed by 12. On the other hand, if I were in­vited out for cock­tails or some­thing like that, then I would put the work hour in the evening and the play hour in the after­noon. It worked very well. I would get nine hours of sheer read­ing done in a day. And this went on for five years straight. You get a lot done in that time.

  • (based on Charles Dick­ens: A Life, Toma­lin 2011, cited by Mc­Crum): morn­ing–after­noon (9AM2PM)

    But then, as you go deeper into Toma­l­in, you dis­cover that Dick­ens, in his prime, used to com­press his lit­er­ary en­er­gies into five hours, roughly 9am to 2pm, after which he would walk in­ces­sant­ly, and put his mind into neu­tral. He might re­turn to what he’d writ­ten in the morn­ing later in the evening, but those five hours held the key to his out­put.

  • (M­c­Crum): after­noon-late evening (?-3AM)

    Robert Frost, whose re­mote Ver­mont cabin I vis­ited re­cently in com­pany with his bi­og­ra­pher Jay Parini, never started work till the after­noon, and often stayed up till two or three in the morn­ing, not ris­ing un­til mid­day, or even lat­er.

  • (as cited to The Last Lion, Man­ches­ter): morn­ing+late evening (~11AM–1:15PM, 11PM2AM)

    Once all the news­pa­pers have been pe­rused, it’s time to an­swer the enor­mous amount of mail Churchill re­ceives each day. A sec­re­tary stands by as Churchill dic­tates (his pre­ferred method of “writ­ing”) cor­re­spon­dence to pri­vate cit­i­zens and gov­ern­ment offi­cials. Once the mail is fin­ished, it’s time to dic­tate mem­o­randa and greet any vis­i­tors who have stopped by Chartwell. “He will re­ceive any­one ex­cept the King in his bed­cham­ber,” and vis­i­tors are often tick­led by the im­age which greets them; Vice Ad­mi­ral Sir Dou­glas Brown­rigg said he pre­sented “a most ex­tra­or­di­nary spec­ta­cle, perched up in a huge bed, with the whole of the coun­ter­pane lit­tered with dis­patch box­es, red and all colours, and a stenog­ra­pher sit­ting at the foot—Mr. Churchill him­self with an enor­mous Corona in his mouth.” Churchill’s next task is to look through gal­ley proofs of the lat­est book he’s work­ing on, and ask his chief re­searcher to check and ver­ify cer­tain de­tails. At this point, he often be­gins to work on his speech­es. He paces the room, is­su­ing phrase after phrase at a speed his sec­re­taries have trou­ble keep­ing up with. Churchill, one of them re­calls, would be “dash­ing around in shorts and un­der­shirt and a bright red cum­mer­bund while I trot­ted be­hind him from room to room with a pad and pen­cil strug­gling to keep pace with the tor­ren­tial flow of words.” This flow of mas­ter­ful or­a­tory in­creases as the word­smith warms up and finds his groove; “By noon the ca­dences of his prose have be­gun to trot; by 1:00PM they are gal­lop­ing.” Lunch is at 1:15, so Churchill sets aside busi­ness and gets dressed to the nines (hence the afore­men­tioned cum­mer­bund)…Churchill be­lieves his after­noon naps help him be much more pro­duc­tive. He has found that he can only pro­duce good writ­ing for a few hours at a stretch, be­fore his brain gets tired and the qual­ity di­min­ish­es. So by break­ing up his sched­ule with a nap, he is able to have two cre­ative work­ing pe­ri­ods each day—one in the morn­ing and one late at night—while also hav­ing time for so­cial­iz­ing and duck feed­ing…The guests have gone home or re­tired to their bed­rooms to stay over, Churchill be­gins his sec­ond work­ing shift of the day. It’s 11:00 PM, and most of his fel­low Eng­lish­men are sleep­ing, but Churchill is rear­ing to go. He slips into some­thing more com­fort­able and asks his aides to join him in the li­brary:

    His ap­pear­ance her­alded by the harff, harff of his slip­pers, he en­ters the room in his scar­let, green, and gold dress­ing gown, the cords trail­ing be­hind him. Be­fore greet­ing his re­searcher and the two sec­re­taries on duty tonight, he must read the man­u­script he dic­tated the pre­vi­ous evening and then re­vise the lat­est gal­leys, which ar­rived a few hours ear­lier from Lon­don. Since Churchill’s squig­gled red changes ex­ceed the copy set—the proofs look as though sev­eral spi­ders stained in crim­son ink wan­dered across the pages—his print­ers’ bills are shock­ing. But the ex­pense is off­set by his ex­tra­or­di­nary flu­en­cy. Be­fore the night is out, he will have dic­tated be­tween four thou­sand and five thou­sand words. On week­ends he may ex­ceed ten thou­sand words.

    Churchill’s night usu­ally ends around 2 am, but when there is ex­tra work to be done, he may not re­tire un­til 3 or 4.

  • (1969-02-03 in­ter­view with Willis Mc­Nelly): morn­ing+evening (5PM1AM and 5AM7AM)

    Willis Mc­Nelly: “What is your writ­ing sched­ule?”

    Frank Her­bert: “Well, it varies…de­pends on what I’m do­ing…writ­ing for the mag­a­zine…but as a gen­eral rule it goes like this: I’ll get home some­where around 5 o’­clock when Bev is here, when she’s not work­ing as she has been the last cou­ple of weeks. She’ll have din­ner ready at that time or very close to that time. I’ll then take an hour’s nap and then work some­times un­til 1 o’­clock in the morn­ing. Then I hit the sack and get up and some­times if a story is strong in me I get up in the morn­ing and write…get up at 5 o’­clock in the morn­ing or so and write for an hour or two some­times be­fore go­ing down to San Fran­cis­co.”

    WM: “Yes.”

    FH: “And this is the thing I want to get out of be­cause I can write 8 hours a day in 2 bursts and I don’t see any rea­son why I should­n’t be do­ing what I wan­t…writ­ing what I want to write dur­ing those times. I don’t en­vi­sion sup­port­ing my­self en­tirely by sci­ence fic­tion writ­ing in the sense of writ­ing only sci­ence fic­tion, be­cause I have other axes to grind, too.”

  • (M­c­Nelly in­ter­view with Frank Her­bert): after­noon (12:30PM5PM)

    Willis Mc­Nelly: “It’s in­ter­est­ing…Harry Har­ri­son de­scribes the writ­ing process with him rather well in a tape I made with him a few months ago. He is ab­solutely un­in­ter­rupt­ible from, say, 12:30 in the after­noon ’til 5:00 at night, be­cause the ideas as they form in his mind sort of be­comes ex­ten­sions of his [cough] ex­cuse me, fin­gers in his type­writer and that they are up here and that …that any in­ter­rup­tion, whether it be a tele­phone ring­ing or his wife knock­ing at the door or any­thing at all is li­able to shat­ter that idea as it trans­forms it­self into pa­per.”

  • (FAQ): after­noon+late evening (noon–5PM, 8PM3AM)

    When I was in col­lege, I got a job work­ing the grave­yard shift at a hotel, which was great for my writ­ing be­cause I was there most week­nights from 11 pm un­til 7 am, and the only re­quire­ments that they put me to were, “Just don’t fall asleep. Do what­ever you want, just don’t fall asleep. We need you awake in case there’s an emer­gency or if any­one comes in.” I ended up spend­ing a lot of my time work­ing on nov­els dur­ing those early morn­ing hours, and that’s how I was able to pay for school, at­tend it ful­l-time, and still have time for writ­ing. I still do most of my writ­ing in the mid­dle of the night…

    2012 chat in­ter­view:

    Sander­son works best at night. “I get up about noon,” he says, “write un­til five, and then spend a few hours with the fam­ily be­fore start­ing work again about eight o’­clock and then I write un­til the early morn­ing hours. I often don’t get to bed be­fore three am.” He did try get­ting up at what most peo­ple would con­sider to be a more nor­mal hour, but after a few weeks his wife ca­pit­u­lat­ed, say­ing, “This rou­tine is mak­ing you mis­er­able. Go back to be­ing a night owl!”

    2013 Goodreads in­ter­view:

    BS: “I work un­til about 4 a.m., and then I don’t wake up un­til noon. The job I do lets me have the weird­est sleep sched­ule ever, be­cause some­times I sleep for like three hours, and then I get up and work and go back to bed. An av­er­age day for me is two four-to-six-hour writ­ing blocks dur­ing this time. In each, I try to write at least 1,500 words, and I am some­what goal based. I have a tread desk that I walk on while I type a lot of the time. It’s not like I am get­ting any real ex­er­cise be­cause it’s mov­ing like one mile per hour, but it is good for just mov­ing and not just sit­ting there. I write in my bed­room. I have an easy chair that I also sit in.”

    “I get done at about 5:30, and I go out and play with my kids and hang out with my fam­ily and do all the stuff that dads and hus­bands do, then I put my kids to bed, hang out with my wife for a bit, then usu­ally go back to work at about 9 or 10 and get my sec­ond block.”

  • , in writ­ing pre­ferred evenings, start­ing at 11PM, or even lat­er, as de­scribed by Lewis Galan­tière in 1947

    Sain­t-Ex­upéry wrote beau­ti­ful­ly, but at the price of great effort. He went out rarely, but he had friends in al­most every day to lunch and din­ner. In the evening, when his friends had gone, he would brew him­self a great pot of coffee and sit down to work at his din­ing ta­ble (his desk served merely as a catchall in which his check­book could never be found). Now and then he would write in an al­l-night restau­rant, where, hav­ing eaten a dish of raw chopped beef drowned in olive oil and crusted with pep­per, be was likely to scrib­ble from 2 in the morn­ing un­til dawn. When be had writ­ten him­self stiff, be would stretch out at home on a sofa un­der a lamp, take up the mouth­piece of a dic­ta­phone, and record his copy, re­vis­ing as he went along. Then, to­wards 7 or 8 o’­clock in the morn­ing, he would go to bed. The sec­re­tary would come in at 9 and type while be slept. Often, when friends ar­rived for lunch at 1 o’­clock, they would ring and pound for 20 min­utes be­fore he woke up and let them in.

  • is de­scribed as a night owl (eg col­lab­o­ra­tors in­ter­viewed in Con­ver­sa­tions With the Dream King de­scribe him as phon­ing them usu­ally late at night or as a ‘vam­pire’)

  • Don­ald Hall

    Back then, I wrote all day, get­ting up at five. By this time, I rise scratchy at six or twitch in bed un­til sev­en. I drink coffee be­fore I pick up a pen. I look through the news­pa­per. I try to write all morn­ing, but ex­haus­tion shuts me down by ten o’­clock.

  • : Car­rol­l’s bi­og­ra­phy in­cludes a sup­posed daily sched­ule where Thomp­son starts writ­ing at mid­night un­til 6AM (but the sched­ule is so clearly ex­ag­ger­ated & hu­mor­ous in the level of drug use claimed that I don’t know how se­ri­ously to take any of it); one of his ed­i­tors, Terry Mc­Don­nell says “When he got you on the phone in the mid­dle of the night to lis­ten to some­one in his kitchen read to you what he had just writ­ten, all you could say was that it sounded good and that he should send it to you”; a col­lec­tion of let­ters in­cludes him telling a land­lady to put down car­pets so his typ­ing late at night won’t keep her up; his Paris Re­view in­ter­viewer de­scribes him as keep­ing late hours on “Owl Farm” and the in­ter­view went into the night, where he de­scribes his first writ­ing job as hav­ing the ad­van­tage of let­ting him write en­tirely at night. All to­geth­er, there’s no doubt Thomp­son pre­ferred late night, and midnight–6AM specifi­cally does seem plau­si­ble.

  • (2018 round­table): “The au­thor does not have any spe­cial rou­tine for writ­ing, he just likes to start work­ing early in the morn­ing.”

    From The Art of Fic­tion No. 206, 2010:

    INTERVIEWER: “What is your writ­ing sched­ule now?”

    HOUELLEBECQ: “I wake up dur­ing the night around one a.m. I write half-awake in a semi­-con­scious state. Pro­gres­sive­ly, as I drink coffee, I be­come more con­scious. And I write un­til I’m sick of it.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have other re­quire­ments for writ­ing?”

    HOUELLEBECQ: “Flaubert said you had to have a per­ma­nent erec­tion. I haven’t found that to be the case. I need to take a walk now and then. Oth­er­wise, in terms of di­etary re­quire­ments, coffee works, it’s true. It takes you through all the differ­ent stages of con­scious­ness. You start out semi­-co­matose. You write. You drink more coffee and your lu­cid­ity in­creas­es, and it’s in that in­-be­tween pe­ri­od, which can last for hours, that some­thing in­ter­est­ing hap­pens.”

  • , 1988 in­ter­view (ideal daily sched­ule pre­sented as a bul­leted list)

  • , “The Wolfe & Gaiman Show” (Sep­tem­ber 2002 in­ter­view in Lo­cus #500):

    Gene Wolfe: “…We sold the house in Ohio and I be­came a staff mem­ber [tech­ni­cal ed­i­tor] on Plant En­gi­neer [magazine]. What I did mostly was get up early in the morn­ing and write for one to two hours. One of the good things about work­ing for this mag­a­zine was that in ten min­utes I could get from my front door to my desk, which gave me more writ­ing time. I often wake up dur­ing the night, and I had rule that if it was after 4 a.m. I got up for the day, and I would write un­til Rose­mary had break­fast ready. Then of course I wrote on Sat­ur­days and Sun­days as every­body does, and the hol­i­days.”

    Neil Gaiman: “Was there a big change when you re­tired and be­came a ful­l-time writer?”

    Gene Wolfe: “Yes and no. I had writ­ten on va­ca­tion, and this was like I was on va­ca­tion all the time. All I had to do was write. It was re­ally neat. This was cruel of me, but I would set the clock ra­dio to a sta­tion that gave traffic re­ports for com­muters. They would be say­ing, ‘Oh, the Kennedy is wal­l-to-wall to­day. It’s an hour and a half from over here to the Loop,’ and I would get up and yawn and stretch and say, ‘I don’t have to be down there.’ So I’d brush my teeth, start the coffee, and go over to the desk and write.”

  • Max Lu­ga­vere (2019 pro­file):

    I’m up some­where be­tween 7 and 8. I don’t use an alarm clock. I go straight into the kitchen and drink a tall glass of room-tem­per­a­ture wa­ter…I’ll grab a cup of coffee that I’ve cold-brewed overnight and park my­self in front of the com­puter to read the lat­est health re­lated news. My go-to sites are Eu­rekAlert!, Twit­ter, Sci­ence Daily and The New York Times. I also come up with a new post for my In­sta­gram. I do one post a day and try to make it as in­ter­est­ing as pos­si­ble…I spend a good two hours work­ing on my book. It’s all about how to live your best life and avoid cog­ni­tive de­cline through your diet and lifestyle…Ben and An­drew usu­ally head to bed around mid­night. I may do a lit­tle more writ­ing and go to sleep my­self.

  • (The Name and Na­ture of Po­etry, 1933):

    I know how this stuff came into ex­is­tence; and though I have no right to as­sume that any other po­etry came into ex­is­tence in the same way, yet I find rea­son to be­lieve that some po­et­ry, and quite good po­et­ry, did. Wordsworth for in­stance says that po­etry is the spon­ta­neous over­flow of pow­er­ful feel­ings, and Burns has left us this con­fes­sion, “I have two or three times in my life com­posed from the wish rather than the im­pulse, but I never suc­ceeded to any pur­pose”. In short I think that the pro­duc­tion of po­et­ry, in its first stage, is less an ac­tive than a pas­sive and in­vol­un­tary process; and if I were oblig­ed, not to de­fine po­et­ry, but to name the class of things to which it be­longs, I should call it a se­cre­tion; whether a nat­ural se­cre­tion, like tur­pen­tine in the fir, or a mor­bid se­cre­tion, like the pearl in the oys­ter.

    …Hav­ing drunk a pint of beer at lun­cheon—beer is a seda­tive to the brain, and my after­noons are the least in­tel­lec­tual por­tion of my life—I would go out for a walk of two or three hours. As I went along, think­ing of noth­ing in par­tic­u­lar, only look­ing at things around me and fol­low­ing the progress of the sea­sons, there would flow into my mind, with sud­den and un­ac­count­able emo­tion, some­times a line or two of verse, some­times a whole stanza at on­ce, ac­com­pa­nied, not pre­ced­ed, by a vague no­tion of the poem which they were des­tined to form part of. Then there would usu­ally be a lull of an hour or so, then per­haps the spring would bub­ble up again.

  • John Peale Bishop (Ghis­elin 1952, The Cre­ative Process: A Sym­po­sium)

    Ghis­elin, in the pref­ace (pg20) of The Cre­ative Process: A Sym­po­sium (which fo­cuses largely but not en­tirely on the arts & fic­tion), com­ment­ing on writ­ing styles, states:

    Prac­ti­cal guid­ance can often be de­duced from the gen­eral prin­ci­ples alone. Most writ­ers find it eas­ier to work in the morn­ing—as one should ex­pect, since then the mind has not been so much in­cited from with­out, fo­cused, and fixed. John Peale Bishop rec­om­mended go­ing as soon as pos­si­ble from sleep to the writ­ing desk. On the other hand, A.E. Hous­man wrote his po­ems mostly in the after­noon. Oth­ers have pre­ferred to do their work at night. How shall we turn such in­for­ma­tion to guid­ance un­less we un­der­stand that the time for work should be that time when the ex­cited mind moves most free of the en­cum­brances of its con­sciously sup­ported or­der? If we can­not be­cause of cir­cum­stances choose the best time, we may be able to help our­selves through re­duc­ing the schematic fix­a­tion that in­ter­feres with pro­duc­tion.

    The de­tail about Hous­man is easy to at­tribute to Ghis­elin’s se­lec­tion in the vol­ume of The Name and Na­ture of Po­etry, but I have not been able to trace the Bishop state­ment any fur­ther. (While now highly ob­scure, Bishop ex­ten­sively cor­re­sponded or in­ter­acted with ma­jor lit­er­ary fig­ures of his time such as Hem­ing­way or F. Scott Fitzger­ald, mak­ing it hard to sort through all the hits for his name, and uses of key­words like ‘sleep’ or ‘writ­ing desk’ have not suc­ceed­ed.)

  • (2019 Glam­our pro­file):

    The au­thor has writ­ten 179 book­s…S­teel re­leases seven new nov­els a year—her lat­est, Bless­ing in Dis­guise, is out this week—and she’s at work on five to six new ti­tles at all times. In 1989 Steel was listed in the Guin­ness Book of World Records for hav­ing a book on the New York Times best-seller list for the most con­sec­u­tive weeks of any au­thor—381, to be ex­act. To pull it off, she works 20 to 22 hours a day. (A few times a mon­th, when she feels the crunch, she spends a full 24 hours at her desk.)

    …S­teel is a crea­ture of habit. She gets to her office—­down the hall from her bed­room—by 8:00 A.M., where she can often be found in her cash­mere night­gown. In the morn­ing she’ll have one piece of toast and an iced de­caf coffee (she gave up ful­l-throated caffeine 25 years ago). As the day wears on, she’ll nib­ble on minia­ture bit­ter­sweet choco­late bars. “Dead or alive, rain or shine, I get to my desk and I do my work. Some­times I’ll fin­ish a book in the morn­ing, and by the end of the day, I’ve started an­other pro­ject,” Steel says.

    She cred­its her bound­less en­ergy for her pro­duc­tiv­i­ty…Her out­put is also the re­sult of a near su­per­hu­man abil­ity to run on lit­tle sleep. “I don’t get to bed un­til I’m so tired I could sleep on the floor. If I have four hours, it’s re­ally a good night for me,” Steel says. She’s al­ways been like this, even as a kid grow­ing up in France. In­stead of play­ing with friends after school, she’d come home, im­me­di­ately de­vour her home­work, then set to work on her own sto­ries. By 19, Steel had writ­ten her first book.

    …Her son told her that he never works past a cer­tain time at the office, a model of that elu­sive work-life bal­ance. Steel balks. “They ex­pect to have a nice time,” she says. “And par­don me, but I think your twen­ties and a good part of your thir­ties are about work­ing hard so that you have a bet­ter qual­ity of life later on. I mean, I never ex­pected that qual­ity of life at 25. I had three jobs at the same time, and after work I wrote. Now it’s a promise that it’s all go­ing to be fun.”

    …When asked if she plans to re­tire, give it all up, shop in Paris, sail in the South of France, even just take a nap—her an­swer is swift and se­ri­ous. “When I was first start­ing out, I had the same agent as Agatha Christie. I was about 19 years old and she was in her nineties. I met her on­ce, and I re­mem­ber she said, ‘I want to die face-first in my type­writer.’ And I feel that way. I mean, I want to go on forever, just writ­ing.”

    2006 in­ter­view with The Age:

    It’s not as if she had noth­ing to do—S­teel be­gan writ­ing her books at night, often mak­ing do with only four hours of sleep, in or­der to be there for her chil­dren dur­ing the day, and she still keeps to the same gru­el­ing sched­ule, ham­mer­ing away at the same 1946 Olympia type­writer she has al­ways used. But writ­ing is­n’t enough any more.

    2017 in­ter­view/pro­file with Van­ity Fair:

    Danielle Steel’s wildly pop­u­lar nov­els have made her a house­hold name, and as the founder of the Nick Traina Foun­da­tion—so called after her late son—the mother of nine is also an ar­dent ad­vo­cate for men­tal-health aware­ness…“On the walls of my office are framed cov­ers of my books and say­ings that I love. One fa­vorite, since I work very late:”What hath night to do with sleep­?""

    De­spite be­ing 71 in 2019, Steel has ap­par­ently kept to her sched­ule. While her claimed work habits have been re­garded skep­ti­cal­ly, she ap­par­ently wrote all those nov­els her­self (un­like other ex­tra­or­di­nar­ily pro­lific au­thors like who lean heav­ily on col­lab­o­ra­tors or ghost-writ­ers & are more like ‘brands’ than au­thors), and in gen­er­al, fits a clas­sic pro­file of “short sleep­ers” (which has been linked to rare ge­netic mu­ta­tion­s): often work­ing mul­ti­ple jobs or en­gaged in many projects si­mul­ta­ne­ously (in Steel’s case, art gal­leries & men­tal health ac­tivism in ad­di­tion to nov­el­-writ­ing), pre­fer­ring (not merely en­dur­ing) half or less nor­mal sleep du­ra­tions and un­able to sleep nor­mal hours with­out it be­ing un­pleas­ant, with short­-sleep­ing pat­terns emerg­ing in child­hood/ado­les­cence. It would be in­ter­est­ing to know if any of her 8 (non-adop­tive) chil­dren or grand­chil­dren keep sim­i­lar hours.

  • (per­sonal web­site, “A day in the life…”)

    • 7 PM: Avoid ring­ing phone which most likely is­n’t for me. Dodge into office to start the real writ­ing time.
    • 7:03 PM: Glare at hubby who has de­cided to sit in my office while he chats on the phone with his moth­er. Why? Hubby grins, and con­tin­ues talk­ing about non­sense and peo­ple I don’t know.
    • 3:30–4 AM: head to bed, won­der­ing where the time went (un­less old­est is still up and de­cides that he needs help plot­ting, or with char­ac­ters, but re­al­ly, at 4 AM my brain is again mush and I can’t pos­tu­late what chro­mo­so­mal dam­age would cause fire-eat­ing, ice drag­ons from Mars).
  • , B.F. Skin­ner: A Life, Bjork 1993, pg216–217:

    On the sur­face, Skin­ner’s later years seemed con­ven­tion­al: He re­tired from Har­vard in 1974 and was pre­sented with a first edi­tion of Thore­au’s Walden…On closer in­spec­tion, how­ev­er, he had con­tin­ued the in­ten­sity of his in­tel­lec­tual life…The cir­ca­dian rhythm of his writ­ing sched­ule did not miss a beat. A timer rang at mid­night sig­nal­ing him to arise, move to his desk, and writ­ing un­til sig­naled to stop at one o’­clock. He re­turned to bed and arose again to the sound of the timer at five o’­clock and com­posed un­til it buzzed two hours lat­er. He write three hours a day, seven days a week, hol­i­days in­clud­ed. As the years passed, these three early morn­ing hours were, as he often said, “the most re­in­forc­ing part of my day.”14 The other twen­ty-one hours were arranged to make the writ­ing time as profitable as pos­si­ble…­Dur­ing the last decade of his life he fre­quently lis­tened to Wag­ner­ian mu­sic, usu­ally in mid-after­noon, re­lax­ing after the rig­ors of early morn­ing writ­ing and think­ing.

    pg21 (shortly be­fore death):

    …To­ward the far end of the study, fac­ing each other on op­po­site walls, are a long wooden writ­ing desk and a bright yel­low sleep­ing cu­bi­cle, com­plete with stereo sys­tem, stor­age com­part­ment for mu­si­cal tapes—e­spe­cially Wag­n­er—and a timer which, with cir­ca­di­an-like rhythm, rang at five o’­clock every morn­ing for over twenty years to bring B. F. Skin­ner to his writ­ing desk, like a monk to his matins. For two hours every morn­ing, un­til the timer rang again at sev­en, one of Amer­i­ca’s most con­tro­ver­sial in­tel­lec­tu­als worked on the pa­pers, ar­ti­cles, and books that would de­fine and de­fend a sci­ence he called the ex­per­i­men­tal analy­sis of be­hav­ior.

  • , NYT pro­file

    At 11ish I write for the next hour. I get cre­ative and prob­lem solve. I make lit­tle videos and songs on Garage­Band. It’s good for your brain. When I moved back to Con­necti­cut, I wrote a lot, and I gained a lot of con­fi­dence in my­self. I learned to sit and be with my­self with­out need­ing dis­trac­tions. That gives me a lot of strength.

  • , “How the Man Be­hind The Crown Made the Monar­chy Rel­e­vant Again: At a time when the British roy­als have never seemed more anachro­nis­tic, Pe­ter Mor­gan has shown view­ers why it is­n’t easy be­ing queen.”, NYT 2019:

    Mor­gan rises early every day and sits down at his desk around 6 a.m. Hours will pass in fruit­ful si­lence. Un­like oth­ers in his line of work, how­ev­er, he is not in­cor­ri­gi­bly soli­tary. Once a week, a team of re­searchers, which dou­bles as a kind of writ­ers’ room, comes over to his house in Cen­tral Lon­don for script meet­ings, based in part on doc­u­ments they’ve dug up per­tain­ing to whichever episode he hap­pens to be work­ing on. These could be any­thing from con­tem­po­rary press clip­pings to tran­scripts of orig­i­nal in­ter­views with those who wit­nessed, or par­tic­i­pated in, the events he is in the process of imag­i­na­tively re­con­struct­ing. “He’s not pre­cious about the ma­te­ri­al,” An­nie Sulzberg­er, the show’s head of re­search (and the sis­ter of The New York Times’ pub­lish­er, A.G. Sulzberg­er), told me. “As a re­searcher, you find a de­tail and you think, Wow, I hope this makes the cut. That does­n’t mean any­thing to him. If some­thing does­n’t move the plot along, or re­veal char­ac­ter, or tell us some­thing rel­e­vant about Britain at the time, it does­n’t have a place.” Mor­gan is­n’t pre­cious about the scripts them­selves ei­ther. “If some­thing is­n’t work­ing in re­hearsal he’ll say, ‘Can you hang on a min­ute? Just talk amongst your­selves’”, Col­man told me. “Five min­utes later it’ll be, ‘O.K., try that.’ And sure enough he’s just churned out a bril­liant speech.”

  • , Wikipedia (no clear sources):

    He left Ire­land and all its per­ceived so­cial pres­sures to live in Paris in the early 1950s. There he felt he could lose him­self and re­lease the artist with­in. Al­though he still drank heav­i­ly, he man­aged to earn a liv­ing, sup­pos­edly by writ­ing pornog­ra­phy. By the time he re­turned to Ire­land, he had be­come a writer who drank too much, rather than a drinker who talked about what he was go­ing to write. He had also de­vel­oped the knowl­edge that to suc­ceed, he would have to dis­ci­pline him­self. Through­out the rest of his writ­ing ca­reer, he would rise at seven in the morn­ing and work un­til noon—when the pubs opened.

  • , chap­ter 15, An Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, 1883:

    The work that I did dur­ing the twelve years that I re­mained there, from 1859 to 1871, was cer­tainly very great…I did the work of a sur­veyor of the Gen­eral Post Office, and so did it as to give the au­thor­i­ties of the de­part­ment no slight­est pre­text for fault­-find­ing. I hunted al­ways at least twice a week. I was fre­quent in the whist-room at the Gar­rick. I lived much in so­ci­ety in Lon­don, and was made happy by the pres­ence of many friends at Waltham Cross. In ad­di­tion to this we al­ways spent six weeks at least out of Eng­land. Few men, I think, ever lived a fuller life. And I at­tribute the power of do­ing this al­to­gether to the virtue of early hours. It was my prac­tice to be at my ta­ble every morn­ing at 5.30 A. M.; and it was also my prac­tice to al­low my­self no mer­cy. An old groom, whose busi­ness it was to call me, and to whom I paid £5 a year ex­tra for the du­ty, al­lowed him­self no mer­cy. Dur­ing all those years at Waltham Cross he was never once late with the coffee which it was his duty to bring me…By be­gin­ning at that hour I could com­plete my lit­er­ary work be­fore I dressed for break­fast.

    All those I think who have lived as lit­er­ary men—­work­ing daily as lit­er­ary labour­ers—will agree with me that three hours a day will pro­duce as much as a man ought to write. But then he should so have trained him­self that he shall be able to work con­tin­u­ously dur­ing those three hours—so have tu­tored his mind that it shall not be nec­es­sary for him to sit nib­bling his pen, and gaz­ing at the wall be­fore him, till he shall have found the words with which he wants to ex­press his ideas. It had at this time be­come my cus­tom—and it still is my cus­tom, though of late I have be­come a lit­tle le­nient to my­self—to write with my watch be­fore me, and to re­quire from my­self 250 words every quar­ter of an hour. I have found that the 250 words have been forth­com­ing as reg­u­larly as my watch went. But my three hours were not de­voted en­tirely to writ­ing. I al­ways be­gan my task by read­ing the work of the day be­fore, an op­er­a­tion which would take me half an hour, and which con­sisted chiefly in weigh­ing with my ear the sound of the words and phras­es. I would strongly rec­om­mend this prac­tice to all ty­ros in writ­ing. That their work should be read after it has been writ­ten is a mat­ter of course—that it should be read twice at least be­fore it goes to the print­ers, I take to be a mat­ter of course. But by read­ing what he has last writ­ten, just be­fore he recom­mences his task, the writer will catch the tone and spirit of what he is then say­ing, and will avoid the fault of seem­ing to be un­like him­self. This di­vi­sion of time al­lowed me to pro­duce over ten pages of an or­di­nary novel vol­ume a day, and if kept up through ten months, would have given as its re­sults three nov­els of three vol­umes each in the year—the pre­cise amount which so greatly acer­bated the pub­lisher in Pa­ter­nos­ter Row, and which must at any rate be felt to be quite as much as the nov­el­-read­ers of the world can want from the hands of one man.

    I have never writ­ten three nov­els in a year, but by fol­low­ing the plan above de­scribed I have writ­ten more than as much as three vol­umes; and by ad­her­ing to it over a course of years, I have been en­abled to have al­ways on hand—­for some time back now—one or two or even three un­pub­lished nov­els in my desk be­side me…In 1867 I made up my mind to take a step in life which was not un­at­tended with per­il, which many would call rash, and which, when tak­en, I should be sure at some pe­riod to re­gret. This step was the res­ig­na­tion of my place in the Post Office.

    It is worth not­ing that bi­og­ra­phers of Trol­lope have found that An Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy em­bell­ishes Trol­lope’s life in some cas­es; I won­der if Trol­lope re­ally was as mer­ci­lessly me­thod­i­cal as he de­scribed him­self, or if this is a case like Edgar Allen Poe’s “” de­scrib­ing “” where Poe may have overegged the pud­ding.

  • , “Episode 311: Jerry Saltz”, 2018-09-16

    To this day I wake up early and I have to get to my desk to write al­most im­me­di­ate­ly. I mean fast. Be­fore the demons get me. I got to get writ­ing. And once I’ve writ­ten al­most any­thing, I’ll pretty much write all day, I don’t leave my desk, I have no other life. I’m not part of the world ex­cept when I go to see shows.

  • , de­scrip­tion in The Writer’s Al­manac with Gar­ri­son Keil­lor (dated 2017 but ap­pears ear­lier with­out sourc­ing in the 2006 Keil­lor-edited an­thol­ogy Good Po­ems for Hard Times which were “Cho­sen by Gar­ri­son Keil­lor for his read­ings on pub­lic ra­dio’s The Writer’s Al­manac”—did Oliver give an in­ter­view prior to 2006 or what?)

    Oliver said: “I was very care­ful never to take an in­ter­est­ing job. Not an in­ter­est­ing one. I took lots of jobs. But if you have an in­ter­est­ing job you get in­ter­ested in it. I also be­gan in those years to keep early hours. […] If any­body has a job and starts at 9, there’s no rea­son why they can’t get up at 4:30 or 5 and write for a cou­ple of hours, and give their em­ploy­ers their sec­ond-best effort of the day—which is what I did.”…O­liver said: “I’ve al­ways wanted to write po­ems and noth­ing else. There were times over the years when life was not easy, but if you’re work­ing a few hours a day and you’ve got a good book to read, and you can go out­side to the beach and dig for clams, you’re okay.”

  • Zoey El­lis, pro­file in NYT ar­ti­cle about copy­right dis­pute:

    One day last spring, Ms. El­lis met me for coffee at a ho­tel near Padding­ton Sta­tion. She does­n’t seem like some­one who writes dark, edgy, some­times vi­o­lent erot­i­ca. She’s young, cheer­ful, and works in ed­u­ca­tion in Lon­don, which is one of the rea­sons she de­clines to pub­lish un­der her real name. Most days, she gets up at four in the morn­ing to write, then heads to the school where she works. On her Ama­zon au­thor page, she de­scribes her­self as a “cat mama” who loves “sex­ual ten­sion that jumps off the page.” Ms. El­lis said she got into fan fic­tion in 2006.

  • , 1903 es­say “Get­ting Into Print”:

    Don’t dash off a six-t­hou­sand-word-s­tory be­fore break­fast. Don’t write too much. Con­cen­trate your sweat on one sto­ry, rather than dis­si­pate it over a dozen. Don’t loaf and in­vite in­spi­ra­tion; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonethe­less get some­thing that looks re­mark­ably like it. Set your­self a “stint”, and see that you do that “stint” each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.

    (Lon­don is often cited as hav­ing a rule of 1,000 or 1,500 words a day, but I did­n’t find any di­rect quotes, and most of the ci­ta­tions point to his 1903 es­say which does not in­clude that rule, so the rule may be sim­ply an in­fer­ence from his short but pro­lific ca­reer.)

  • , offi­cial Astrid Lind­gren web­site (2020):

    Many peo­ple have borne wit­ness to Astrid’s enor­mous ca­pac­ity to work. Hav­ing time for a de­mand­ing pub­lish­ing job at the same time as her own writ­ing is un­doubt­edly ad­mirable. In the morn­ings and be­fore lunch, whilst still at home in bed, she wrote, or took down her own books in short­hand. And in the after­noons, after a quick lunch and a fast walk to the office on Teg­nér­gatan, she be­gan her work as ed­i­tor of chil­dren’s books.

  • (1898):

    Boice 1997 uses Con­rad as an ex­am­ple of how nat­ural bing­ing might be worse than reg­u­lar writ­ing, point­ing out Con­rad’s poor health as­cribed to the stress of bing­ing, and that while he at­tempted to keep a sched­ule, by Con­rad’s own ac­count it typ­i­cally failed:

    I sit down re­li­giously every morn­ing, I sit down for eight hours every day—and the sit­ting down is all. In the course of that work­ing day of 8 hours I write 3 sen­tences which I erase be­fore leav­ing the ta­ble in de­spair. There’s not a sin­gle word to send you…­some­times it takes all my res­o­lu­tion and power of self con­trol to re­frain from butting my head against the wall. I want to howl and foam at the mouth but I daren’t do it for fear of wak­ing that baby and alarm­ing my wife. It’s no jok­ing mat­ter. After such crises of de­spair I doze for hours still half con­scious that there is that story I am un­able to write. Then I wake up, try again—and at last go to bed com­pletely done-up. So the days pass and noth­ing is done. At night I sleep. In the morn­ing I get up with the hor­ror of that pow­er­less­ness I must face through a day of vain efforts. 9

    Con­rad would only ac­tu­ally write in the evening. Boice 1997 fur­ther points out that Con­rad’s pa­tron & col­lab­o­ra­tor, the ubiq­ui­tous nov­el­ist , was able to tem­porar­ily en­force a reg­u­lar writ­ing sched­ule, so Con­rad could com­plete & One Day More; when the part­ner­ship fell apart & Con­rad re­turned to his vices, the qual­ity & quan­tity of Con­rad’s fic­tion de­te­ri­o­rated with his health & busi­ness re­la­tion­ships.

  • (2020, New Yorker)

    Often while I spoke to Clarke I could hear Green­land in the back­ground, clink­ing dishes in the kitchen sink. Lat­er, he told me that Clarke gets up much ear­lier than he does, and tries to write for the few hours when her en­ergy is at its peak. By the after­noon, she needs to rest, and even in the morn­ing her abil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in, say, a de­mand­ing con­ver­sa­tion is lim­ited to about an hour. She is very pri­vate about what­ever she’s work­ing on; in fact, she can be a lit­tle cagey about whether she’s work­ing on any­thing at all. “She’s on her sofa with her lap­top,” Green­land said. “And I don’t know if she’s play­ing a game, if she’s watch­ing TV, if she’s writ­ing e-mails, or if she’s work­ing. It’s not ap­par­ent to me. She’s in her bub­ble. But what I do know is that, for a long while, she was too ill to write. And then, after that, she was writ­ing frag­ments.”

  • , 2017 in­ter­view

    Q. “Are there times of day that you tend to write?”

    A. “I mostly write at night. Dur­ing the day I’ll do re­search, do in­ter­views, do read­ing. I just find the psy­cho­log­i­cal in­ter­rup­tions [dur­ing the day] diffi­cult. I can write if it’s a very, very spe­cific task. If I know what I need to write, I can write dur­ing the day. If I don’t know…”

    Q. “… then it’s a noc­tur­nal thing.”

    A. “Ex­act­ly. What usu­ally hap­pens is that I’m writ­ing along, and I’ll start to ex­plain some­thing, and I’ll re­al­ize “I have no idea; I thought I knew this thing, I thought I had to­tal com­mand.” So my writ­ing is con­stantly in­ter­rupted by my own ig­no­rance. I’ll re­al­ize, say, that I don’t re­ally know what a neural net is; I can’t go any fur­ther un­til I mas­ter some de­gree of un­der­stand­ing what a neural net is."

  • , 2020 in­ter­view:

    COWEN: “What’s your most pro­duc­tive or most un­usual work habit?”

    DANTICAT: “Work­ing at night, and the older I’m get­ting, the harder it is to ac­tu­ally stay up all night, but I find that writ­ing at night is re­ally my most pro­duc­tive time be­cause some­how, at night, you just feel every­body is safe in bed that I’m re­spon­si­ble for, and there’s not too many dis­trac­tions. The in­ter­net is al­ways there, but it’s just eas­ier to imag­ine a whole other uni­verse at night. I feel that that’s when I’m most pro­duc­tive.”


Goodreads has con­ducted ~277 in­ter­views 2008–2018 which have a semi­-s­tan­dard­ized for­mat where one of the last few ques­tions is typ­i­cally some vari­ant on “what’s your writ­ing day like and do you have any un­usual habit­s/ritu­als?”;

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view): early morn­ing (6AM10AM?)

    Goodreads: “What’s your av­er­age writ­ing day like? When do you write?”

    Toni Mor­ri­son: “Very early in the morn­ing, be­fore the sun comes up. Be­cause I’m very smart at that time of day. Now, at this time of day [4PM], it’s all drift­ing away. But to­mor­row morn­ing I will be sharp for about 4 hours, say from 6AM to 10AM. If I get up be­fore the sun and greet it, that’s when I start.” The Art of Fic­tion No. 134, 1993:

    INTERVIEWER: “You have said that you be­gin to write be­fore dawn. Did this habit be­gin for prac­ti­cal rea­sons, or was the early morn­ing an es­pe­cially fruit­ful time for you?”

    TONI MORRISON: “Writ­ing be­fore dawn be­gan as a ne­ces­si­ty—I had small chil­dren when I first be­gan to write and I needed to use the time be­fore they said, Ma­ma—and that was al­ways around five in the morn­ing. Many years lat­er, after I stopped work­ing at Ran­dom House, I just stayed at home for a cou­ple of years. I dis­cov­ered things about my­self I had never thought about be­fore. At first I did­n’t know when I wanted to eat, be­cause I had al­ways eaten when it was lunchtime or din­ner­time or break­fast time. Work and the chil­dren had dri­ven all of my habits . . . I did­n’t know the week­day sounds of my own house; it all made me feel a lit­tle gid­dy.”

    “I was in­volved in writ­ing Beloved at that time—this was in 1983—and even­tu­ally I re­al­ized that I was clear­er-head­ed, more con­fi­dent and gen­er­ally more in­tel­li­gent in the morn­ing. The habit of get­ting up ear­ly, which I had formed when the chil­dren were young, now be­came my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very in­ven­tive after the sun goes down.”

    “Re­cently I was talk­ing to a writer who de­scribed some­thing she did when­ever she moved to her writ­ing table. I don’t re­mem­ber ex­actly what the ges­ture was—there is some­thing on her desk that she touches be­fore she hits the com­puter key­board­—but we be­gan to talk about lit­tle rit­u­als that one goes through be­fore be­gin­ning to write. I, at first, thought I did­n’t have a rit­u­al, but then I re­mem­bered that I al­ways get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark­—it must be dark­—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come. And she said, Well, that’s a rit­u­al. And I re­al­ized that for me this rit­ual com­prises my prepa­ra­tion to en­ter a space that I can only call non­sec­u­lar . . . Writ­ers all de­vise ways to ap­proach that place where they ex­pect to make the con­tact, where they be­come the con­duit, or where they en­gage in this mys­te­ri­ous process. For me, light is the sig­nal in the tran­si­tion. It’s not be­ing in the light, it’s be­ing there be­fore it ar­rives. It en­ables me, in some sense.”

    “I tell my stu­dents one of the most im­por­tant things they need to know is when they are their best, cre­ative­ly. They need to ask them­selves, What does the ideal room look like? Is there mu­sic? Is there si­lence? Is there chaos out­side or is there seren­ity out­side? What do I need in or­der to re­lease my imag­i­na­tion?…I am not able to write reg­u­lar­ly. I have never been able to do that—­mostly be­cause I have al­ways had a nine-to-five job. I had to write ei­ther in be­tween those hours, hur­ried­ly, or spend a lot of week­end and predawn time.”

  • Michael Con­nelly (Goodreads in­ter­view): very early morn­ing when pos­si­ble (4AM6AM? pre-dawn)

    Goodreads: What’s your writ­ing process?

    Michael Con­nelly: “Be­cause of work­ing on a TV show [Bosch], my writ­ing process is to write when­ever I get a chance. Al­so, my train­ing in jour­nal­ism has taught me to write—I don’t need to be cod­dled. I can write in my office, I can write on planes, I can write in cars. I was on a plane last night for five hours, squeezed in so tight, my el­bows were push­ing into my ribs, but I wrote the whole time and got a lot done. That’s my process: to try to write when­ever I can. A per­fect day would be to get up be­fore the light gets up in the sky and start writ­ing and get a lot done be­fore the rest of the city wakes up. That’s what I try to do when I’m at home or even when I’m in a ho­tel on the road. Morn­ing hours are re­ally good for me, dark morn­ing hours. So in that re­gard I kind of share some­thing with Renée [The Late Show char­ac­ter] be­cause I like to work till dawn.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view): evening (8PM-?)

    Goodreads: “Do you have any writ­ing rit­u­als?”

    Stephe­nie Meyer: “None, re­al­ly, be­sides time of day. I can never get truly im­mersed in writ­ing dur­ing the day­time. I know it’s a prod­uct of be­ing in­ter­rupted by work calls and emails, chil­dren’s and hus­band’s ques­tions about where fil­l-in-the-blank is lo­cat­ed, and the dog’s blad­der needs. Sub­con­sciously my brain be­lieves that there is no point in try­ing to fo­cus when my office door is just about to slam open in three­…t­wo…one…. So now, even when I’m in a qui­et, pri­vate en­vi­ron­ment, I can’t make my brain ac­cept that it is pos­si­ble to write while the sun is out. When I’m in the mid­dle of a sto­ry, I do my self­-edit­ing dur­ing the day. That part han­dles in­ter­rup­tions bet­ter.”

    2013 in­ter­view clar­i­fies that dark­ness means late night, not early morn­ing pre-dawn:

    That vivid scene took place in the kitchen but these days, she writes in an office room in her house. Like most writ­ers, Stephe­nie prefers to write in the evening. “I write best at night, which is one of the rea­sons that I’m so slow now,” she said. “My kids’ school sched­ule has forced me to be a morn­ing per­son, which I am not. I don’t get so much done dur­ing the day. There are too many in­ter­rup­tions. It’s bet­ter if I can start at 8PM and work through till I pass out.” Laugh­ing, she quipped, “May­be, I should move back into the kitchen.”

    In an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal piece, Mey­ers says that the idea for came in a dream & was ini­tially writ­ten in the morn­ing but the bulk was writ­ten at night:

    I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream…Though I had a mil­lion things to do (i.e. mak­ing break­fast for hun­gry chil­dren, dress­ing and chang­ing the di­a­pers of said chil­dren, find­ing the swim­suits that no one ever puts away in the right place, etc.), I stayed in bed, think­ing about the dream. I was so in­trigued by the name­less cou­ple’s story that I hated the idea of for­get­ting it; it was the kind of dream that makes you want to call your friend and bore her with a de­tailed de­scrip­tion. (Al­so, the vam­pire was just so darned good-look­ing, that I did­n’t want to lose the men­tal im­age.) Un­will­ing­ly, I even­tu­ally got up and did the im­me­di­ate ne­ces­si­ties, and then put every­thing that I pos­si­bly could on the back burner and sat down at the com­puter to write-some­thing I had­n’t done in so long that I won­dered why I was both­er­ing. But I did­n’t want to lose the dream, so I typed out as much as I could re­mem­ber, call­ing the char­ac­ters “he” and “she.” From that point on, not one day passed that I did not write some­thing. On bad days, I would only type out a page or two; on good days, I would fin­ish a chap­ter and then some. I mostly wrote at night, after the kids were asleep so that I could con­cen­trate for longer than five min­utes with­out be­ing in­ter­rupt­ed.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view): morn­ing (8AM-noon)

    Goodreads: “What’s your av­er­age work­ing day like? Do you have any un­usual habit­s/ritu­als?”

    Stephen King: “I start work around 8AM and usu­ally fin­ish around noon. If there’s more to do, I do it in the late after­noon, al­though that is­n’t prime time for me. The only rit­ual is mak­ing tea. I use the loose leaves and drink it by the gal­lon.”

    The Art of Fic­tion No. 189, 2006:

    I think you should be paid for what you do. Every morn­ing, I wake up to the alarm clock, do my leg ex­er­cis­es, and then sit down at the word proces­sor. By noon my back aches and I’m tired out. I work as hard or harder than I used to, so I want to be paid. But ba­si­cal­ly, at this point, it’s how you keep score.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view): late evening? (?-4AM)

    Goodreads: “Do you write as soon as you wake up in the morn­ing?”

    Paulo Coelho: “First I say that I’m go­ing to write as soon as I wake up. Then I post­pone and post­pone and start feel­ing guilty and hor­ri­ble and feel that I don’t de­serve any­thing. Then I say, OK, to­day I’m not go­ing to write. Then I write just to not feel guilty, and I’m go­ing to write the first sen­tence. Then once I’m off the ground, the plane takes off…when I’m writ­ing, I wake up around 12 o’­clock be­cause I write un­til 4 in the morn­ing. Only two weeks. Then of course, I have to make the cor­rec­tions and do an­other draft. I have to cor­rect the sec­ond draft. So the first draft has, let’s say, one-third more pages than the fi­nal draft. So I start cut­ting.”

  • Mar­garet At­wood (Goodreads in­ter­view): morn­ing–after­noon

    Goodreads: “Can you de­scribe a typ­i­cal day spent writ­ing?”

    Mar­garet At­wood: “There are no typ­i­cal days spent writ­ing. Let’s pre­tend there is one. I would get up. We would have break­fast. Then we have the coffee. That is some­thing I re­ally like to have to get my­self start­ed. Then I would prob­a­bly sit down and type some­thing that I had writ­ten in man­u­script the day be­fore. It’s a kind of over­lap method, in which I’m typ­ing out what I did the day be­fore to get my­self go­ing for what I’m go­ing to add on to that. I’m re­vis­ing and then con­tin­u­ing to write in the same day. Then I do the next bit of new writ­ing in the after­noon. I don’t go by how much time I spent at it but how many pages I man­aged to com­plete.”

    Goodreads: “Would you say you have any un­usual writ­ing habits?”

    Mar­garet At­wood: “I’m not par­tic­u­larly ob­ses­sive about that. But I don’t like other peo­ple us­ing my com­put­er. Who does like that?” Paris Re­view, “The Art of Fic­tion No. 121” 1990:

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have a time, a day, or a place for writ­ing? Does it mat­ter where you are?”

    ATWOOD: I try to write be­tween ten in the morn­ing and four in the after­noon, when my child comes home from school. Some­times in the evenings, if I’m re­ally zip­ping along on a nov­el.

  • Beat­riz Williams (Goodreads in­ter­view): morn­ing+evening

    GR: “But how do you find the time? What does your av­er­age writ­ing day look like?”

    BW: “The pace has backed off, thank good­ness, be­cause I was writ­ing two to three books a year and it was killing me. It’s much eas­ier now. My writ­ing day is very dis­ci­plined. I get up, get the kids off to school. Once they’re on the school bus, I try and write un­til noon or 1 p.m., then I usu­ally have er­rands to run and the kids come home. And then I pick up again and write in the evening. So yeah, it’s busy, but it’s what I love to do. I feel so in­cred­i­bly lucky to have this op­por­tu­ni­ty, so I try not to waste a mo­ment. Ob­vi­ous­ly, every ca­reer has its ups and downs and mo­ments of frus­tra­tion. And par­tic­u­larly I think in an in­dus­try like this, where you’re con­stantly be­ing judged, much more than you would in a reg­u­lar job in a cu­bi­cle some­where. So it’s a job where you re­ally have to have a lot of dis­ci­pline and a real sense of al­ways mov­ing on to the next book and the next idea and not look­ing back.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view): morn­ing-evening

    GR: “What is your writ­ing process?”

    DH: “I get up and write long­hand for the first hour of every day, be­fore I do any­thing else other than make coffee. If I can do that, the whole day goes well. If I skip it, it’s al­most like a bal­le­rina who has to go and do their war­m-up. It’s my war­m-up. As long as I do that, the rest of the day kind of clicks along.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view): morn­ing–after­noon?

    RW: “Well, I have kids. Not very lit­tle, but they’re still small enough to need to be taken to school and picked up. So that kind of book­ends my writ­ing day. I take my kids to school in the morn­ing, and I get back to my com­put­er. If the writ­ing is go­ing well, I plunge straight into my doc­u­ment and pick up where I left off. So I read the chap­ter that I wrote the day be­fore—or some­times the para­graph I wrote the day be­fore—and I just carry on from where I left off. On a good day I can do sev­eral thou­sand words. But, you know, not every day is a good day.” [Laughs]

    …“I used to work part-time and squeeze the writ­ing in around my day job. And when I gave up my office job, I thought,”Right, I’ll be able to write two books a year now be­cause I’ve got twice as much time." But it’s just not true. Your pro­cras­ti­na­tion just ex­pands into the avail­able space. I find the truth is that I would write the same amount no mat­ter how much time I had."

    “But I find pick­ing up the kids re­ally con­cen­trates the mind. The fact that I have to squeeze writ­ing into a cer­tain num­ber of hours tends to con­cen­trate the mind. So I ba­si­cally just sit down, and I get to spend two or three hours in­hab­it­ing this imag­i­nary land­scape. I feel grate­ful for that every day.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view): after­noon–evening?

    “My process is I have to find a new process for each book. I am al­ways try­ing to get in a state of flow where I just work for hours and the words just come. I am con­strained by the hours in which I have child­care. [Novik has a young daugh­ter.] I bit­terly lament the loss of my for­mer sched­ule. [Laughs] I would go to sleep at 3 a.m. and wake up at 11, and that was so nice. Those days are gone.”

    “The older I get, the more I rec­og­nize that the things I would some­times get frus­trated about—the pro­cras­ti­na­tion that we all do, like I check The Times or Tum­blr, or read like 12 Wikipedia en­tries—I in­creas­ingly rec­og­nize as a nec­es­sary part of the cre­ative process. I try to men­tally al­low for that. There are peo­ple who can sit down and go from zero to 60 and start writ­ing. I am not one of them. I need to be check­ing the in­ter­net to see if there is any­thing on fire that I can do ab­solutely noth­ing about.”

  • Chloe Ben­jamin (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Goodreads user So­phie asks: What does your writ­ing process look like? For ex­am­ple, what is an av­er­age writ­ing day like for you?”

    CB: “It’s changed a lit­tle bit be­cause, when I was work­ing on this book, I was work­ing a day job in so­cial ser­vices. And since I fin­ished the book, I’ve been able to start writ­ing ful­l-time, which is an amaz­ing gift. So I did my MFA in fic­tion [at the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin, Madis­on], and after that I found my way, al­most ac­ci­den­tal­ly, into the non­profit world. I worked for an or­ga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. So when I was there, I worked Mon­day through Thurs­day, and I was able to write Fri­days through Sun­days. So my sched­ule was to try to be work­ing by about 9 a.m. on those days, and I usu­ally tap out after three or four hours…but if I can do that con­sis­tent­ly, I can make mostly steady progress.”

    “And when I was rac­ing to­ward the fin­ish line, or when I was in re­vi­sions once the book was with the pub­lish­er, I would get up early be­fore work and write in the early morn­ing. So right now it’s not too differ­ent; it’s just that I can do that every day of the week, or have week­ends now. So, ide­al­ly, I’m up and work­ing by about 9, and then in the after­noons I will do more re­search or work on pro­mo­tion for The Im­mor­tal­ists, things like that. But I’m a morn­ing writer. I don’t have a cer­tain word count that I hit. I just feel like I have to show up and make some sort of progress.”

  • Josiah Ban­croft (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Can you talk about your process? Did you sit down every day for two hours, or did you say,”I’m go­ing to write 500 words to­day“?”

    JB: “I have never had any luck with any con­sis­tent habit for writ­ing. On­ce, I bought a can­dle and said,”I’m go­ing to sit at this desk, light this can­dle, and while the can­dle burns, I will write for two hours." And I just never did it. Never hap­pened."

    “I have what I would call an ob­ses­sion as op­posed to a process. I don’t know how I wrote the first book; I just know that I was ob­sessed with it. Was I stay­ing up late work­ing on it? Yes. Was I writ­ing on it in the mid­dle of the day? Yes. I had a lit­tle tape recorder in my car be­cause I had this mon­ster three­-hour daily com­mute, and I would just fill up this recorder with notes and ideas and quotes. And so my process is pretty much: the rest of life be­comes eclipsed by the effort to do this thing.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    I work maybe from 9:30 to 3 in the after­noon, and then if I’m re­ally hot with some­thing, I’ll just keep go­ing. It used to be when I started writ­ing, I could­n’t work if any­one was in the house. Then it got to be I could­n’t work if any­one was in the room. Once I had a kid, it was like, “Just give me 15 min­utes. Sure, draw on the couch with a lip­stick. Why the Chanel? Why could­n’t it be the May­belline?” I work in drafts. I start the day by rewrit­ing what I wrote the day be­fore and then con­tin­ue, so I pick up the tone and the emo­tion, so I’m back in. I usu­ally do about three or four drafts, but within each draft there are hun­dreds of drafts.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    CN: “The daily writ­ing process right now is shaped around the school day be­cause I’m a par­ent, so my son goes to school and I write when he’s at school. I ba­si­cally have six hours to get all my work done, and then I go get him. That’s made me be much more dis­ci­plined—I get up, I have break­fast, I have a cup of tea, and then I sit down at my desk and try to get some­thing done. I usu­ally try to read over what I did the day be­fore. Usu­ally that’s enough to trick my­self into con­tin­u­ing. And I try to at least look at it every day even if I don’t write some­thing.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “What do you need to be able to write? Peace and qui­et? The per­fect desk setup or time of day?”

    MW: “I re­ally make it part of my daily rou­tine. For the first time ever I have my own office at home. [Wolitzer and her hus­band, writer Richard Panek, moved to a new apart­ment re­cent­ly.] I wrote all of my books on a bed or a couch. Or in coffee shops all around the city. But now I have an ac­tual room where I write. It is great that I have it, but you try to write wher­ever you can. I like us­ing the sort of am­bi­ent sounds of New York as a back­drop. The hum and clat­ter of a coffee shop. Every once in a while I would let some­thing punc­ture the con­cen­tra­tion. I do like to be at home, though. And I like the morn­ing hours.”

    GR: “Are you empty nesters now?”

    MW: “Yes. One of my chil­dren just grad­u­ated from col­lege, and the other grad­u­ated from law school and is clerk­ing for a judge. It is shock­ing to me to not have a cute an­swer to the ques­tion about chil­dren, like”one is four and one is six." In­stead, my kids are grown, which makes my writ­ing day very much bet­ter. It used to be, they’d go to school and it would be like a starter pis­tol would go off. Now it is up to me."

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Reader Chris­tine asks,”Do you write every day? De­scribe a typ­i­cal writ­ing day in the life of Lisa Gen­o­va.""

    LG: “When I be­gin a book, I usu­ally fron­t-load with about four to six months of re­search. Then once I start writ­ing, I write every day. I typ­i­cally write in the morn­ing, and I be­gin with a note­book and a pen. I feel more free to al­low it to be im­per­fect with a pen. Some­times it’s al­most like a di­ary. I’ll write,”I have no idea what hap­pens next" and then I’ll write a note to my­self—“don’t freak out, don’t pan­ic, you’ll find it!” So a lot of times it’s a pep talk, too, but after three pages of hand­writ­ten stream of con­scious­ness, I’ve al­ways found my way into the sto­ry, and then I switch over to the lap­top."

    “I write at Star­bucks be­cause there’s just too much dis­trac­tion at home. So I go there and stay in the seat and I com­mit to writ­ing, and I al­low my­self to get the words down, how­ever hor­ri­ble. So I typ­i­cally write for about four hours every day once I start a book and try to do about 1,500 words a day.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Do you have a spe­cific writ­ing rou­tine?”

    MH: “I have had differ­ent rou­tines. I wrote Moth Smoke often late at night when I was a young man in my early to mid-twen­ties. It felt ex­hil­a­rat­ing to be up at night writ­ing, liv­ing a vam­pire-like ex­is­tence. Now I’m a 45-year-old man with two kids, so I write when they’re in school! It’s com­pletely differ­ent.”

    “There are two writ­ers who have said things about this that I often think of. One is Haruki Mu­rakami, who talks about phys­i­cal stress be­ing es­sen­tial to writ­ing and how he runs and pushes him­self to write. In my much less phys­i­cally de­mand­ing ap­proach, I walk. I walk for half an hour or an hour a day, and that is the most fer­tile time for me. If I do that be­fore I start writ­ing, I often get to the desk in a very good frame of mind. And the sec­ond per­son I think of is Amos Oz, who has said that he thinks of it as open­ing up shop: He goes to work and opens his shop. Maybe no cus­tomers come, but he waits un­til the end of the day, and then he shuts his shop. I think that’s very sen­si­ble.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Do you have a gen­eral writ­ing rou­tine, or was it any differ­ent with this book?”

    CW: “It’s been pretty con­sis­tent over the last cou­ple books. If I can write three or four days a week, and do eight to ten pages a week, I think that’s good. I have kids, so I don’t al­ways get a full day to my­self. But if I can work 10 to 3 p.m. four days a week, that’s pretty good for me.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Typ­i­cal day writ­ing is five nights a week from 10 pm to 3 or 4 in the morn­ing. And at this point—­for the past few years—I lis­ten pretty much ex­clu­sively to vinyl records while I write. The rea­son I do that—in ad­di­tion to lik­ing the sound of them—is that it forces me to get up every 20 min­utes, to turn the record over or put on a new record. And that is the rec­om­mended pro­ce­dure for peo­ple who sit in a chair work­ing.

    Goodreads in­ter­view #2 is less speci­fic:

    GR: “Do you have any rou­tines or habits re­lated to writ­ing? Goodreads user Mark asks, ‘How has your abil­ity to carve out time for writ­ing changed over the course of your ca­reer?’”

    MC: “I’ve been very for­tu­nate in that I’ve been able to sup­port my­self by writ­ing al­most since the be­gin­ning. So in a way,”carv­ing time out" for writ­ing is all I can do be­cause that’s my job and there’s noth­ing else com­pet­ing. Al­though I do have four kids, and they’re get­ting older now, so they don’t take up the kind of time they used to. We had a lot of lit­tle kids around…. It was­n’t so much a mat­ter of time as the kind of fo­cus I could bring to bear dur­ing the time I had. There seemed [to be] more dis­trac­tion, and that has eased up as the kids have got­ten old­er."

    “I work at night, and that helps, and that al­ways has helped. I work in the re­ally small hours of the morn­ing. So dis­trac­tions are few­er. The other thing I need to do a lot, still, is go away. I rely on those in terms of get­ting that kind of im­mer­sion in the work when you’re busy do­ing all kinds of daily life stuff.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Tell us about your writ­ing process.”

    AB: “I write through­out the day. Some­times on mem­oir, some­times on fic­tion. I write in many differ­ent lo­ca­tion­s—up­stairs in the at­tic room, down­stairs on the sofa or at one of the ta­bles, or up­stairs in the bed­room on top of the bed. I might write 10,000 words in a day or I might write lit­er­ally one sen­tence. But if I don’t write at least a tiny bit every day, I get to­tally de­railed. It’s like my ma­chin­ery rusts in­stant­ly.”

    2008 GR in­ter­view:

    I don’t have a fixed rou­tine. I write every day but I don’t “write” every day, if that makes any sense. In other words, I email with my friends con­stantly and some­times I’ll pull out some­thing I’ve writ­ten and save it. Or, I might write about some­thing that hap­pened that par­tic­u­lar day and file it away. But I don’t sit down at nine in the morn­ing and be­gin writ­ing and then take a break for lunch and stop at four. I have no struc­ture like that. I am at my com­puter con­stant­ly, more or less at­tached to it. I live on-line and hate be­ing off-line and don’t care how un­healthy it is. Now, when I’m crank­ing against a dead­line and I have to re­ally pull my &*%$ to­geth­er, then I will work around the clock un­til it’s done. Wolf took way longer than I ex­pect­ed, it was much harder to write and I just wanted to be hit by a truck by the time I was fin­ished, I was so to­tally drained. I don’t know what I ex­pected writ­ing that book to be like, but MAN.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Can you de­scribe your writ­ing process? Do you have any sort of rit­ual you fol­low? For ex­am­ple, do you drink a cup of coffee? Light a can­dle? (Is it differ­ent now than it was when you start­ed?)”

    NR: “Sac­ri­fice a chick­en? [laughs] I’m an early ris­er, and I wish I was­n’t. But I’m often up by 5 or 5:15 a.m. It’s ridicu­lous. When my kids were up, we got up early be­cause we had to catch the bus, we live in the coun­try, and I would think, when they’re old enough I’ll be able to sleep un­til 7 or 8 a.m. Well, now I’m up at 5 a.m. It kills me! I got used to it. It just seems to be the way my body works. I get up ear­ly, be­fore the dogs, and play around for a while. Check Face­book, play a game or read stuff, right now it’s pol­i­tics. Then the dogs get up, my hus­band gets up, and I count down the time un­til he leaves for work be­cause he’s just breath­ing my air, [laughs] even though he does­n’t bother me. And then if he’s gonna be around through part of the morn­ing, I’ll just ig­nore him and start work any­where be­tween 7:30 and 9 a.m. If I haven’t started be­fore 9 a.m, then I’m just fuck­ing around. Then I’ll work un­til 2:30–3:30 p.m., it de­pends. Are the kids com­ing? Am I mak­ing din­ner? Then I go work out, then fix din­ner or warm up left­overs. Then I watch TV or read a book and then do it all again the next day.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “What’s your av­er­age writ­ing day like? Is it true you write long­hand in le­gal notepads?”

    EH: “I do. I’ve got three kids, so I try to get three hours a day of com­pos­ing in and then some edit­ing. Then I take two long pe­ri­ods to work by my­self, one in the spring when I go to St. John for five weeks and one in the fall when I’m re­vis­ing and I go to Boston and work around the clock. Other than that, when I have the kid­s—I’m di­vorced—I work when I can. I’m not picky about my work con­di­tions. I’ve worked at the base­ball field or when my daugh­ter’s in dance re­hearsal. I bring my work with me every­where be­cause I never know when I’m go­ing to have five or ten min­utes.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Do you have any un­usual writ­ing habits? Do you sit down and write for 12 hours, for ex­am­ple?”

    JF: “Well, if I could. But life is­n’t quite like that be­cause there’s al­ways a meet­ing and an ap­point­ment or a read­-through. But I’m very for­tu­nate that I be­gan my writ­ing ca­reer proper when I was still act­ing, and that means I had to write wher­ever I was. I could­n’t go,”Oh, I must get this desk and I can only have coffee out of this mug." That was­n’t al­lowed. If I was in Scot­land mak­ing a se­ries or some­where wait­ing to catch a plane, that’s where I had to write. And I never lost that. I write in the coun­try, I write in Lon­don. I write in the House of Lord­s—they give me a lit­tle cup­board with a desk in it, and I can shut the door and write there. So ba­si­cally I write when I can. I have break­fast, I start at about half past nine, and I bang on. And some­times I have a lunch date or an ap­point­ment, and I go and come back and I nor­mally go on un­til about half past seven or eight, if I haven’t gone to a drinks party or some­thing. I’ve got one writer friend who starts at about five in the morn­ing and stops at lunch and does­n’t work for the rest of the day, which is fine ex­cept he has to go to bed about 9:15, which I don’t think would work for most of us. So I pre­fer to try and make it fit around a fairly nor­mal life. But I am quite a worka­holic, re­al­ly, if I’m hon­est. I do sort of bang on, but oth­er­wise I don’t think I’d get it done."

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Goodreads mem­ber Kayleigh says,”Out of all of the au­thors I fol­low on Goodreads, you are cer­tainly the most ac­tive on the site, and I al­ways see you post­ing up­dates or an­swer­ing ques­tions from read­ers. Most of your up­dates are about how much writ­ing you have com­plet­ed, and I am just amazed that you have al­ready fin­ished the books for the Age of Myth se­ries! I’m cu­ri­ous what your writ­ing process is like….""

    MJS: “You’ll prob­a­bly find that if you were to poll most writ­ers who do this ful­l-time—which I do—that they’re al­most all con­sis­tent. There are a few anom­alies, but al­most every­one I’ve ever en­coun­tered has all said the same thing, which is that they write in the morn­ing. Most peo­ple write from when­ever they wake up un­til noon or one. That’s your writ­ing pe­ri­od. I do it every day. If I’m ac­tu­ally writ­ing a story and not edit­ing, I’m prob­a­bly writ­ing some­where be­tween 1,500 and 2,000 words a day dur­ing that pe­riod of three or four hours. After that, then I have time for so­cial me­dia and time for go­ing on Goodreads. I will ad­mit that I time those Goodreads up­dates. I don’t do a lot in one day. I try to spread them out so there’s al­ways an up­date from me every once in a while.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Can you talk about your writ­ing rit­u­als?”

    JM: “Even though I’m not a morn­ing per­son, I find I have to start in the morn­ing. I try to be at my desk by 9:30 or 10. If I don’t start writ­ing by noon, I just can’t get go­ing. If I’m lucky, I write for three or four hours and take a break. When I’m re­ally deep into a book, my work hours get a lot longer. Some­times I write for 10 or 11 hours with small breaks be­cause I just feel this pres­sure mount­ing of the book com­ing to­gether and want­ing to get it down while it’s in my head. That can be re­ally ex­cit­ing when the work is re­ally dri­ving you and you want to stay at your desk and keep go­ing.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “What’s your av­er­age writ­ing day like? Where do you write?”

    IA: “Right now my life is up­side down, so I have a new house and I am in­stalling book­shelves. All my books are in box­es. But by Jan­u­ary 8 [the date that Al­lende wrote the let­ter to her grand­fa­ther that be­came The House of the Spir­its and now the date on which she be­gins every nov­el] every­thing will be ready to get started in this new place. To write I need a place where I can be silent and alone and qui­et. And I will have it in this new house. I work many hours a day, usu­ally start­ing in the morn­ing. I’m much bet­ter then than in the after­noon or the evening. So I get up, have coffee, walk the dog, and then go to my stu­dio and try to work for as long as I can han­dle it.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Can you de­scribe your writ­ing process? Do you have any sort of rit­ual you fol­low?”

    CF: “I defi­nitely go through…Wake up. Oh, I’m go­ing to write to­day, and then avoid it for a lit­tle bit. Then sit down…”Okay, we’re gonna do it." Pull my lap­top for­ward, fill up my coffee, light a can­dle, and then let it go."

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Do you have any in­ter­est­ing writ­ing habits, what’s your av­er­age writ­ing day like?”

    PH: “I don’t, I’m afraid. I’m re­ally bor­ing. I think it’s be­cause I was a free­lance jour­nal­ist so I’m quite self­-dis­ci­plined. I’m used to just get­ting up, com­ing down­stairs, sit­ting at my desk and writ­ing. Some­times if the writ­ing’s go­ing re­ally well I can write al­most all day and all night but usu­ally it’s a pretty nor­mal day, not quite 9 to 5 but not that far off. So, I’m very dull. And I write at home. I don’t go and sit in cafes or any­thing like that. I like to be some­where quiet where I’m not dis­tract­ed.”

  • He­len Oyeyemi (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “How do you pre­fer to work then? Does it change be­tween nov­els and sto­ries? Has it changed over the years?”

    HO: “Well, it’s differ­ent. It changes from book to book. With these sto­ries, I think I was up very late at night, writ­ing, like, at 2 a.m. And then I’d just sleep a lot and wake up and write some more. But with other books, I’ve had much more struc­ture. It re­ally differs and de­pends on lots of fac­tors. I’m cu­ri­ous how the next book will work out. I’ll just have to see what works!”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Do you have a rou­tine that helps you cre­ate [the fic­tional char­ac­ter] Flavia?”

    AB: “It’s a fairly sim­ple process. I like to start very ear­ly, about 4:30 in the morn­ing. And there is quite an in­ter­est­ing story be­hind that. When I was writ­ing the first Flavia book, we were liv­ing in British Co­lum­bia and were on Pa­cific Stan­dard Time. I found dur­ing the writ­ing of the book that usu­ally when I was full of en­ergy and ready to write, Flavia was want­ing to sleep. But when she was full of en­er­gy, it was bed­time to me. I re­al­ized that there was a nine-hour time differ­ence be­tween us. Once I re­al­ized that, we ne­go­ti­ated some kind of happy medi­um. When it was 4:30 in the morn­ing for me, it would be 1 or 2 in the after­noon for her. Then we would be good for four or five hours. After a while, she would start get­ting tired be­cause it was bed­time in Eng­land, and I was just get­ting into the swing of the day. Now we live in the same time zone, but we still start at 4:30 in the morn­ing be­cause we have be­come ac­cus­tomed to that.”

    GR: “A num­ber of writ­ers say that they like to write very early in the morn­ing. How is it for you?”

    AB: “I think you are prob­a­bly more in touch with your sub­con­scious when you first wake up. The cen­sor­ship part of your brain is­n’t as ac­tive as it is lat­er. The heav­i­est part of my writ­ing is from 4:30 to 8 or 9 or 10. I some­times go back later in the after­noon to edit a lit­tle bit, to look at what we’ve done for the day. Then you are fin­ished for the day quite ear­ly, and you can go around and feel self­-right­eous.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Could you talk about your writ­ing process in terms of rit­u­als or habits?”

    EL: “We moved to New York in Oc­to­ber, and I just got two mon­key lamps for my office that I love. It’s a genre of lamps from a cer­tain era. They have mon­keys on the shaft of the lamp­shade. I’ve got a real soft spot for mon­key lamps. They speak to me of a time of cargo ships and fog, when there was a fas­ci­na­tion with far-off realms. Some­thing very noir-ish and Bog­a­rty about them. My rit­ual is every morn­ing. I make coffee and—this is sort of a su­per­sti­tious thing—I have to have an Oreo cook­ie, dou­ble stuffed. So it’s me and my Ore­os. On a good day it’s just one. On a bad day it’s two.”

    GR: “Whoa. You can stop at two?”

    EL: “I have to stop at two.”

    GR: “That is im­pres­sive.”

    EL: “I’ll work un­til break­fast time.”

    2011 Goodreads in­ter­view:

    In­vari­ably I get to a point where I’m just sick of do­ing re­search and the writ­ing feels as though it has to be­gin. In that par­tic­u­lar phase I get up very early in the morn­ing, maybe about 4:30 or 5. My goal for the very early phase is one page a day. I write un­til maybe 7 or 7:30, then come down and have break­fast with my one daugh­ter who re­mains at home in high school and my wife. And then I go back to the re­search. But as things start to ad­vance, sud­denly one page be­comes two, two be­comes three, four, five. What I then do is—I still try to start my day at like 4:30 in the morn­ing, and I al­ways start it with a cup of coffee and an Oreo cook­ie, dou­ble-stuffed. It’s just a thing. I will write again un­til break­fast. And then after break­fast I’ll con­tinue to write un­til prob­a­bly close to noon. And then I’ll knock off and then do re­search or deal with other mis­cel­la­neous things. It’s al­ways a mis­take to binge write. If you get up in the morn­ing, you feel in­spired, and you write for 12 or 15 hours, well what you’ve done also is prob­a­bly dried up your reser­voir for the next day. When I’m writ­ing at full speed (when the re­search is done and I’m tool­ing along), I will al­ways stop at a point where I can pick up very read­ily the next day. That means I will stop in mid­sen­tence, mid­para­graph, even though I know that I can write an­other page that day. I will stop be­cause then the next morn­ing when I wake up, I know ex­actly what I have to do. I know that as soon as I sit down with that coffee and that Oreo cook­ie, I will be­come pro­duc­tive. All I’ve got to do is fin­ish that sen­tence and I’m on a roll. But I also have come to trust that be­cause the hu­man brain is such an amaz­ing thing, if you leave a sen­tence or a para­graph un­fin­ished, your brain qui­et­ly, with­out you be­ing aware of it, will be strug­gling to fin­ish that sen­tence or that para­graph for the next 24 hours. That’s the way the brain works. So not only do you sit down and fin­ish your sen­tence, but you prob­a­bly have a pretty good idea sud­denly of where the next two, three, four, five pages are go­ing to go. And I find that very use­ful and very pow­er­ful.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Can you de­scribe your writ­ing process? Do you have any sort of rit­ual you fol­low?”

    LKH: “My process evolves. The time of day I write has changed. When I started out, I was a morn­ing writer. I had to be be­cause I had a cor­po­rate job. I would get up at 5 a.m. and write for a cou­ple of hours and then go to work. I was too drained to write at the end of the day. I’m not a morn­ing per­son, but I wanted to fin­ish my nov­el. As time went on, I would start writ­ing from 10 a.m. un­til about 3 p.m. It was a good day if I wrote through lunch. Some­times if I was on dead­line, I would write after din­ner in the evening. Then I had my daugh­ter, and as you know, life changes. I started work­ing when­ever she would go down for a nap. I wrote long­hand in spi­ral-bound note­books. I would go to Mc­Don­ald’s play­land and let her play, and I would write.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “De­scribe a typ­i­cal day spent writ­ing.”

    JB: “It has to hap­pen in the morn­ing, so I get up and I go for my two-mile walk. Then I have my break­fast and I take my shower and then get dressed, which in Key West is a T-shirt and shorts. I go into my office, which is very pret­ty. I love writ­ing there. And I stay there un­til noon. And if it’s a first draft, I pray for the phone to ring, and I doo­dle a lot. Some of my best think­ing comes when I have a pen­cil in hand. I doo­dle all over every print­out. That’s where the good stuff hap­pens. And then I’ll feel very hun­gry and keep look­ing at my watch. Then I’ll have lunch. That’s for the first draft. But as we go on in time, and we move from draft to draft, I’ll work longer hours.”

    “My office is in a gar­den. Key West is trop­i­cal and lush, and you just slide open the glass wall and it’s as if you’re re­ally work­ing in a gar­den out­side. It’s like you’re not con­fined. I feel con­fined in my apart­ment in New York now. I don’t like to work here any­more, al­though I have done much work here in the past.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    GR: “Can you tell us a bit about your ba­sic writ­ing rou­tine and process?”

    OP: “The se­cret to be­ing a writer, of course, is dis­ci­pline. I am a hard work­er, an ob­ses­sive work­er, and I also know that pro­duc­tion grows ex­po­nen­tially ac­cord­ing to the amount of time you spend at your desk. If you spend three hours writ­ing three pages, in ten hours you can write 30 pages! It grows ex­po­nen­tial­ly, though it con­sumes your soul! I work hard—­coffee and tea have been my friends all my life! I write, then I give it to my pub­lish­er, and when it comes back, I change, change, and change it! The se­cret to writ­ing well is edit­ing and re-edit­ing.”

    GR: “I’ve read that for you walk­ing the streets at night has also been an im­por­tant part of the cre­ative process.”

    OP: “Yes, es­pe­cially be­fore my daugh­ter was born I used to write un­til four in the morn­ing. In this book, Mev­lut has lots of my noc­tur­nal and soli­tary habits, and my own walks helped me de­velop his char­ac­ter. I share Mev­lut’s imag­i­na­tion! All my life, es­pe­cially when I was a teenager, my friends would tell me,”You have a strange mind!" Then one day I came across the William Wordsworth quote that is one of the book’s epigraphs [“I had melan­choly thoughts … / a strange­ness in my mind, / A feel­ing that I was not for that hour, / Nor for that place”] and I de­cided that one day I’d write a novel about this idea. It turned out to be Mev­lut’s sto­ry, and it took me six years."

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Do you have any writ­ing rit­u­als? A break­fast you al­ways eat? An ex­er­cise you do? A pen you must have on hand?”

    YH: “I ob­serve very lit­tle dis­ci­pline in my life, with no set break­fast and no steady com­mit­ment to any ex­er­cise pro­gram. Once I be­gan us­ing a com­puter in 1993, I stopped car­ry­ing a pen.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Are there rit­u­als that you em­ploy to write?”

    AD: “Yeah, I write in the morn­ing. That’s when I feel my brain is fresh­est. There are some rit­u­als: I wear a pair of chain saw op­er­a­tor ear­muffs.”

    GR: “What? For re­al?”

    AD: “Yeah, you know those gi­ant things? For re­al. Even though my office is qui­et, I find that putting those things on, I don’t know, it’s just be­come a thing. My ear­lier offices were noisy, but I just put them on, and I can con­cen­trate. They’re very effec­tive. You can’t re­ally hear some­body if they’re stand­ing in front of you talk­ing. Weird.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Can you de­scribe your writ­ing process?”

    LM: “It’s now dri­ven by when I have child-free time. In a way I’ve found that’s re­ally good for me. I’m a more pro­duc­tive writer than when I had whole days to mess about and put it off. The only other things I do—I use that pro­gram Free­dom that turns off the In­ter­net. I love that! It’s be­come part of my rit­u­al, to set it for a pe­riod of time. It’s al­most like that makes me write. It’s crazy be­cause it’s only $10, and it stopped work­ing for a while. I thought, I’m not go­ing to pay again for this pro­gram, I’ll try to live with­out it and just turn off the In­ter­net my­self. But I could­n’t! I had to pay again to get the pro­gram!”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “What’s your av­er­age writ­ing day?”

    PB: “I try to write at least eight hours a day. I wake up and have my break­fast, I read my pa­per or I read a book of po­et­ry, par­tic­u­larly Eng­lish Ro­man­tics be­cause they have such a fe­lic­ity of phrase and ex­pres­sion, and it re­ally opens up my own use of words. I write un­til lunchtime and some­times take a break to eat lunch or go work out, and then I’ll come back and write for four more hours. I try to be done by 7 or 8 o’­clock, be­cause if I’m not, I’ll be up un­til 4 a.m., not nec­es­sar­ily work­ing but be­ing un­able to fall asleep be­cause I’ll be think­ing about it, and that’s prob­lem­atic be­cause it throws me off the next day. I try to treat it like a reg­u­lar job be­cause I have this tick­ing clock in­side me that says I should be work­ing be­cause I’m not re­ally liv­ing a real life so much. It’s al­most like I’m fol­lowed around by this Catholic-size guilt for not pro­duc­ing.”

    GR: “Do you have any par­tic­u­lar writ­ing habits or rit­u­als?”

    PB: “Coffee. And I get into this zone where I’m writ­ing and I block out every­thing. I wear noise-cancel­ing head­phones, and it re­ally is trau­ma­tiz­ing be­cause every now and then a friend will sneak into my house and come up from be­hind and scare the hell out of me. It’s a very dan­ger­ous way to write.”

  • (Goodreads)

    GR: “Tell us about your writ­ing process.”

    DM: “I drink tea and write at the kitchen ta­ble when the kids are at school. It’s a nice, airy room in the house, and it’s out of In­ter­net range, so I can’t be tempted to waste time, look­ing stuff up on news web­sites. I feel wast­ing time brings post­pone­ment.”

    Mitchell says much the same thing in his 2010 Paris Re­view in­ter­view.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Do you have a typ­i­cal writ­ing day?”

    SW: “It de­pends very much on what phase of the book I’m in. For the bulk of the writ­ing I aim to write 1,000 words a day, about two pages, which some­times I can achieve very eas­ily and some­times is much, much hard­er. I do rather force my­self to keep go­ing, even if the words are aw­ful, which often they are. It’s then go­ing to be eas­ier to work with some­thing than to work with noth­ing. A lot of my time is spent rewrit­ing, which is much harder to quan­ti­fy. It’s just a sense of do­ing a good day’s work and mov­ing the book along, even if it’s just by a mil­lime­ter. The bulk of the writ­ing is like a day job—­Mon­day through Fri­day, 9 to 4:30. But then in the last few months of it, it be­comes much more in­tense, and I’m writ­ing on the week­ends. I just keep my head down and get on with it. It’s a tir­ing phase, but it’s also an ex­cit­ing phase be­cause you feel the book is re­ally com­ing to­geth­er.”

    2010 Goodreads in­ter­view:

    I’m a dad and a hus­band and a son and a broth­er, and of course these re­la­tion­ships bring re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, around which I fit my writ­ing. So I do the school run in the morn­ing, write in a kind of office for three to four hours, break for lunch, an­other hour, then do the school run in the re­verse di­rec­tion. Kind of de­pends where I am in the pub­lish­ing cy­cle; around pub­li­ca­tion time I do e-mail­ing and in­ter­views like this one, eat, throw the kids around the gar­den for a bit if the weath­er’s nice, bed­time. Might get an­other hour or two in be­fore I get to bed—a good day would be seven work­ing hours.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Can you de­scribe your av­er­age writ­ing day? Do you have any in­ter­est­ing writ­ing habits?”

    JW: “I don’t have rit­u­als, I com­pose di­rectly to the lap­top, and I don’t have a set num­ber of hours in a day—though as a pro­fes­sional writer, each day is a work­ing day. Here’s a typ­i­cal day:”

    • “Rise ear­ly-ish (5:30—6 a.m.)”
    • “Write for a cou­ple of hours”
    • “Walk the dog (she’s not an early ris­er) for about an hour”
    • “Have break­fast (oat­meal with blue­ber­ries and wal­nuts)”
    • “Write for about an­other four hours”
    • “Stretch and won­der if I should be tak­ing a joint sup­ple­ment”
    • “Go to sta­bles and ride my horses”
    • “Ache”
    • “Come home, shower”
    • “Write for an­other cou­ple of hours”
    • “Re­mem­ber I haven’t had lunch, so have great big doorstep slice of toast with mar­malade and a cup of tea”
    • “Walk dog”
    • “Catch up with daily”ad­min""
    • “Cook din­ner and watch a movie with my hus­band, then read. Or I skip the movie and just read. My read­ing con­sists of my”work read­ing" and my “plea­sure read­ing.”"
    • “Fall into bed, usu­ally with a quick prayer of thanks for giv­ing me so many things to do in my day that I truly love.”
  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Tell us about your writ­ing process.”

    NH: “I have a very straight­for­ward process. My wife goes to work in her office. She leaves the house at about eight o’­clock in the morn­ing. I usu­ally take my daugh­ter to school at about 8:30, and then I come back and I sit down at my desk. I work in the liv­ing room of my house. At some point maybe I grab some break­fast, and I work un­til mid­day, pick up my daugh­ter, give her a hug, go have some lunch, get back to my desk, and keep work­ing un­til my wife comes home at about six. And so in that sense it’s a very stan­dard work­ing day. And peo­ple ask you things like,”Does Twit­ter dis­tract you while you’re work­ing?" And of course the an­swer is, No, I run Twit­ter in the back­ground all the time, but if I am go­ing to be dis­tracted by some­thing like Twit­ter or by any­thing else that I could be do­ing in­stead of writ­ing, that’s bad news. It’s got to be cut. Be­cause if I’m not more in­ter­ested in my writ­ing than I am Twit­ter, you’re not go­ing to be more in­ter­ested in my writ­ing than I am in Twit­ter. So that’s a com­pletely stan­dard bench­mark."

    “The ideation process, the in­spi­ra­tion process, is much more mys­te­ri­ous—to me as much as to any­body else. I’m walk­ing down the street, and I see some­thing, and that dove­tails with some­thing else that I’ve been think­ing about, and sud­denly I have a story about, I don’t know, a di­nosaur that lives in a tree in my gar­den.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “De­scribe a typ­i­cal day spent writ­ing. Do you have any un­usual writ­ing habits?”

    DG: “Stag­ger out of bed, take the dogs out­side, and then I’ll get a Diet Coke and a cou­ple of dog bis­cuits and go up­stairs. By the time I’ve con­sumed my Diet Coke and had a quick run through the morn­ing email and Twit­ter feed, I will prob­a­bly be com­pos men­tis enough to work. I wake up usu­ally be­tween 8:30 and 9, so I’ll be”go­ing to work," so to speak, around 11. I work maybe for an hour be­fore lunch, and go out with my hus­band for lunch. After­ward I’ll work for an­other hour. What that work is de­pends where I am in a book: In the be­gin­ning stages I don’t know much about it. I’m do­ing a lot of re­search and think­ing, but I write every sin­gle day, be­cause if you don’t write, the in­er­tia builds up. So you want to do it, whether you know any­thing or not. It’s some­times only half a page, but words on page."

    “Midafter­noon I’ll go out and do the house­hold er­rands, come home, do my gar­den­ing, go for an evening walk. I live in Phoenix, so half the year it’s so hot, I have to go out and walk at the lo­cal mall. Make din­ner. My hus­band likes to go to bed ear­ly, around 9:30. So I’ll tuck him in, go lie on the couch with the dogs and a book. I have two big, fat stan­dard dachs­hunds who are very cud­dly. We go to sleep, and then I wake up again nat­u­rally be­tween mid­night and 1. We get an­other Diet Coke and go up­stairs, and that’s when I do my main work. Be­tween mid­night and 4 am. It’s qui­et; there are no in­ter­rup­tions. The phone does­n’t ring. No psy­chic noise. Noth­ing. It’s the ideal time to work. One of the great perks of be­ing a writer is that you can work when you’re men­tally ca­pa­ble of it, not when some­one else thinks you should.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “De­scribe a typ­i­cal day spent writ­ing. Do you have any un­usual writ­ing habits?”

    HK: “Well… I get up in the morn­ing, read the pa­per, and have coffee. After that (by then it is usu­ally around 9 a.m.), I start to write. At around 11 a.m., I stop. The con­cen­tra­tion I need only lasts that long. For the ac­tual writ­ing I take the most com­fort­able po­si­tion pos­si­ble, the same as for read­ing, in fact: ly­ing down on a sofa with a lap­top.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Can you tell us about your writ­ing process? What is a typ­i­cal day like for you?”

    CH: “I start out every day around 8:30. I an­swer my emails. In­evitably a pro­por­tion of those are busi­ness emails about de­ci­sions I have to make. It seems that busi­ness is all about de­ci­sion mak­ing. Then I have to start the work of the day. I try to write six to eight orig­i­nal pages a day, but I start out by re­view­ing what I wrote the day be­fore and rewrit­ing that. By the time I fin­ish the book, it’s es­sen­tially the sec­ond draft. I go over it and try to iron it out and pick out any ob­vi­ous mis­takes. I write di­rectly to the com­put­er, which I think is God’s gift to writ­ers. My first two books were writ­ten on an elec­tric type­writer, and let me tell you, this is eas­i­er.”

    GR: “Goodreads mem­ber Car­olyn Fritz asks,”As a bud­ding au­thor, I’m find­ing it hard to make time to write with a ful­l-time job and main­tain­ing my home­/­fam­i­ly. Do you have any sug­ges­tions for new au­thors on how to max­i­mize their writ­ing time with­out go­ing crazy?""

    CH: “It’s al­ways a strug­gle, is­n’t it? I was su­per for­tu­nate. When I got mar­ried the sec­ond time, my new hus­band offered me the op­por­tu­nity to stay at home and write full time, which was fab­u­lous. If I’d had to jug­gle every­thing, I don’t know if I would have ever fin­ished a book. So my hat is off to peo­ple who are try­ing to do this. As far as man­ag­ing your time, I think you have to get at least a ded­i­cated hour every day. Just one hour. And just write. Don’t an­swer emails. Don’t write query let­ters. Just write. Just move for­ward. That’s the only sug­ges­tion I can offer. When I had my chil­dren at home, I could write when they were in day care, which was two morn­ings a week. It’s very hard, and I fully ap­pre­ci­ate and un­der­stand that.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Apart from feel­ing rooted in a place, tell us a lit­tle more about what’s nec­es­sary to your writ­ing process.”

    MC: “Sure. It is sim­ple and un­vary­ing. I need to write first thing in the morn­ing. I need to sort of segue from sleep and dreams di­rectly into writ­ing, be­cause I find if I go out and do a few er­rands or have any kind of con­gress with the real world, I come back and turn on the com­puter and look at what I’ve writ­ten and think,”Well, I’m just mak­ing this up." So it’s a ques­tion of main­tain­ing my be­lief of the fic­tional world that I’m mak­ing up. And I write six days a week, and I’m at the com­puter any­where from four to six hours."

    GR: “In a straight sit?”

    MC: “Pretty much. And then one of the things I like about New York is, I can run right out and be in the mid­dle of all of this chaos and all of this pop­u­la­tion. I could live in any num­ber of cities, but I could­n’t live in the coun­try. I could­n’t fin­ish my day’s work and then go for a walk in the woods. After those hours of soli­tude, I need con­tact. I need other peo­ple. Even just so I see them.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Can you de­scribe your writ­ing process? Is there a spe­cific rit­ual you fol­low?”

    JG: “Once my kids have gone to school, I take my lap­top, I go to a lit­tle writer’s room. I usu­ally have head­phones and mu­sic and just switch off for three hours. I have to take my­self offline, be­cause I can get hor­ri­bly dis­tract­ed. Now that I’m con­tracted to write two books a year, I go to a self­-im­posed writ­ing re­treat. So a cou­ple of times a year I’ll go off to a lit­tle inn some­where and just hole my­self away for five days with no WiFi and do noth­ing but write. I im­merse my­self in my book.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Bal­ti­more Blues con­tains the first pas­sages I’ve ever read about the”erg" (row­ing ma­chine) in a nov­el. Are you a row­er? How does sport help you as a writer?"

    LL: “I was a row­er. But I don’t row any­more in part be­cause when I started writ­ing, the writ­ing needed to take place in the time that I was row­ing. I was never a good row­er, but I did com­pete and did be­long to a row­ing club in Bal­ti­more in my early thir­ties. Work­ing out is enor­mously im­por­tant to me. Over the past ten years five of my books have had big, knotty prob­lems that were solved when I was work­ing out. On a typ­i­cal day I get up and I write all morn­ing, and that’s any­where from 8 to noon. Then in the after­noon, in Bal­ti­more, I work with a trainer twice a week. I go to yo­ga, and I work on my car­dio, at least five to seven days a week. In New Or­leans, where I am a lot, I go to classes at a gym, I do boot camp. I am a work­out freak. I love it!”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Tell us about your writ­ing process.”

    SMK: “I’m dogged. When I’m work­ing on a book, I write al­most every day. If I’m re­ally in the midst of the work, I’ll just write straight through the week­end. But I write all day long. I’m kind of slow and me­thod­i­cal and metic­u­lous about the work. I’ll take a good long rest after the book tour, any­way. I be­lieve we need a fal­low time be­fore we write again.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “Tell me about how you wrote this nov­el. Do you have a writ­ing rou­tine?”

    IB: “I do, but I write very differ­ently from peo­ple I know who sit down and plot out their books. When I know what I want to write, I start walk­ing around for maybe a month just think­ing about it. I carry around a small note­book in my pocket and take notes about my char­ac­ters and ideas. And then when I’m ready, I’ll start writ­ing. Mostly I like to write late at night when every­thing is re­ally qui­et—e­spe­cially here in New York—and I’ll work right through un­til the morn­ing. But if I’m home in Sierra Leone, it’s differ­ent, and I usu­ally write early in the morn­ing or when I can dur­ing the day in be­tween vis­it­ing peo­ple. It all de­pends where I am.”

  • Ruth Ozeki (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    GR: “De­scribe a typ­i­cal day spent writ­ing. Do you have any un­usual writ­ing habits?”

    RO: “I wake up in the morn­ing and med­i­tate, for half an hour, 40 min­utes. I get a cup of green tea (the green tea is pretty im­por­tant, I have to say), and then I go di­rectly to my com­put­er. I’ll sit there and write un­til I can’t sit there any­more. But it also de­pends on where I am in a pro­ject. At the be­gin­ning of a pro­ject, when I’m get­ting the first draft down, it’s very diffi­cult. That’s the hard­est part for me. So I tend to be more rest­less and fid­gety, and so I’ll get up a lot and move around. At the end of a pro­ject, when I’m re­ally bear­ing down on the end, it’s com­pletely over­whelm­ing. I tend to spend long, long hours at the com­put­er. Usu­ally I write un­til mid-after­noon, and then I’ll do other things: check email, go for a run, cook din­ner, be a hu­man be­ing. In the evening I’ll usu­ally go back and re­view the ma­te­r­ial or spend the evening read­ing or re­search­ing.”

    “I have these fin­ger­less gloves—I’m wear­ing them in my au­thor pho­to. They pro­tect my wrists; the sur­face of the desk after long hours, it gets sen­si­tive there. Wrist warm­ers be­come very im­por­tant to me. It’s like putting on a piece of ar­mor when head­ing out into bat­tle—hav­ing my pulses pro­tected is very en­cour­ag­ing and com­fort­ing to me.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    SC: “My ideal writ­ing day is, I wake up in the morn­ing, and the first thing I do is go to my fa­vorite café. I love to write in cafés and li­braries. I hate to write at home. I like the feel­ing of oth­ers around and hav­ing won­der­ful mu­sic play­ing softly in the back­ground. I love feel­ing other peo­ple’s en­ergies, but I’m free to be left alone to do my own thing. I don’t have un­usual writ­ing habits, but when­ever I can, I write with a latte and a cookie or muffin or some­thing. Over time I have come to as­so­ciate writ­ing with plea­sure. Peo­ple ask me if I get writer’s block, and I re­ally never do, and I think it’s for this rea­son. Sit­ting down be­hind my lap­top is my fa­vorite thing to do. Even when a latte or a cookie is not avail­able, the as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween writ­ing and plea­sure is still so strong, it car­ries through.”

  • M.L. Sted­man (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    There re­ally is­n’t such a thing as a “typ­i­cal” writ­ing day for me, ex­cept in­so­far as I only write in the day­time—n­ever at night. I’m rather al­ler­gic to rules about writ­ing, and pro­nounce­ments such as “you must write at least an hour a day” or “you must plot every­thing in ad­vance” or “do all your re­search be­fore you write a sin­gle word.” My phi­los­o­phy is “find out what works for you, and do that: Every­one is differ­ent.” So, for ex­am­ple, I wrote this book on my so­fa, in the British Li­brary, in a cot­tage by the beach in West­ern Aus­tralia, on Hamp­stead Heath, and any­where else that felt right. I con­sider it a true priv­i­lege to have the op­por­tu­nity to do what I love.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    At this point I re­ally don’t. I have a lit­tle writ­ing shed for the first time in my life. It’s about 100 feet from the house. On a per­fect day I walk the dogs, get a cup of coffee, and go over there and just stay for seven or eight hours. I just wait to see what hap­pens. There’s no par­tic­u­lar su­per­sti­tion. I wrote my first book and a half in an office, kind of steal­ing the time. That kind of purged me of any need for rit­u­al. The only thing I need is to be hap­py. If I’m a lit­tle bit hap­py, then I can come up with some­thing. Maybe part of the rit­ual is that if I’m not hap­py, I might do down­town, fart around, or go take a walk. If there is a lit­tle feel­ing of “happy to be alive” vibe, then I’m good to go. It does­n’t have to be in the writ­ing shed. I could be on an air­plane, hotel, or wher­ev­er.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    I sit down in the after­noon to write gen­er­al­ly. I don’t write more than two, three hours at a time. At least at the be­gin­ning of a book I don’t. In the evening I’m often Skyp­ing with book clubs. Some­times it’s two or three days a week. It’s great. Some­time I have to learn to say no. I hate to say no to read­ers. As I move to­ward the com­ple­tion of a book, I do tend to hole my­self off from the world. I’ll spend two or three weeks barely com­ing up for air and just ig­nor­ing every­thing else.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    Well, I have four kids, so my first job is to get them off to school. One of them I have to dri­ve, so my best work­day lately is drop­ping him off at 8 a.m. and then hid­ing out in a coffee shop that is in­side of a su­per­mar­ket, which is a lit­tle weird. It’s a Star­bucks near a deli counter. I’ve been writ­ing there. I usu­ally will write from 8 un­til noon. Some days I’ll catch an­other hour or two in the after­noon. The morn­ing is my best time. I can write any­place, and I change up my places a lot. It’s al­most like rid­ing a horse. What­ever seems to be work­ing, I’ll do that un­til the horse col­lapses in ex­haus­tion, and then I’ll find a new horse. Weirdly enough I was in New York, and I was writ­ing in sub­ways, and I was tak­ing sub­way rides with a note­book and a pen­cil for a while. Some­times I’ll write well while on an air­plane, and I’ll start do­ing that as much as I can. What­ever works I will do. I don’t have that one office or that one cor­ner room or a cer­tain pair of socks. I’m mix­ing it up as much as I can.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    I like to work in the morn­ing, and I guess the only thing that I do un­usu­al: I move around a lot when I work—I just walk around—I move a lot, and I bring my work with me. It’s one of the rea­sons I like to work at home, be­cause if you’re in a li­brary, you can’t just walk around.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    Have a cup of coffee. I put­ter about, then I start writ­ing. I’m bet­ter in the morn­ing. I’ll al­ways be­gin by read­ing what I’ve writ­ten the pre­vi­ous day. That eases me into it so when I start writ­ing new, I’m fol­low­ing on from some­thing I’ve writ­ten. I even do that when I’ve writ­ten a lot of the nov­el. I’ll still quite pos­si­bly go back to the first page when I start my writ­ing day. I hate do­ing a huge rewrite at the end of a book, so by the time I’m done with a novel I’ve pretty much al­ready done the rewrite. I do a lot of frit­ter­ing around and wast­ing time. It takes me a while to get en­gaged with a book. But when I’m re­ally locked in, I’d be happy to go to jail and be in soli­tary con­fine­ment. I just want to get it done. I can do 12-hour days. I don’t want to think about gro­cery shop­ping or what I’m go­ing to wear or talk to any­one. There are three phas­es: Mess­ing about at the be­gin­ning, which is very im­por­tant. I rewrite and rewrite un­til I’ve got the feel of it. And then the mid­dle is very fret­ful be­cause I’m con­vinced I can’t get it to work. And then the last third is great: Shut the door. I know what I’m do­ing. I work at home, so I’ll move around to differ­ent rooms to al­le­vi­ate the bore­dom. [laughs] Be­ing in the same place has an odd effect on your brain. When I’m in the re­ally fret­ful stage, then I ei­ther go away some­where or I take to my bed. Rather like Eliz­a­beth Bar­rett Brown­ing or some­thing! If I put head­phones on and ig­nore every­thing in bed, that is re­mark­ably good at fo­cus­ing. But that does­n’t last long; it’s un­healthy to take your work to bed. Al­though Proust wrote in bed, did­n’t he? In a cork-lined room. I un­der­stand that.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    I wrote the book in both Nige­ria and the U.S. I don’t have a rou­tine. I like si­lence and space when­ever and wher­ever I can get it. When the writ­ing is go­ing well, I’m ob­ses­sive—I roll out of bed and go to work. I write and rewrite a lot and shut every­thing out. When it is not go­ing well, I sink into a dark place and read books I love.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    My per­fect writ­ing day would be wak­ing up at about five o’­clock in the morn­ing and go­ing to my lit­tle cub­by­hole. I lit­er­ally write in the clos­et; I’ve built my desk into a clos­et. I have a cou­ple of hours be­fore any of my kids have woken up, and that’s what I call the “Dream Time.” I would­n’t touch the In­ter­net, I would­n’t even make a cup of coffee, I would just go in and use that re­ally fan­tas­tic mo­ment when the mind is un­clut­tered early in the morn­ing as the time to em­bark on some work.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    A typ­i­cal day writ­ing is prob­a­bly 6 a.m. to 12 p.m., Mon­day through Fri­day. My office is pretty stan­dard. It’s a room above the garage; a nice, bright room with sky­lights. There’s a sit­ting area. I’ve got tons of shelves and notes sit­ting out every­where. Post-its are the best in­ven­tion since sliced bread. I have them cov­er­ing every­thing.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    When I’m writ­ing a man­u­script, I typ­i­cally take my kids to school at 8 and then I try to do some ex­er­cise and I sit down to write at about 9:30 in the morn­ing. I write on the com­puter in a small office I have in my house, and I write till about 2, at which point I go and pick up my kids. Once I’ve picked up my kids from school, then I’m a ful­l-time dad and I try not to write. Al­though I’m not ac­tu­ally do­ing any writ­ing, the char­ac­ters are with me every­where I go and I’m con­stantly think­ing about it.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I wake up in the after­noon. I wake up and spend time with my chil­dren; when they all go to bed, I write. I write at night. Gen­er­ally that in­volves head­phones and loud mu­sic and caffeine and dark­ness. Dur­ing the day it’s ei­ther fam­ily time or sleep time.

    I’m very much a “fits” per­son. I’d write till five o’­clock in the morn­ing and go to sleep till about 10 or 11. Get up and spend time with the kids, and start back up again at eight o’­clock at night. After a cou­ple days of that you crash and end up sleep­ing till two in the after­noon. I have days where I don’t re­ally sleep. I write and do my reg­u­lar fam­ily stuff. Gen­er­ally after about three or four days of that, I crash. It’s not a healthy rou­tine. I do not rec­om­mend it.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I tend to write for con­sid­er­able stretches in the morn­ing and later after­noon. Gen­er­ally mid-after­noon I go on a long walk. I live in a part of Syd­ney on the edge of a na­tional park. And it’s near the sea. So there’s a great lot of walk­ing around the coast of the har­bor and the Pa­cific coast. So I gen­er­ally take an hour and five min­utes. That is very im­por­tant to the day… After my walk, I work as much as I can be­fore din­ner, which is gen­er­ally around 7:30. But I’ve got grand­chil­dren to look after, too. They’re more im­por­tant than nov­els to me. If they need to be looked after, then that’s what you do.

  • Mar­isha Pessl (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I wake up in the morn­ing, I go down­stairs and make coffee, be­cause I can’t re­ally do any­thing with­out coffee these days. And then I read The New York Times and maybe The Wall Street Jour­nal. I start my day of writ­ing maybe around 10:30 in my office; I have an office at home. I do take it on the road every now and then: At least twice a week I like to write in cafés on my lap­top, just to get out and see the world. I write un­til about 4 or 5, and then I’ll ei­ther ex­er­cise—run around the park, go to a yoga class—and then my day is free.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Well, I get up at 6 a.m., which I don’t like, but with kids, an­i­mals, and a sched­ule that seems to eat into my writ­ing day, it’s pretty much my only choice. My hus­band gets up first, gets a cup of coffee and my lap­top, and shoves them both into my hands. So I do the first hour and a half in bed. I kind of come to in front of my screen. What I’ve found is, ac­tu­ally it can be quite good for your writ­ing. What hap­pens is, there’s no fal­ter in your brain at that point. It’s be­fore your brain fills up with all the things that oc­cupy you in the day, like school shoes or fish fin­gers or the den­tal ap­point­ment at 4:30 or pick­ing up the dry clean­ing. What you find is that very early on in the day be­fore that’s had a chance to hit, some­times you can get a re­ally clear run at ideas and prob­lem solv­ing.

    I do that most morn­ings, and two days a week my hus­band works from home, which frees me up from the school run. Those days I try to work 12-hour days in my office. I’ll go from 7 a.m. and come back at 7 p.m., de­pend­ing on how tired I am and how well it’s go­ing. If I get re­ally stuck, I’ll take my­self away for three days. I work solid­ly. I get up when I get up and I sleep when I sleep. My record is 18,000 words in three days on one of my writ­ing stints. I don’t get out of my room. I get room ser­vice, I wear a dress­ing gown and don’t get dressed. It’s a bit dis­gust­ing, but it works. I don’t think about any­thing ex­cept the book. Some­times you need to do that.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I am an early ris­er. On my best writ­ing days I’m up at 5:30 a.m., I hit the gym, and I’m back at 7:30 a.m. at home, and by 9 a.m. I’m at my writ­ing desk. The ear­lier I can get start­ed, the bet­ter, be­cause my cre­ative mind works best in the morn­ing hours. As the day goes on, around 2 p.m., my cre­ativ­ity starts to turn off al­most like an elec­tri­cal cur­rent when you flip the switch. Like right now I’m here with my as­sis­tant, and we’re do­ing the busi­ness part of my writ­ing ca­reer. But I re­serve the morn­ings for fic­tion. Usu­ally around 2 p.m. I will stop, though I must ad­mit that if I’m hav­ing a re­ally bad writ­ing day, I knock off at 1 p.m. and watch Days of Our Lives.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I write every day that I don’t have a hia­tus, and there are more than you would think—­trav­el, kids com­ing home for hol­i­day, a birth­day, or just the week­end. But gen­er­ally speak­ing, in the dead of win­ter when there is noth­ing to do ex­cept work, I would get up and be at the desk by 7:30/8 o’­clock, and I would leave around 12:30 p.m.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view):

    The room must be com­pletely dark. Se­ri­ous­ly, to­tal­ly. Black­out cur­tains and tinted win­dows. I tried writ­ing in a closet for a while, but it was too small. I wake at 4:30. Get coffee. Refuse to let brain turn on. Sit at desk and start writ­ing while I’m still asleep enough that I can’t think about what I’m do­ing. I have to stay deep in my sub­con­scious in or­der to write. Once I’m wide awake I can ed­it, but I can’t cre­ate. I write for about three or four hours. Then I can stand light. I get break­fast, ex­er­cise, then go back to my office to edit and flesh out the scene for the next day. I never have an ex­pected word count, and I don’t write to out­line. At all times I know ex­actly where the over­all story arc is go­ing, but some­times it sur­prises even me how it gets there. Which is good. I have a the­o­ry: If the writer is bored, the reader will be, too. If the writer is hav­ing a blast, and is 100 per­cent in­vested in and com­mit­ted to his or her fic­tional world, the reader will be, too.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    A typ­i­cal day varies de­pend­ing on where I’m at with the book. In the be­gin­ning (the glo­ri­ous phase of in­vent­ing and dream­ing), I read around the top­ic—what­ever takes my fan­cy; I scrib­ble down ideas and let my mind wan­der free. But then when the ac­tual writ­ing starts, it’s a mat­ter of just sit­ting at the key­board and putting one word down after an­oth­er, all the way to the very, very end. Some days it’s a plea­sure, other days it’s plain hard work. (I should add: As the mother of two young boys, there is ab­solutely no time to be pre­cious about my writ­ing con­di­tions. I do it wher­ever and when­ever I can, even when my sons are stag­ing a fierce lightsaber bat­tle in the mid­dle of my office.)

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I have child care from 9 to 3. But I swim or run for an hour in the morn­ings. If I don’t ex­er­cise, I get very down. So work­wise I get five hours. An hour or two of that is lost to e-mail and Google and as­sorted te­di­um. So it’s a two- or three­-hour day. I just type as fast as I can and try and leave half an hour for read­ing.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    My writ­ing process seems to in­volve a lot of read­ing and work­ing in the morn­ing. I get al­most all my writ­ing done by noon. Then there is read­ing, and I’m an ed­i­tor at the Boston Re­view, and there is rewrit­ing.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    None that I know of. I go down to my study after break­fast, and I don’t re­ally emerge ex­cept for a cup of coffee and per­haps to get my youngest daugh­ter from school. I’m down there un­til 7 o’­clock. Not writ­ing all the time, by any means. Be­ing alone in my study is work­ing, what­ever I’m do­ing, even if I’m just throw­ing darts into the wall. It’s com­muning with your con­scious mind and hop­ing that your un­con­scious mind is com­ing along and do­ing some of the work for you. A lot of the time is spent read­ing and scratch­ing your ass and dig­ging your nose, inch­ing along with slow progress. It’s on the whole a happy process with oc­ca­sional cri­sis.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I work in the office in my house. I gen­er­ally like to be at my desk by 9 o’­clock, writ­ing. I try to avoid the phone till about lunchtime, and then I’ll re­turn some calls and take a break. I’ll prob­a­bly shift gears to an­other project in the after­noon, and then some­time in the evening, if I’m work­ing on the book, I’ll go over what I wrote that day. Be­cause I have kids, I treat it as a day job.

  • Emily Giffin (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I usu­ally write in my office, lo­cated in a small, de­tached car­riage house in my back­yard. It is such a happy place—there’s so much sun­light, and every­thing is white, pink, and or­ange. On rare oc­ca­sions, when I need a change of scenery, I write in a coffee shop or book­store. I don’t have many rit­u­al­s—but I al­ways start out my writ­ing day with a strong cup of black coffee and find that my writ­ing flows more the first thing in the morn­ing (after I get my chil­dren off to school) or very late at night.

  • , (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Stephen Bax­ter: “I have quite a noisy house­hold, but it’s a house­hold of rou­tine. I stick to a 9 to 5, Mon­day through Fri­day work­ing day so every­one knows when I’m in my study and should­n’t be dis­turbed. I like to keep evenings and week­ends free. Then Mon­day morn­ing it’s back to work again.”

    Terry Pratch­ett: “It’s pretty much like that for me. I wrote think­ing that I never would be suc­cess­ful. I thought if I could make some money out of writ­ing sci­ence fic­tion, that would be so good. I never thought I would make a load of money out of it. It’s a lot of fun, and I keep won­der­ing when it’s all go­ing to end. You keep on do­ing it be­cause it’s your job, but after a while you sud­denly re­al­ize that it’s nice to take a hol­i­day every now and then and ac­tu­ally talk to your wife. These days I try to al­low my­self some week­ends.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    When I’m at home in Maine, I write in a re­mod­eled boathouse down by the wa­ter. The pre­vi­ous owner of my house, who was a lob­ster­man, used to work on his traps and do re­pairs to his dinghy there. It was very rough, it did­n’t have in­su­la­tion, or a toi­let, run­ning wa­ter. I just moved a desk there. Most every day from about 8:30 to 12:30 or 1 I write, and then I go away for a while, then again from about 3:15 till 5, though mostly that’s spent plan­ning what I’m do­ing the next day. It’s very or­derly with­out be­ing oner­ous. Peo­ple think I’m slow. My friends who are nov­el­ists, [like] Joyce Carol Oates, make fun of me for be­ing slow. But nov­els for me are long process­es, and I’m slow about do­ing them. I have to live a very tem­per­ate life, I can’t be wak­ing up with hang­overs or re­gret­ting a ter­ri­ble de­ci­sion.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    At my desk by 9. Work un­til at least 12:30. Make differ­ent de­ci­sions about how to spend the after­noon. Buy shrimp in Chi­na­town. For­get the spring onions. Go out again.

    Paris Re­view in­ter­view (The Art of Fic­tion No. 188, 2006):

    INTERVIEWER: “When do you write?”

    CAREY: “Mostly in the morn­ings. Non­fic­tion writ­ers tend not to un­der­stand this; they can write for eigh­teen hours straight, it seems. At the very end of a book I can man­age to work for longer stretch­es, but most­ly, mak­ing stuff up for three hours, that’s enough. I can’t do any more. At the end of the day I might tin­ker with my morn­ing’s work and maybe write some again. But I think three hours is fine. There are writ­ers who go to the gym when they fin­ish work­ing, and there are writ­ers who go to lunch. I’m en­thu­si­as­tic about lunch. Three hours, then lunch. Now I have the Hunter pro­gram to keep me out of pool halls in the after­noon.”

    “No one is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested that I teach, but ad­ver­tis­ing was a differ­ent mat­ter. You win the Booker Prize, the pa­pers say”Ad-man Wins Booker Prize." It used to drive me nuts. But the won­der­ful thing about ad­ver­tis­ing—which I be­came quite good at and ended up do­ing for about twenty years—was that it pro­vided this sit­u­a­tion where I could be em­ployed two after­noons a week or one week a mon­th, so it was like hav­ing a fan­tas­tic pa­tron or a great schol­ar­ship. From 1976 on­ward I never worked full time. That meant that every day I could write."

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    My first writ­ing teacher in col­lege, Reynolds Price, used to say, “The cre­ative urge is like a small child; it craves rou­tine.” I’m a great be­liever in the pow­ers of rou­tine. Every sin­gle morn­ing I take a walk through the woods, and al­though I may be­gin my walk think­ing about a recipe or a house­-main­te­nance prob­lem, by the time I’m on the home­ward loop my char­ac­ters are all at once talk­ing in my mind, and I go di­rectly up­stairs and start writ­ing down what they’ve said. I sup­pose it’s un­usual in this day and age that I work in long­hand. I use a Pi­lot P-500 black gel pen on un­lined white pa­per, and I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite be­fore I fi­nally type a sec­tion up. At the end, I rewrite the whole book in long­hand all over again, and then I read it into a tape recorder. This was orig­i­nally so that I could fol­low along on the com­puter screen and see where I’d made any changes, but I’ve found it has the added ben­e­fit of show­ing me when some­thing sounds un­nat­u­ral, par­tic­u­larly in di­a­logue.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I have one new, un­usual habit: I stand up all day. I did­n’t start do­ing it out of choice; I had a run­ning in­jury, and it hurt to sit down. But I read an ar­ti­cle in The New York Times’s health sec­tion on the rev­e­la­tion that if you spend a large por­tion of your time sit­ting down—even if you get a lot of ex­er­cise—you el­e­vate your risk of every­thing: heart dis­ease, stroke, can­cer, every­thing. And so when I got this in­jury, I de­cided that I’d prob­a­bly used up all my sit­ting-down time al­ready for my en­tire life. When I get up, I read the pa­per at the kitchen counter stand­ing up, and then I go up to the office and have the com­puter on top of my Ox­ford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary, and I stand in front of the desk 12 hours a day.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Right now I have pre­pub­li­ca­tion jit­ters, men­tal ill­ness, and dis­trac­tion. My grand­son is here three days a week, so I have that as an ex­cuse. I have four week­days now when I’m work­ing. I lit­er­ally do the same thing every day. I be­lieve that dis­ci­pline and self­-love are the to­tal se­crets to free­dom. I sit down at the same time every day be­cause I don’t want it to be an is­sue. I’m like a teenag­er. If you give me a chance to ne­go­ti­ate around sit­ting down at 9 a.m. and be­gin­ning the piece, I’m go­ing to be like a 15-year-old. I may have a rea­son why that does­n’t re­ally make sense and why you’re try­ing to bum my trip. My dad taught me that to be a writer is a de­ci­sion and a habit. It’s not any­thing lofty, and it does­n’t have that much to do with in­spi­ra­tion. You have to de­velop the habit of be­ing a cer­tain way with your­self. You do it at the debt of hon­or. I’ve writ­ten 13 books now. It’s not re­ally im­por­tant that I write a lot more books, but I do it as a debt of hon­or. I got one of the five golden tick­ets to be a writer, and I take that se­ri­ous­ly. I don’t love my own work at all, but I love my own self. I love that I’ve been given the chance to cap­ture the sto­ries that come through me.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    On the best writ­ing day I start im­me­di­ate­ly, be­cause I’m still in that morn­ing fog and it’s easy for me to pre­tend that it’s not work. I usu­ally get dis­tracted by some hor­ri­ble thing on the In­ter­net like Face­book or Twit­ter and then, like to­day, I spend hours try­ing to di­ag­nose a shoul­der pain I have. Then I’ll re­mem­ber, “Oh yeah, I should be writ­ing.” I use word quo­tas when I’m un­der a dead­line and writ­ing a first draft. I talk to my­self so I can’t write in cafés. I don’t like to have peo­ple over, be­cause I re­al­ize I can’t talk to my­self when I’m writ­ing.

  • , (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Alan Zweibel:“I wake up at five every morn­ing (in­clud­ing week­ends) to start my writ­ing day. It’s a quiet time of day with al­most no dis­trac­tions, and I find my mind is most fer­tile in those morn­ing hours. I write un­til I am burned out­—which could be any­where from 30 min­utes to ten hours, de­pend­ing on how the Muses are feel­ing that day. Un­usual habits? Other than dress­ing like a Ha­sidic rabbi and danc­ing with my arms aloft after I write a great joke, I have none.”

    Dave Barry: “After I take my daugh­ter to school and walk the dog, I make coffee, then sit and stare at the com­puter screen for hours. But I don’t get much writ­ing done, be­cause I have no key­board, just the screen. No, se­ri­ous­ly, I tap words out slow­ly, but there’s a lot of star­ing. It would be hideously bor­ing to watch me write. Prob­a­bly my most un­usual writ­ing habit is that, after every com­pleted para­graph, I sac­ri­fice a live rac­coon. No, se­ri­ous­ly, the rac­coon is al­ready dead.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I wake up, drink espres­so, walk my kid to school, take the bus to a swim­ming pool, swim laps, and then work, mostly long­hand on le­gal pads, in my office at home or in one of a hand­ful of cafés with very pa­tient staff. I like to lis­ten to ap­pro­pri­ate mu­sic, and I al­ways need a cou­ple of un­sharp­ened pen­cils nearby to tap and drum while think­ing. (These don’t seem to qual­ify as “un­usual writ­ing habits,” at least by the stan­dards of writ­er­s.) Then I type in what I’ve writ­ten, print it, read it again, and wait for cock­tail hour.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    It goes like this: Wake up. Blink a lot. Eat break­fast. Drink tea. At­tempt to start writ­ing. Get dis­tract­ed. Take a show­er. Get dressed. At­tempt to start writ­ing. Get dis­tract­ed. Eat lunch. At­tempt to start writ­ing. Ac­tu­ally start writ­ing! Write un­til 5. Get ex­haust­ed. Stop writ­ing. Hang out with the three­-di­men­sional peo­ple.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    It’s fun­ny. I haven’t had a typ­i­cal day in a long time be­cause it was 2008 and 2009 when I worked on the book. But when I was work­ing on it, it was very blue col­lar. I worked 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, a su­per-rigid sched­ule. I had quit my teach­ing job to do a book like this and knew I would have to give it every­thing and not be dis­tract­ed. I sat in the same chair every day at Star­bucks dili­gent­ly. I never worked that way be­fore, be­cause on my first novel I had an hour a day when my daugh­ter napped. I’m try­ing to get that sched­ule down again.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I wake up around 7 a.m., 6:30 a.m. if I’m feel­ing re­ally good, and I wan­der to the coffee place and buy two huge cups of coffee that will last me all day. In terms of shots, I think it is eight shots of coffee. I then walk back to my home, and the first two to five hours I am good to go. My brain is as­ton­ish­ingly clear, and I write a lot. After that time, I feel tired and want to go back to bed. I am not able to main­tain that level of clear­head­ed­ness through­out the day. So I do a four-hour stretch. I think a lot of writ­ers are de­pressed be­cause they have a stretch of time of ex­treme clar­i­ty, and then they are not able to do much for the rest of the day. I think it makes a lot of writ­ers mis­er­able, so I de­cided a long time ago that I would­n’t spend the after­noons de­scend­ing into mis­ery. In­stead I ex­er­cise. I go for an hour run or an hour on the cross-train­er. In the after­noon I re­ally can’t do any writ­ing un­less I’m forced to, so in­stead I do re­search, send emails, and, around 5 or 6 p.m., I stop and watch crap TV.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I do not have a typ­i­cal writ­ing day. I’m not one of those writ­ers who sit down every day for three hours with their coffee. I can’t do it. I have weeks where I write all day every day, and then I won’t write any­thing for sev­eral days. Then I’ll go back to it. I defi­nitely have marathon writ­ing times, which I think comes from Na­tional Novel Writ­ing Month. I wish I could have a typ­i­cal day and rou­tine, but I re­ally don’t. Maybe there will come a time when it will be ha­bit­u­al. I keep a note­book with me for when ideas show up in my head, so I can catch them be­fore they go away.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I’m usu­ally at my desk by 8:30 or 9:00. I like a tidy office be­cause I find messes dis­tract­ing. Be­ing dis­or­ga­nized wastes time. I keep jour­nals for every novel I write, and I start my work­day by log­ging in, talk­ing to my­self about where I am in a novel and how I feel. I fo­cus on the scene or story moves com­ing up. I worry about pac­ing and sus­pense. I re­vise. I stop some­times and con­sult my re­search li­brary, which is packed with books about crime and law en­force­ment. If I’m stuck, I call on the small army of ex­perts who as­sist with each book. I break for a brief lunch and then work an­other cou­ple of hours. Most days, I walk three to five miles when I’ve fin­ished writ­ing. I need the stress re­lief and fresh air.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I sup­pose what might be most un­usual is my wake-up time: 4 a.m. I like the quiet of morn­ing for writ­ing, and I like to come to writ­ing straight from sleep and dreams, be­fore the world in­ter­venes and be­fore I’m em­broiled in re­spond­ing to it. I spend more than 90 per­cent of my writ­ing time reread­ing what I’ve al­ready writ­ten and wield­ing a pen­cil. Even­tu­ally the page is too messy to make sense of, and so at that point I re­type, the bet­ter to see it again with more clar­ity and for an­other round with the pen­cil. This cir­cu­lar edit­ing has a qual­ity of end­less­ness to it, and of ob­ses­sive­ness, but I per­sist any­way in the hope of be­com­ing ex­hausted enough with it that I can add a few more atro­cious lines of first-draft prose in need of re­pair.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Have break­fast and sit at my desk. It’s re­ally very dull and sim­ple. The Ger­man phrase sitzfleisch [the abil­ity to sit in a chair and en­dure a task], it means you have a lot of meat on your be­hind. The per­son that has sitzfleisch can sit in the chair the longest. The Ger­mans think this is very im­por­tant for schol­ar­ship and for work in gen­er­al. I agree that this is what you need for writ­ing nov­els. It’s a long and slow haul, and there’s noth­ing about the process that is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing. I don’t have any spe­cial things I do, like a lit­tle stuffed an­i­mal that I stroke or a kind of po­tion that I drink. There’s noth­ing about it ex­cept the reg­u­lar­ity of it.

  • Marisa de los San­tos (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Usu­al­ly, I get up to my desk as quickly as I can after the kids are off to school, and I re-read the sec­tion I wrote the day be­fore (it might be a few pages or a few para­graph­s). I tin­ker with that and then be­gin the next sec­tion. Often, I have some sketchy sense of what I want to ac­com­plish, what I want to write, but many times the char­ac­ters in­sist on sur­pris­ing me and head­ing off into an­other di­rec­tion al­to­geth­er. As a gen­eral rule, I don’t write on week­ends or in the evenings; both of those be­long to my fam­i­ly, al­though I’d be ly­ing if I said I did­n’t break that rule on oc­ca­sion!

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I fid­dle around for a long time, all morn­ing usu­al­ly, be­fore I fi­nally over­come Re­sis­tance and get down to work. I try to be as stu­pid as pos­si­ble. I just let it rip and try not to cen­sor any­thing. My goal is just to get some­thing down, good or bad, and K.B.O., Keep Bug­ger­ing On. I’m very su­per­sti­tious. I col­lect pen­nies. I have a lit­tle can­non on my desk that I point at me, to fire in­spi­ra­tion into me. That’s only the be­gin­ning. They say there’s no such thing as writ­ing, only rewrit­ing. I’d di­vide the ac­tiv­ity into two. Yes, there’s writ­ing. You have to be fear­less and keep grind­ing, day after day, month after month. Then there’s rewrit­ing. That’s al­most as hard but not as scary. I try to stay as dumb as pos­si­ble. Don’t think about it, do it.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Yes, I still write in long­hand; it gives me a real con­nec­tion to my char­ac­ters. My sched­ule is tough. I lock my­self away from 8:00 in the morn­ing un­til 4:00 in the after­noon. The eas­ier you make it look, the more diffi­cult it is, but I love what I do.

  • Christina Schwarz (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I’m not as dis­ci­plined as I ought to be, and for the last few years I’ve felt, like many women with small chil­dren, like I’m try­ing to squeeze my work in around every­thing else, so, sad­ly, there is no “typ­i­cal” writ­ing day for me. I can do a lot of think­ing about dis­crete prob­lems with char­ac­ter or plot while walk­ing the dog or run­ning or dri­ving, but it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for me to move for­ward sig­nifi­cantly with­out a good long stretches of four or five hours, be­cause to some ex­tent I have to get my­self out of the real world and into the world of the book. I have to day­dream a lot and try ideas and then ad­just and read­just them. I don’t give my­self a set num­ber of words to pro­duce (part of be­ing undis­ci­plined), but gen­er­ally I’d say I do maybe half a page to a page a day, and then the next day redo that rad­i­cally and move on by about half a page to a page. Some scenes go much faster, some even slow­er. I do like to move around from day to day. It seems to re­fresh me. I’m grate­ful for lap­tops and would have a hard time be­ing chained to the same desk in the same room for the du­ra­tion of a nov­el. I also do some work on pa­per, es­pe­cially when I’m try­ing to work out some­thing com­plex and need to think non­lin­ear­ly.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I’m defi­nitely not an up­-al­l-night kind of writer, though I used to be. Now I’m more of an early ris­er. For ex­am­ple, it’s be­come a bit of a rou­tine to do the last round of changes and tweaks and trims on the col­umn on Mon­day morn­ing be­tween 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., when it’s due. That’s not a good habit, I guess. I ba­si­cally work every day. But it’s not like I’m break­ing up rocks in the hot sun — I’m just talk­ing on the phone or read­ing or writ­ing. I re­mem­ber read­ing once about this writer talk­ing about how he does his work in this re­ally spare room with no dis­trac­tions. I kind of like dis­trac­tions; I’m very prone to get­ting up and walk­ing around, flip­ping through a mag­a­zine, lis­ten­ing to some NPR pod­cast, what­ev­er. I have to turn things over in the back of my head for a long time be­fore I can get to where I’m ready to write. Ide­al­ly, I like to know how some­thing will start, and how it will end, be­fore I re­ally get go­ing. I like hav­ing a ba­sic con­cept — which of course often changes in the course of the writ­ing, but it pre­vents me from sit­ting there look­ing at a blank screen.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I’d say that work­ing on a novel for over 30 years is a bit un­usu­al, not what I in­tend­ed, but it turned out just great. Over the thir­ty-plus years that I spent writ­ing The Lit­tle Book, I had a day job as an Eng­lish teacher and head­mas­ter, which I loved. I wrote pri­mar­ily on days off and va­ca­tions. To me a writ­ing day is from break­fast till lunch. I love the feel­ing of hav­ing a pro­duc­tive morn­ing of writ­ing, with an after­noon free to roam and ram­ble. Now that I am re­tired, I can write when­ever I want, and morn­ings re­main my fa­vorites.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I don’t think I have any un­usual writ­ing habits, un­less you count writ­ing at the gym. I don’t have a writ­ing room in San Fran­cis­co, but my gym has a coffee room with two cu­bi­cles. I go there, write, work out and take the bus home mid-after­noon. In Paris, I do have a writ­ing room, and a lit­tle house on the Seine, and the apart­ment of my son when he is­n’t us­ing it — lots of op­tions. I be­lieve it is im­por­tant for women writ­ers to get out of the house, just as it would be for a male writer who was, say, an in­sur­ance ex­ec­u­tive, to get out of the office to do his writ­ing.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    In this case I used a very sim­i­lar process. Up in the morn­ing, go to office, read through yes­ter­day’s pages and edit them, then move on to writ­ing new pages. By 10 or 11 in the morn­ing I’m done. Even­tu­ally I trans­fer it into a com­put­er. Then I go ex­er­cise and spend the after­noon work­ing on some­thing com­pletely un­re­lat­ed. The only real differ­ence be­tween how I wrote Anathem and how I wrote The Baroque Cy­cle was that in the case of Anathem I printed out the man­u­script and read through it quite a bit more fre­quently than I did in the case of The Baroque Cy­cle.

    July 2019 in­ter­view:

    STEPHENSON: “I don’t know if it’s un­usu­al, but a pe­cu­liar­ity is that when I stop writ­ing for the day, which usu­ally hap­pens at some­thing like 11 in the morn­ing, and I—”

    COWEN: “And you’re start­ing around when?”

    STEPHENSON: “Oh, maybe eight.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    It has changed a lot since I had kids. I have two kids now. Be­fore I had kids, I would lit­er­ally get up in the morn­ing, turn on the com­put­er, work all day — often I would not eat — and then turn it off and go to bed at night. That’s it. The prob­lem with that is if you do that for sev­eral weeks, when you fi­nally do go out­side and see other peo­ple, you’ve for­got­ten how to in­ter­act. It de-so­cial­izes you, and that’s not healthy, so now I only work for eight hours a day! A lot of peo­ple say they get their best work done first thing in the morn­ing, and that’s true if you’ve had a good night’s sleep. The other thing is, you should not be afraid of whiskey. Don’t turn some­thing in after you’ve been drink­ing, but you will often come up with good ideas, and then look at them again the next morn­ing and say, “Man, that was good,” or “That was re­ally stu­pid.” But some­times you need some­thing like that to punch through when you’re stumped. I used to have sev­eral things that I did for com­ing up with ideas. Num­ber one: I would drive on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, and for some rea­son I would al­ways come up with ideas. But I don’t live there any­more, so that’s out. Num­ber two: I would go jog­ging, and I still do that. And num­ber three: re­al­ly, re­ally hot baths.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I write as much as pos­si­ble. Best time is late morn­ing or early after­noon. I don’t write at night un­less I have to. I have to write in spurts and then rest. It’s the only way I can work now.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I’m at my desk by 7:30. I work un­til noon. I usu­ally write in my bathrobe.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I usu­ally write in the morn­ing or very late at night, but I don’t write every day and I don’t have a set num­ber of words I pro­duce or any of those things. It’s a ter­ri­ble method by which to pro­duce work, but I’ve put nine books on the shelves in four­teen years, so it seems to be work­ing out OK for me.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    When I wrote Mar­ley & Me I was work­ing full time as a colum­nist with The Philadel­phia In­quirer. So that rou­tine was to get up at 4:45 a.m. in the morn­ing and write from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. in the base­ment of my home. But for The Longest Trip Home, I quit The In­quirer and we moved into an old 1790s stone farm­house out in rural Penn­syl­va­nia. On the prop­erty there was an old run­down cot­tage that I fixed up as my writ­ing stu­dio, and that’s where I’m sit­ting right now. I have a wood stove out here, hum­ming away. It’s my pri­vate place—real rus­tic and sim­ple—one room with a loft. When I’m re­ally in the heart of writ­ing cre­atively I go to Lehigh Uni­ver­si­ty, which is about 15 min­utes from me, and sit in their aca­d­e­mic li­brary. It’s just a good en­ergy for me. I wrote prob­a­bly three quar­ters of The Longest Trip Home sit­ting in that li­brary.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I don’t go to an office, so I write at home. I like to write in the morn­ing, if pos­si­ble; that’s when my mind is fresh­est. I might write for a cou­ple of hours, and then I head out to have lunch and read the pa­per. Then I write for a lit­tle bit longer if I can, then prob­a­bly go to the li­brary or make some phone calls. Every day is a lit­tle bit differ­ent. I’m not highly rou­tinized, so I spend a lot of time wan­der­ing around New York City with my lap­top in my bag, won­der­ing where I’m go­ing to end up next. It’s a fairly idyl­lic life for some­one who likes writ­ing.

  • , Gor­don Snell (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    A typ­i­cal day is break­fast (grape­fruit and Irish soda bread and tea), then up­stairs to a big, bright work­room. We have one long desk: my hus­band (Gor­don Snell) is at one end, and I am at the oth­er. He writes his chil­dren’s books, and I do my sto­ries. We both try to be at our desks by 8:30 AM, and we work un­til 1:00 PM. This in­cludes an­swer­ing mail and fil­ing. We have a sec­re­tary one day a week. Then when work is over, we have lunch and play a game of chess. We play seven days a week and have been do­ing so for over thirty years, and we are still hope­less at it, but love it to bits.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I typ­i­cally get up, have coffee with my girl­friend while we watch the news or read the news on our lap­tops. Then I go to work. I tend to work for three, maybe four hours. Then take a break, work out, do busi­ness stuff, go to the store, then in the evening I’ll plan what I’m go­ing to write the next day. If I’m be­hind on a dead­line, my typ­i­cal day con­sists of get­ting up, writ­ing, or wor­ry­ing about not writ­ing, un­til bed­time.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I wake up as late as I can, be­cause that is one of the few, great ben­e­fits of be­ing a writer. You don’t have to get up early and com­mute to work. So the morn­ing is won­der­fully wast­ed: read­ing three news­pa­pers, read­ing on­line, hav­ing a slow break­fast, then after get­ting dressed, me­an­der­ing off to my down­stairs office and jump­ing into it. My books in­volve a lot of re­search, so I’m usu­ally sur­rounded by huge stacks of other books and print­outs. I’m look­ing for­ward to some­day writ­ing a book with­out all that re­search and get­ting back to that style.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    It has got­ten a lot eas­ier—now my kids are in school 8 hours a day. When they were lit­tle, they weren’t. I have to be dis­ci­plined, be­cause there’s no­body here crack­ing a whip. So I have to be the one to say, “It’s a work day. I may not be feel­ing par­tic­u­larly in­spired, but I have to be here, and I have to find it within me to work.” That’s prob­a­bly the biggest differ­ence be­tween the peo­ple who make it in this in­dus­try and the peo­ple who don’t: the ones who are able to rec­og­nize that even if you love it, it’s a job ver­sus the ones who sit and wait for in­spi­ra­tion to strike. There is a big differ­ence be­tween those two mind­sets. If it’s a writ­ing day, I am go­ing to sit down and write.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I try to be­gin work as early as pos­si­ble, 8:30 a.m., per­haps, and I try to work un­til past noon or 1 p.m. I try again to write in the evening. Much of my writ­ing is “re­mem­ber­ing”—I imag­ine sce­nes, en­tire chap­ters while run­ning or walk­ing—I am very de­pen­dent upon this med­i­ta­tive quiet time.


    In short, Joyce Carol Oates is a ma­jor one-woman in­dus­try. Her jour­nal [The Jour­nal of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973–1982 , ed John­son 2007] tells us that she writes from 8 till 1 every day, then again for two or three hours in the evening. And she re­vises and pol­ishes and re­works page after page after page.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I usu­ally write in the morn­ing, al­though I some­times write later in the after­noon and in the evening. There are times when I get up very early to write, but on a typ­i­cal day I start writ­ing at about 10 a.m. and keep go­ing un­til lunchtime. I often write when I am trav­el­ing—I am away so often on book tours that I have to do this. On my forth­com­ing tour of the USA I will be fin­ish­ing the next Is­abel Dal­housie book.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    In the early ’50s, when I had a job, I would get up at 5 a.m., write for two hours, and then go to work at an ad agency. I did that for most of ten years—I was writ­ing west­erns then. I sold five west­erns and 30 or so short sto­ries (and a cou­ple of those were turned into movies), so it was worth get­ting up that ear­ly. After I left the ad agen­cy, I was writ­ing at home, and I would usu­ally get go­ing by 9 a.m., and I would work un­til 6 p.m. Al­ways. I would skip lunch—­maybe have some peanuts. But in the last year or two, I’m get­ting to work lat­er. I’m find­ing more dis­trac­tions, maybe be­cause I don’t have a very strong urge to sit down and start writ­ing. But still, once I get go­ing, I’m where I want to be.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I don’t re­ally have a typ­i­cal day. Some­times I’ll write for 14 hours a day, some­times I won’t write at all. It just varies day to day and con­text to con­text. I tend to write very in­ten­sively when I do. Hav­ing spent a decade or more writ­ing with a word proces­sor, I’m ten­ta­tively start­ing to do a few drafts in pen first. I have the worst hand­writ­ing in the world, but I am en­joy­ing us­ing pens and pa­per for the first time in a long time.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    When I’m writ­ing, I get up around 7 a.m., make a cup of Eng­lish break­fast tea, and tod­dle down the hall to my office. My hus­band ex­er­cises to re­ally loud mu­sic right next to where I write, so I an­swer e-mail un­til he’s done. I’d say I be­gin to write in earnest around 9. I have a bowl of Rice Crispies with blue­ber­ries at 11. Then I get dressed. At some point I try to get some ex­er­cise. I’m a big walk­er, but I also play ten­nis and do Pi­lates. By the end of the day I have to write a min­i­mum of 1,000 words. Some­times I can get that done in two hours; some­times it takes all day. I don’t know if I have any un­usual writ­ing habits. Do the Rice Crispies count? The only other thing that might be con­sid­ered un­usual is that I like to have mu­sic play­ing, but it can’t have words, or if it does have words, they have to be in a lan­guage I don’t un­der­stand. One of my fa­vorite CDs to lis­ten to when writ­ing is called Puc­cini with­out Words. It has all the great arias and soar­ing mu­sic, mi­nus the words. I also like the sound­track from Mon­soon Wed­ding. I lis­ten to these two CDs over and over again when I’m writ­ing.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    If I’m writ­ing, I usu­ally get up ear­ly. I like to get up at 4:45 a.m. I like to write when no one else is awake, the phone is­n’t ring­ing, and noth­ing is hap­pen­ing. I write for usu­ally about two hours, and then I might stop and have coffee or ex­er­cise, and then I go back to it. But I al­ways feel like those first two hours pro­duce my best work.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    As writ­ers go, I’m a binger. I don’t write every day, I carve out a 6-8 hour block, usu­ally on a week­end and just bang away. I write best in the morn­ing: eat break­fast, line up the espresso shots, and just go. Which is all pretty or­di­nary, I think. Prob­a­bly my only un­usual habit is that I like to read other writ­ers while I write. Keeps me from get­ting lazy. While I was writ­ing The Ma­gi­cians I kept a copy of The Cor­rec­tions on one side of my desk and a stack of the Nar­nia books on the oth­er.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I’m hor­ri­ble. I am not a good girl scout. For Lit­tle Al­tars Every­where I got up every morn­ing at 4:30 a.m., and I wrote from 4:30 to 7:30, and it was fab­u­lous! It defi­nite­ly, how­ev­er, cut into my so­cial life, be­cause I had to go to bed so ear­ly. For Di­vine Se­crets I got a huge writer’s block, and so I was up one night at mid­night and I thought, “What the heck? Let me try writ­ing and see what hap­pens.” And then my old habit kicked in, and I started writ­ing all night. With Ya-Yas in Bloom, that was a pe­riod when my hus­band picked me up out of the bed, trans­ferred me to the wheel­chair [due to ], rolled me down the hall, picked me up, and put me into my writ­ing chair. I would write for a lit­tle bit, and then he put me back in bed. Back and forth. And that’s not to say I think it hurt that book. I think it taught me that maybe I’m not a good girl scout who writes from 9 to 5, but I’m a hell of a good girl scout be­cause I still wrote it. For this book, I just stay up all night! And I sleep re­ally late—and it’s ter­ri­ble! As my mother says, “You’re sleep­ing half your life away.” I love the night. A lot of peo­ple who are only day peo­ple miss the night, and they think I’m just a sloth for miss­ing the day­time.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    De­scrip­tions of writ­ing seem as bor­ing as de­scrip­tions of golf games (but with­out the ex­cit­ing putts or dri­ves, or the prospect of think­ing about Tiger Wood­s!). I get up, drink coffee, walk the dog, spend too much time on e-mail, and try to con­cen­trate. The vari­a­tions are all de­pen­dent upon where in the process I am; early on I’m read­ing or trolling the In­ter­net for facts or vis­it­ing the li­brary. Later on, I’m typ­ing. Dull. Re­al­ly, dull. I am a slave to my dead­li­nes, how­ev­er. The fact that I do not turn in man­u­scripts late may be un­usu­al; it’s all due to years and years of writ­ing for news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I get up very early in the morn­ing, and I drink lots of coffee. I am com­puter il­lit­er­ate—I’m not kid­ding you. I’ve never used a com­put­er. So I’ve writ­ten all of my 17 books, fic­tion and non­fic­tion, by hand. And I have an as­sis­tant who takes care of cor­rec­tions for me, and a woman back East who types for me. So I work as­sid­u­ously by hand. Blood’s a Rover, which is a 655-page hard­cov­er, was a 1,000-page typed man­u­script and 1,100 pages hand­writ­ten. It was en­tirely writ­ten in ink. It is the re­sult of a 400-page typed out­line, in which I de­scribe the char­ac­ters, the plot, the mi­lieu, and the his­tor­i­cal events in the most minute de­tail. I work every day for a long pe­riod of hours, drink­ing lots of coffee, with the out­line on my desk and white note­book pa­per that I write on be­side it.

    Paris Re­view, “James Ell­roy, The Art of Fic­tion No. 201”:

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you force your­self to write a cer­tain num­ber of words each day?”

    ELLROY: “I set a goal of out­lined pages that I want to get through each day. It’s the ra­tio of text pages to out­line pages that’s im­por­tant. That pro­por­tion de­ter­mines every­thing. To­day I went through five pages of the out­line. That equals about eight pages of the nov­el. The out­line for Blood’s a Rover, which is three hun­dred and nine­ty-seven pages, is ex­po­nen­tially more de­tailed than the three­-hun­dred-and-forty-five-page out­line for The Cold Six Thou­sand. So the ra­tio of book pages to out­line pages varies, de­pend­ing on the den­sity of the out­line.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Is it im­por­tant for you to have a steady writ­ing rou­tine?”

    ELLROY: “I need to work just as rig­or­ously on the out­line as I do on the ac­tual writ­ing of the text, in or­der to keep track of the plot and the chronol­o­gy. But once I’m writ­ing text, I can be flex­i­ble, be­cause the out­line is there. Take to­day: I woke up ear­ly, at five-thir­ty. I worked for a cou­ple of hours, took a break for some oat­meal, shut my eyes for a mo­ment, and went back at it. I was over-caffeinat­ed, jit­tery-assed, pan­ic-at­tacky. Some­times I go un­til I just can’t go any­more. I flat-line and need some peace.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you write at night?”

    ELLROY: “I write some nights, and I edit at night. I write by hand. I cor­rect in red ink. When I’m close to fin­ish­ing a book, I will write more and more, be­cause I’ve got fin­ish­ing fever.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I’m a 9 to 5 writer—I never work on week­ends or in the evenings. I have an office round the cor­ner from my home, so I drop a kid off at school and walk down the road, where in­vari­ably I waste the first few hours of the day writ­ing e-mails, play­ing Soli­taire, read­ing sports news on the In­ter­net. I don’t lis­ten to mu­sic while I’m at the com­put­er, but it is an im­por­tant part of the work­ing day—things tend to spark up bet­ter if I’m hav­ing an in­tense re­la­tion­ship with a song or an al­bum.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Com­pared to other peo­ple, I sup­pose the most un­usual thing about me is how com­pletely chaotic my habits are. I have a ten­dency to write at night. I don’t have a reg­u­lar sched­ule, I’m very dead­line dri­ven, and I’m very slow. Be­cause I’m also a vi­sual artist, some­times I’m spend­ing a lot of time mak­ing art while I think about the writ­ing project I’m work­ing on. Some­times even when I don’t look like I’m work­ing, I ac­tu­ally am.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    It takes a lot of or­ga­ni­za­tion. The first book I dic­tated and then wrote with my coau­thor, David Oliver Re­lin. At the time, my wife said if I wrote a book it would be a pam­phlet, so they wanted some­one to bring it out more. This book was ac­tu­ally much more chal­leng­ing be­cause I wrote it in first per­son. I com­piled a list of about 600 of the re­views and com­ments on Goodreads (crit­i­cism, com­plaints, sug­ges­tions, praise, et ceter­a), printed them out on pa­per, and went through them care­ful­ly. Some of the com­ments, such as “You did­n’t share enough about why you do what you do; you did­n’t talk about your fam­ily or your per­sonal feel­ings; you de­scribe these amaz­ing women and girls, but you did­n’t talk about how they felt when they first went to school or what it meant to their moth­ers,” were very in­sight­ful com­ments. I’ve in­cor­po­rated some of the sug­ges­tions and crit­i­cism in my new book, Stones into Schools. It was a very help­ful process. I re­ally worked hard to bring out the wom­en’s per­sonal feel­ings, and I en­joyed it a lot. Some au­thors don’t like to read any book re­views. I have a thick skin. I also ap­pre­ci­ate even the crit­i­cal re­views, be­cause you can learn from them. My dad was big ad­vo­cate of lis­ten­ing not only to the peo­ple who praise you but also to your crit­ics. I also had my wife’s book club and a cou­ple of other book clubs go through the man­u­script of Stones into Schools. They gave some in­cred­i­ble feed­back and re­ally im­proved the sto­ries quite a bit. With the first book, I used to get up at 2:30 a.m. and work for five hours. I was un­der a lot of pres­sure. I did it be­cause we had so many peo­ple in­ter­ested in what we were do­ing. With this book, I got up at 4 a.m. and worked for three and a half hours. A lot of per­spi­ra­tion. But I ac­tu­ally en­joyed writ­ing this sec­ond book.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    It’s fun­ny, writ­ers al­ways com­plain that they get tired of an­swer­ing that, but when­ever I meet a writer, that’s what I want to know. I don’t write every day. I used to. I think when you are an as­pir­ing writer, you must write every day. It’s not as though any­body will call you up on the phone and say, “I un­der­stand you are a very promis­ing, as­pir­ing writer and I’m go­ing to give you this as­sign­ment.” You have to cre­ate it your­self or it’s never go­ing to hap­pen. I spent my teens and my twen­ties fe­ro­ciously writ­ing every day, but now that this is my job and it’s my ca­reer, I tend to go project by pro­ject. I can go months with­out writ­ing any­thing, which is ac­tu­ally quite nice. I’m very dili­gently re­searched. All my books, even the fic­ti­tious ones. With Stern Men I spent an enor­mous amount of time on these re­mote is­lands up on the coast of Maine be­cause there was no other way to get that sto­ry. I don’t think I’m very imag­i­na­tive. I’m not a fab­u­list, I’m not a story in­ven­tor. I think I’m good at go­ing out in the world and re­flect­ing what I’m see­ing there. Ob­vi­ously with a book like Com­mit­ted, it takes an enor­mous amount of re­search be­fore you even be­gin writ­ing. I bury my­self in re­search un­til I know inch by inch, every de­tail of the world that I’m writ­ing about. Only when that’s all got­ten to­gether can I fi­nally sit down and work. And then I work in one six-month pe­ri­od. Every­thing else goes away. I stop wash­ing my hair. I grew up on a farm and I keep farmer’s hours. I get up re­ally ear­ly, I work un­til noon, and then I take a lunch break. By mid-after­noon I’m sort of spent. That’s the only way I know how to get it done. I’m re­ally good friends with . She and I talk about this all the time, and the one thing we be­lieve that we share as writ­ers is that we are not ge­nius­es. We don’t rely on the muse. We are both re­ally hard work­ers. Every once in a while we get re­warded by a mys­te­ri­ous force. But mostly it’s just show­ing up at our desks at 7 o’­clock every morn­ing day after day after day. I wish it were more glam­orous. We just plod our way through it, like grindy stu­dents that we used to be, we still are.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    A typ­i­cal day: I usu­ally write fic­tion from about 6 a.m. to about 10:30 a.m. From 10:30 to 1 p.m., I am likely to con­nect with read­ers dig­i­tal­ly: e-mail, Face­book, Twit­ter, Goodreads. After lunch, I tend to go for a bike ride (I am an avid cy­clist) or I will go to the gym. Then I will have din­ner with my lovely bride. After din­ner, I am likely to do some more dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, read, and I am typ­i­cally in bed by mid­night. I do all of my drafts on a com­put­er, but I do all of my edit­ing long­hand with foun­tain pens. I al­ways use foun­tain pens be­cause it forces me to go very slowly and think care­fully to find the per­fect syn­onym for “bur­gundy.”

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I am not some­one who writes with the same pace every day. I do not have fixed work­ing hours. In­stead I have an in­ner pen­du­lum. When the pen­du­lum swings to one end, I start writ­ing my new nov­el. Then I write non­stop, day and night. I feel pulled into the sto­ry, and I live with the char­ac­ters in­side my mind. This goes on for months and months. When the novel is over, the pen­du­lum swings to the other end. Then I do other things. I so­cial­ize more, I travel more. I be­come a stu­dent of life again.

  • Frances Mayes (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I write er­rat­i­cal­ly. I’m ob­sessed with beau­ti­ful notepads, blank books, type­faces, ink. I long to be dis­ci­plined, an 8–1 writer, but in­stead I find my best hours are those be­tween dog and wolf, 5–810. I work well with a close dead­line. Oth­er­wise, I tend to read and cook and take walks.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    My writ­ing days are very or­di­nary: just rear to chair, just writ­ing or try­ing to write. I make break­fast for the kids, and once they head to school I go up to my office in the house and work un­til lunch. Maybe I’ll ex­er­cise if I’m feel­ing en­er­vat­ed, but then I’ll work again un­til late after­noon. Noth­ing glam­orous.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    My most pro­nounced writ­ing habit is try­ing not to write. My clos­est friend is a book re­view­er, and we talk every morn­ing. I walk for an hour every morn­ing, too. I would rather ex­er­cise than write—there’s a damn­ing fact. But by about 10 a.m. I just do it. I al­ways have mu­sic on un­less I’m read­ing aloud, which I al­ways do be­fore I hand any­thing in. It’s the only way to know if a sen­tence re­ally works, with­out clunks or cul-de-sac claus­es. It’s also the only way to know if di­a­logue sounds like hu­man speech. I’ve read Every Last One aloud twice, once after the first draft, then after the last. I had to give up after that sec­ond time be­cause I was so wiped from weep­ing. My el­der son, who is a whiz at gram­mar, did the fi­nal copy edit so I would­n’t have to look at it again.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I write at any time of day in any place, so long as it’s quiet and I can set up my com­put­er. I’m a slow writer, given to play­ing Spi­der Soli­taire when stuck. Oth­er­wise, my writ­ing habits are blind­ingly bor­ing. I just sit down at the com­puter and write.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I don’t have a typ­i­cal day any­more. It used to go like this: work from 8 to 11:30, lunch break, house and kids in the after­noon. Then it went to: work from 8 to 11:30, lunch break, back to work in the after­noon. Now it’s: in­ter­views, queries, and small tasks first thing in the morn­ing, try to work an hour or two, break for lunch, back to tak­ing care of office busi­ness in the after­noon, try to cram in some more work.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I have no un­usual writ­ing habits, ex­cept I like to write in a clean en­vi­ron­ment. I like to make my bed. I like to make sure the kitchen is clean. I like every­thing or­ga­nized. I don’t like any clut­ter. I don’t like to have a lot of oblig­a­tions hang­ing over my head. I don’t like to be wor­ried about things. This comes from the old quote from Flaubert: “In or­der to write like a rev­o­lu­tion­ary, you need to live like a bour­geois.” Which ba­si­cally means in or­der to fully con­cen­trate on the novel you’re work­ing on, you need to have all your debts set­tled more or less. To cre­ate un­der stress, it’ll get the job done faster, but it does­n’t mean it’ll get it done bet­ter. I try to keep office hours. I work best dur­ing the day. I write bet­ter when I’m hap­py. I know that sounds strange. Not hap­py, but where I don’t have ma­jor drama go­ing on. In fact, I’ve seen it be­fore in my ca­reer, where there was ma­jor drama go­ing on I was­n’t work­ing so well. Part of the rea­son Glam­orama took so long to fin­ish is that there was a lot of drama go­ing on while I was writ­ing that book. That stopped me from com­plet­ing that book in the amount of time that I wanted to. I would even say the same holds true for Im­pe­r­ial Bed­rooms. While I was work­ing on Im­pe­r­ial Bed­rooms they were mak­ing the movie ver­sion of The In­form­ers, which I’d writ­ten and I was pro­duc­ing, and it turned out to be a very diffi­cult, stress­ful movie to make for a num­ber of rea­sons. I think that did slow down the writ­ing of Im­pe­r­ial Bed­rooms a lit­tle. So I need things to be fairly calm in or­der to move ahead.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I get up at 6 a.m. pretty reg­u­larly and work un­til noon. Some­times I will work in the after­noons, too, de­pend­ing on whether I’ve got­ten up a head of steam and want to keep go­ing. I don’t work every day. I work when I feel like it, but I also do a book a year and have to bud­get my time in or­der to keep to that sched­ule. My most un­usual writ­ing habit is that I’m sort of an­other ver­sion of Monk. I have to work in my space and never work any­where other than my space. I have my stuff, and it’s all where I want it to be. I don’t like it dis­turbed. I’m not quite into lin­ing up my pen­cils in a row, but I’m pretty close.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I write on a lap­top, and I write any­where in the house or, when I am trav­el­ing, on air­planes or on trains or in ho­tel lob­bies. I take up a book to write as I might take up a book to read; it is a plea­sure and a dis­trac­tion for me. Only when I am do­ing diffi­cult fac­tual work do I feel the need to be in my study. I tend to do busi­ness let­ters and phone calls in the morn­ing and then walk the dog or ride my horse, and then in the after­noon I have the plea­sure of writ­ing. If I am try­ing to get through a scene or get on with the nov­el, then I reread and write again at night.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I ac­tu­ally have two very dis­tinct days. In the morn­ing I’m the cre­ative per­son writ­ing books, and in the after­noon I’m Janet the busi­nessper­son. I’m up at 5 a.m., I go down­stairs, make coffee, and get a yo­gurt out of the re­frig­er­a­tor. My lit­tle dog Ol­lie and I go to my office where Ida, my par­rot, is wait­ing for us. This is my fa­vorite part of my day. I sit down at my com­put­er, and I get to go into the world of Plum or the world of Alex Barn­aby or the Wicked world. While I’ve been sleep­ing my head has filled up with all of these ideas. The first hour and a half is just joy. It’s the best part of my day. Then after that my head emp­ties out, and it gets a lit­tle tougher to pull out those ideas. I work through the morn­ing un­til noon, then in the after­noon I take care of busi­ness. If you’ve ever read my books, you’ll know that I have ter­ri­ble food is­sues. I love all food. I love bad food and good food. I love a glass of wine and a glass of beer. So at 4 p.m. the trainer or Pi­lates in­struc­tor shows up, and they make me work for an hour.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I start writ­ing the sec­ond my kids leave for school and fin­ish when they get home. I perch like a bird at my desk (knees up un­der my chin, sit­ting on my feet—I’ve even been caught do­ing this on a yoga bal­l!). It takes me about an hour and a half to go through what I con­sider my “cre­ative por­tal,” and once I’m there, I’m often good for 2,000 words. How­ev­er, if I an­swer the phone or the door or talk to any­one, I need to spend that hour and a half again, so I’ve been known to hide be­hind the cur­tain from the mail­man, etc. I once got so des­per­ate, I moved my desk into my closet and fin­ished a book in there.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I like to start ear­ly, usu­ally at 7 a.m., and with breaks for the usual chores, such as shav­ing and lunch, I work un­til about 5 p.m. I do e-mails and phone calls for an hour. Then I like to have a glass of cham­pagne.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I like to wake up at 10:30 a.m. Then I just get to work. I usu­ally start by writ­ing in my di­ary, and then I turn to what­ever story I’m work­ing on. I stay at my desk un­til about 1:30 p.m., and then I go back to work at 8 at night. I work for an­other hour, hour and a half. If I have a dead­line, I’ll stay up all night, but gen­er­ally it’s about four hours a day.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I wake up in the morn­ing and im­me­di­ately be­fore any­thing, I walk to my office, put on my coffee, and read my lit­tle pos­i­tive affir­ma­tions. Some­times. I can’t be hon­est and say I do it every day. Then I sit down and start work­ing. I stay there un­til 2 or 2:30 p.m., then I leave. I can’t say hello to any­one, I can’t talk to any­one on the phone, or deal with mail or tele­vi­sion be­cause I am se­verely dyslex­ic, and with that comes ADD. I am so eas­ily dis­tracted that if I see a leaf fall off a tree, I’m gone. I have friends who are writ­ers and can sit there and an­swer the phone. I wish I could, but I can’t do it.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    There was a Monty Python sketch that showed Thomas Hardy writ­ing in front of a live au­di­ence, and when he’d fin­ish a sen­tence, they’d all cheer. Then he’d cross out a sen­tence, and they’d all boo or sigh. That’s about as ex­cit­ing a life as it is for a writer: You write sen­tences, and you cross out sen­tences. My day be­gins as all days be­gin for every hu­man be­ing. You wake up­—if you’re alive, you wake up­—pot of tea, read the pa­per, then walk to the lit­tle apart­ment three blocks away where I have my sep­a­rate writ­ing spot. It’s very Spar­tan here, noth­ing to do but work. I spend as much time as I can writ­ing each day, which usu­ally means from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.—ba­si­cally a 9-5 sched­ule. Some days one has more sta­mi­na, you’re more on fire, it’s a marathon so you have to pace your­self. I do have a few un­usual writ­ing habit­s—I’m a di­nosaur now. I write every­thing by hand and type it up on an old man­ual type­writer, an Olympia 1961. The one time any se­ri­ous dam­age was done to it was when my now-33-year-old son was two, and he snapped off the re­turn arm. I had to take it to a shop that was very much like the Hos­pi­tal of Bro­ken Ob­jects in Sun­set Park. I can say this, I’ve never been able to com­pose on a key­board. I need a pen or a pen­cil in my hand, feel that it’s a very phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty. When I write, words are lit­er­ally com­ing out of my body. I’m very par­tic­u­lar about my note­books, and 95 per­cent of the time they are the same kind of note­book: They’re made in France and are very tal­l—­Claire­fontaine brand, 24 × 32 cen­time­ters. They’re filled with pages of graph pa­per, which I like, as my hand­writ­ing is rather small. I tend to buy note­books when­ever I trav­el. I have Nor­we­gian note­books, Japan­ese note­books, Aus­tralian note­books. I write with a foun­tain pen, and over the years I’ve ex­per­i­mented with many differ­ent kinds of foun­tain pens, but for the past decade or so I’ve been us­ing an Ital­ian brand called Au­ro­ra. I do write with pen­cils, too, and those are al­ways Pen­tel me­chan­i­cal pen­cils with 0.5 leads. I told you I have small hand­writ­ing!

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I wake up in the morn­ing and fran­ti­cally start deal­ing with e-mails and all of the prob­lems that have ac­cu­mu­lated over the night. I do most of my own writ­ing when I’m shut­tling be­tween meet­ings on the sub­way. I write a lot on my Black­ber­ry. I ac­tu­ally wrote all of Be­fore I Fall on my Black­ber­ry, e-mail­ing it to my­self so I could read it be­tween jobs, which peo­ple think is in­sane. That is when I write, be­cause at least when I’m un­der­ground no one can e-mail me, and I’m not dis­tract­ed. I do other things on my com­put­er. I sit at my din­ing room table, al­ways with coffee and food. I think I’ve eaten every meal at my com­puter for the past three years. I do other types of work from my com­put­er, like edit­ing work, but my writ­ing I typ­i­cally do on the sub­way on my phone. The cre­ative com­mute.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Writ­ing is a job, so I treat it like a job. Coffee, kids to school, dogs may or may not get walked. I tod­dle up to my office, which is a room over the garage. The house­hold changes again at 3 p.m. when there are meals to be made, snacks to be pro­vid­ed, lessons for young peo­ple to be dri­ven to… Typ­i­cally I’ll come back at 10 p.m. and write for a cou­ple more hours when the house goes quiet again. I think I’d write at night all the time if I could do it any way I want­ed, but that’s not con­comi­tant with the de­mands of a house with chil­dren in it. I do a lot of my think­ing while ex­er­cis­ing. I try not to think too much while at the com­put­er. My ac­tual writ­ing time is sen­tence time, try­ing to move things for­ward. I try to write 1,000 words a day, a good op­er­a­tional goal, and 2,000 when I’m jam­ming on things. When I was try­ing to bal­ance writ­ing lit­er­ary fic­tion with a day job, I was writ­ing dur­ing breaks in the work week, and while that made the whole process go more slow­ly, I was also very fo­cused. Now that I’m free to have my at­ten­tion pulled in a va­ri­ety of di­rec­tions, the gaps be­tween writ­ing stints can be longer than I’d like at times.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I used to strug­gle so much to find time to write, like every­body else in the world. Even­tu­al­ly, after try­ing many differ­ent things, I got into a rou­tine where I would wake up at 5 a.m., roll out of bed, and get into a coffee shop and write un­til I could­n’t stand it any­more, which was usu­ally about five hours, wear­ing noise-cancel­ing head­phones. It was a very iso­lated process—I did­n’t even have In­ter­net ac­cess on my lap­top! I’m one of these writ­ers who can­not start writ­ing un­til I know where I’m go­ing, so a lot of my process is think­ing, “fo­mul­gat­ing,” a word my fa­ther and I made up when I was a kid. You’ve done your re­search, and you need to “cook” an idea for a while, so you walk the dog, re­or­ga­nize the book­shelves…that’s fo­mul­gat­ing. I spend a lot of time in that phrase, and that’s usu­ally where ideas for struc­ture come from. But you have to know when to stop!

  • Aimee Ben­der (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I have a very strict rou­tine. I wake up in the morn­ing, and I go straight to the com­put­er. I usu­ally check e-mail but then write for two hours, often to the minute be­cause I want to stop. The rule is two hours. I am very strict about the time. I have a pad of pa­per next to my com­put­er, and it just has times on it. 9:17 or 10:02 or what­ev­er. That part feels rigid, and the rest I can sit and day­dream. That’s fine.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    [laughs] Do you want me to de­scribe a typ­i­cal good day or a typ­i­cal bad day? Here goes: Every day I drop my girls off at school, get no coffee (al­ler­gic!), turn off the In­ter­net (when you’re hav­ing bad days, it’s easy to get dis­tract­ed), read over what I fin­ished the pre­vi­ous day, then try to en­ter that con­tem­pla­tive, re­cep­tive space where you can do the best cre­ative work. Some­times I en­ter that by us­ing a hand­held wooden labyrinth. Years ago I read that Rick Moody sug­gests writ­ing 1,000 words a day, and I love that: I started us­ing it. It does­n’t mean you have to write 1,000 good words, or just 1,000 word­s—but it does mean that you need to let your­self wan­der a bit un­til you find what catches you. You have to write all of the puz­zle pieces of a nov­el, then see how they best fit to­geth­er—or at least I have to do that. Aim­ing for those 1,000 words frees me from wor­ry­ing about any­thing else. Some­thing will catch hold, and I write—­some­times more, never less.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    When I know the story and have a clear block of un­in­ter­rupted time in which to bury my­self in it, I work many hours a day and fin­ish a novel in weeks. The rest of the time, I don’t do any­thing at all, if I can help it. There is no such thing as a rou­tine in my life.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    This used to be such a beau­ti­ful thing. I have an 18-mon­th-old now, so my old reg­i­men is gone. I used to get up at 5 a.m, my pre­ferred time to work be­cause I can fo­cus bet­ter. The world is qui­et. There are fewer dis­trac­tions. And also when you’re up at that time [I think], I bet­ter get some work done, oth­er­wise I’m nuts to be up at this hour. I try to write every day I pos­si­bly can, it’s just be­come a lot more chal­leng­ing with an in­fant. Which has been a joy, and I’m al­ready a book and a half ahead of my pub­lish­ers, so I don’t have to hur­ry, but I see that this is go­ing to be tougher un­til my kid is in kinder­garten. Some­times that now means I have to write un­til 4 in the morn­ing, and some­times it means I have to get up at 4 in the morn­ing.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I wish it were more in­ter­est­ing, like, “I do three hours of hot yo­ga, and I take my hot air bal­loon up and come back down.” Writ­ing is the least glam­orous, most bor­ing job. I did have an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence last year: I had the von der Hey­den fel­low­ship at the New York Pub­lic Li­brary. It’s like The Price Is Right su­per mega-win for fic­tion writ­ers. You get this office at the New York Pub­lic Li­brary; it’s like nerd Val­hal­la. I had a real desk, with draw­ers that opened sound­less­ly…peo­ple would bring you cook­ies, you could or­der any book you want­ed…now I’m back in my old Star­bucks. It’s like a video game where you have a su­per­power for a lit­tle while and then it runs out. I try to write for four hours in the morn­ing. It sounds like so lit­tle. The hard­est part for me is just stay­ing with it when it re­ally feels bad. When I feel like I’m writ­ing ter­ri­bly, not get­ting dis­tract­ed, not giv­ing up. But I re­ally envy those peo­ple who get up at dawn and write 3,000 words a day. Some­times my big vic­tory is delet­ing a bad joke about the moon or some­thing.

  • Ted Dekker (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    There are two parts to a writer’s life: the cre­ative process and the busi­ness side. For me, it’s im­por­tant to han­dle the cre­ative process first. I need to sit down, put my hands on the key­board, re­gard­less of where my mind’s at, and dive into the sto­ry. I need to be­gin to write and be swept into that world first. So I write in the morn­ing un­til I reach a cer­tain word count, usu­ally 2,000 words. It’s very im­por­tant for me to have that kind of struc­ture. Then, hav­ing done that, I can at­tend to all of the other dis­trac­tions that come into a writer’s life. I write on a Mac. I drink coffee in the morn­ing and lis­ten to mu­sic all day long. Fairly loud. Mu­sic shuts out the rest of the world for me. The same al­bums, over and over and over again. I lis­ten to at­mos­pheric mu­sic. I was lis­ten­ing to the Tron sound­track just now. It’s am­bi­ent noise, but it’s al­most emo­tional am­bi­ent noise for me. It stirs me and shuts out the rest of the world. An­other thing I do that is kind of unique is to go away for two or three weeks each nov­el, to a re­sort or a ho­tel to­tally by my­self. I take my com­puter with me. I have to have room ser­vice, and I just lock my­self in my ho­tel room for seven days straight with­out step­ping foot out­side of that room. Dur­ing those times, I’ll write 4,000 or 5,000 words a day. All I do is write.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    A typ­i­cal night. I’m a night per­son. Gen­er­ally what hap­pens is that I get up about two in the after­noon, and I make what is my hus­band’s lunch or din­ner and my break­fast, and we spend some time to­gether in the evening. Then he goes to bed and I go to work. I often catch the sun ris­ing. Morn­ings are ter­ri­ble for me, so I’d rather sleep morn­ings. There’s no such thing as a writer’s block. I get in­spi­ra­tion from work­ing. I just have to push through and fi­nally it’ll start to come to­gether again. The brain is al­ways go­ing, you just don’t re­al­ize it. I don’t know how many pages I’ll get done in any par­tic­u­lar day, but I can de­ter­mine how many hours I’ll put in. When I first started I was ob­sessed—putting in 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and lov­ing it. My in­-laws told my hus­band that per­haps he should get some help for me. Once the book was pub­lished it was OK be­cause writ­ers can be a lit­tle crazy.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    A typ­i­cal day—noth­ing’s typ­i­cal, be­cause we just moved house! My writ­ing day starts when my eight-year-old is off to school, and I plant my bum in the chair and try and stay there for as much of the day un­til he comes home as I can pos­si­bly man­age. When I lived in Lon­don, my neigh­bor was the writer Michael Lewis, and he was very pro­lific and in­dus­tri­ous. He told me that if you want to write a book, you need “bum glue.” It’s very bor­ing! At some point I stag­ger down and make coffee and make a bite of lunch. Some­times I break down if the writ­ing’s not go­ing well and stop. We al­ways sit down for fam­ily din­ner. I don’t have any par­tic­u­lar quirks. I’m very bor­ing! I think be­ing a jour­nal­ist makes you very un­precious about writ­ing. I’ve found that hav­ing kids ac­tu­ally in­vig­o­rates writ­ing. Read­ing aloud to kids re­minds you of what is most im­por­tant. Their books have plot, they have sto­ry! At the end of the day, that’s what mat­ters.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I spend gen­er­ally eight hours a day, usu­ally six days a week. But I also take time off. I don’t want it to sound like army ba­sic train­ing! There are differ­ent stages of the process. Dur­ing the out­lin­ing process, I’ll spend roughly eight to nine hours sit­ting and star­ing at my com­puter or at a big board be­hind me where I pin up each of the scenes. That’s early in the process. For in­stance, for my lat­est Lin­coln Rhyme book, The Burn­ing Wire, a psy­chotic killer uses elec­tric­ity as a weapon. That was my out­line the first day, noth­ing more than that. Over the course of the next eight months or so, I came up with scenes that would be ex­cit­ing, which I put some­where in the mid­dle. I came up with the big sur­prises at the end and put those some­where near the end. By the time I started to re­ally com­mit the out­line to my word proces­sor, I would have maybe 70 or 80 Post-it Notes of those dis­crete scenes. I used to use a cork­board, but now I just tape them up on my wall. They aren’t nec­es­sar­ily chap­ters, but they are scenes where the point-of-view shifts or the ge­o­graphic lo­ca­tion shifts. So then I’ll write that into my com­put­er, and at that stage it’ll be prob­a­bly a 70- or 80-page out­line. Then I start to fill in the clues be­cause we need to know when the clues ap­pear in the book. That’ll be “im­por­tant clue scene 42.” Then I write be­low, “to be ex­plained…” I’ll look to­ward the end of the out­line, and scene 87 is where the clue in scene 42 is ex­plained, why Lin­coln says this is or is­n’t an im­por­tant clue. I do that with all the sce­nes, all the char­ac­ters. Every sin­gle char­ac­ter and clue has to be re­solved, no loose ends. It is frankly a rather ex­haust­ing process. When the out­line is done, the book is done. Like Al­fred Hitch­cock, when he fin­ished the sto­ry­board­ing and the script, it was al­most an­ti­cli­mac­tic. I’m sure he went to the set and told the di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy to do things, but the movie was 90 per­cent done. When my out­line is done, the book is 90 per­cent done, and I feel it. Seven or eight months later [after start­ing the out­line], it’s time to write the book. That’s sit­ting at my desk for as long as I phys­i­cally can to gen­er­ate the prose. That’s any­where, in my office, or if I’m trav­el­ing on a book tour, on the planes or in ho­tel rooms. I have adapters that work all over the world, plug-ins for the back of a limo or wher­ever I’m trav­el­ing, so I can get some work done. To write ful­l-time for a liv­ing, you’ve got to make sure you write ful­l-time. Then you re­vise. Hem­ing­way said, “There are no great writ­ers, only great rewrit­ers” (I’m para­phras­ing). And that’s true. I spend the last month or so do­ing 30, 40, 50 rewrites, then out goes the book and out I go on a book tour. Then it starts all over again.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    If I see a rit­ual com­ing on, I will stomp it down. Rit­u­als are only de­struc­tive. They call upon your su­per­sti­tious self, they take the power away from you, they use your goofy imag­i­na­tion in the low­est Ouija board part of your brain! I fight off every­thing that’s very cute and any­thing both rit­u­al­is­tic and su­per­sti­tious. Be­cause I have that lit­tle core that would fall prey to them—years ago I got into a bad com­puter Soli­taire habit. I quit cold turkey. Now I don’t have a rou­tine. How could I have a rou­tine? If I’m start­ing a book and write for ten min­utes, that’s amaz­ing for me to sit still. By the end of that book I can stay at my desk for 12 hours! I am not an An­thony Trol­lope who can start by writ­ing “Page One, Chap­ter One.” I will not write for a long time, and I love that! I am amazed by writ­ers who say as soon as I’ve fin­ished I have to keep at it. You would­n’t call me pro­lific, but I think I’m av­er­age to high av­er­age out­put for not writ­ing every day. I need to live my life, be­cause writ­ing so is so iso­lat­ing, so autis­tic for me, and I want to be mar­ried and be a good daugh­ter and a good friend and a good pet own­er, and I’m not great at hav­ing bal­ance when I’m writ­ing. Be­cause I am many differ­ent peo­ple in the course of a year, de­pend­ing on if I’m work­ing. When I’m work­ing-work­ing-work­ing, I find other peo­ple in­tol­er­a­ble.

    Patch­et­t’s dis­claim­ing of any rou­tine or writ­ing time is a lit­tle at odds with Eliz­a­beth Gilbert’s de­scrip­tion of her­self & Patch­ett (“just show­ing up at our desks at 7 o’­clock every morn­ing day after day after day. I wish it were more glam­orous. We just plod our way through it, like grindy stu­dents that we used to be, we still are.”).

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Noth­ing is typ­i­cal any­more, but usu­ally I spend a few months re­search­ing—which is re­ally go­ing out there and liv­ing my sto­ry, be­com­ing a part of it, whether that en­tails go­ing to Ve­g­as, sneak­ing around NASA, or chas­ing the Win­kle­vii around a boathouse. Then when I start writ­ing, it’s a marathon—a painful, tor­tur­ous, 14 hours a day, non­stop, not eat­ing, not sleep­ing, falling-a­part kind of process. A few months later I have a book. While I’m writ­ing, I try and eat the same meals every day. I keep my life’s rou­tines ex­act and sim­i­lar so all I’m think­ing about is the book. I get to­tally caught up and crazy and trance­like, and it’s pretty aw­ful.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    I write in the morn­ing and do what­ever else I have to do after that. If I have to teach or am tak­ing a class my­self in the morn­ing, I try to write in the after­noon. Un­usual habits? Well, I ac­tu­ally con­sider writ­ing to be an un­usual habit!

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    To­day was­n’t nec­es­sar­ily typ­i­cal. I ac­tu­ally just worked all night on Su­per­man sto­ries for Ac­tion Comics and slept briefly. Most days I get up at 8:30 and work all day. Then I’ll have din­ner and work all night. That’s be­cause I’ve been writ­ing the book over the last 18 months as well as a bunch of Bat­man and Su­per­man comics and movie screen­plays. So it’s been quite in­tense. I’d like to de­scribe a fu­ture where I get up at 2 p.m., have my break­fast, and only work for an hour, but that’s still to come. I think the un­usual writ­ing habit is sit­ting there and not mov­ing un­til I’m done. And usu­ally it’s never done be­cause there is an­other dead­line. For me, it’s been work­ing late. I re­mem­ber when I started out as a writer that I could re­ally spend most of the day walk­ing down by the canal, hav­ing won­der­ful thoughts, but these days I’m work­ing on an al­most in­dus­trial scale. It’s good for the imag­i­na­tion.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    A typ­i­cal work­day usu­ally starts with catch­ing up on e-mail, which is in­sane when you live on the West Coast and the world of pub­lish­ing has been up for three hours ahead of you. Once I get that out of the way I try to put in a nor­mal work­day. When I was younger I was par­tic­u­larly into the al­l-nighters. But now with my hus­band, if I want to see him it’s nice to have my work done at 5 or 6—just like a real per­son. That’s defi­nitely my goal, and it’s also es­sen­tial when you’re keep­ing sched­ules with all these books. You have to treat it like a work­day. I don’t leave the house; I’m too dis­tractible in coffee shops. So it’s just me and the cats for the after­noon, hop­ing we get our work done. So many au­thors go to cool places. “I’m writ­ing on the beach to­day!” Or playlist­s—that’s a big thing, writ­ing to mu­sic. For me, the less stim­uli in the world around me, the bet­ter. I just want to fo­cus solely on the writ­ing. I don’t want the in­ter­est­ing scenery, I don’t want the mu­sic, and that does­n’t seem strange to me un­til I start talk­ing to other peo­ple who have all that cool stuff go­ing on. I need a cone of si­lence.

  • Ar­avind Adiga (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    The only thing un­usual about my writ­ing days is how con­ven­tional they are. I get up at 6 a.m.; it’s pretty much the same as when I used to get up to go to work, ex­cept I’m now work­ing at home. I do most of my writ­ing in the morn­ing and late at night. The tricky thing is fil­ing in the mid­dle of the day when I can’t write. There is no se­cret to writ­ing. It’s dis­ci­pline and stick­ing to it. I can’t think of any­thing that’s un­usual about my writ­ing habits, ex­cept the best thing I heard from a fel­low writer was that he would change where he was when he was writ­ing every two hours. He would change the lo­ca­tion, and I think that makes sense not to spend more than a cou­ple hours in a par­tic­u­lar place be­cause chang­ing your venue for where you are writ­ing can give you new in­sights.

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    Every writer is differ­ent, and I am a real plan­ner. I spend weeks sit­ting in coffee shops with a note­book, sketch­ing out and plan­ning a book be­fore I be­gin writ­ing. I want to be sure of where I’m go­ing be­fore I sit down and write “Chap­ter One.” When it comes to the ac­tual writ­ing, I al­ways have loud mu­sic play­ing, which a lot of peo­ple find sur­pris­ing! I find it gives me en­ergy and blocks out the rest of the world. A dance track by the Scis­sor Sis­ters is al­ways good to kick­-s­tart the morn­ing. Then it’s just me and a cup of coffee and off I go. I try to write 1,000 words a day. Some­times I do that by 11 a.m. Other times I’m still strug­gling at 3 p.m. Then it’s time to give up for the day! If I get re­ally stuck I go out for cock­tails with my hus­band and talk through what­ever plot point has got­ten knot­ted. After a few mo­ji­tos we gen­er­ally man­age to solve it!

  • (Goodreads in­ter­view)

    My brain kicks into gear ear­ly, so I’m usu­ally up with first light. E-mail and so­cial net­work­ing are a huge part of every day, so I spend the first 45 min­utes there. When my hus­band and son get up, I set­tle them into their day (this now in­cludes al­fresco coffee with my hus­band and dogs, who wait anx­iously for the coffee to brew). After that, I sit down and write. Six to eight hours is my goal, with breaks for food or ex­er­cise. I pre­fer to write in my beau­ti­ful office, with­out mu­sic or other dis­trac­tions. If I get stuck on a scene, I usu­ally go out­side and work in the gar­den or walk my dogs or take a hot tub. That al­most al­ways brings the needed fo­cus.

Paris Review

A sub­set of The Paris Re­view (TPR) in­ter­views have been col­lected into book an­tholo­gies, but far from all, so I use ex­cerpts drawn from the web­site archives which ap­pear to be com­pre­hen­sive11 and pro­vides 406 sep­a­rate in­ter­views al­beit with the oc­ca­sional two-part/re-in­ter­view, for ~399 in­ter­vie­wees (mir­ror), sup­ple­mented with a few pub­lished by TPR while I was read­ing the cor­pus. The in­ter­vie­wees:

  • Adam Phillips
  • Aharon Ap­pelfeld
  • Alain Robbe-Gril­let
  • Alan Hollinghurst
  • Alas­dair Gray
  • Al­berto Moravia
  • Al­dous Hux­ley
  • Al­ice Munro
  • Ali Smith
  • Allen Gins­berg
  • Amos Oz
  • Amy Clampitt
  • Amy Hempel
  • An­drea Bar­rett
  • An­drei Voz­ne­sen­sky
  • An­gus Wil­son
  • Anita Brookner
  • Ann Beat­tie
  • Anne Car­son
  • Anne Sex­ton
  • An­nie Proulx
  • An­thony Burgess
  • An­thony Hecht
  • An­thony Pow­ell
  • A. R. Am­mons
  • Archibald MacLeish
  • Arthur Koestler
  • Arthur Miller
  • A. S. By­att
  • Athol Fu­gard
  • Au­gust Klein­zahler
  • Au­gust Wil­son
  • Bar­ney Ros­set
  • Barry Han­nah
  • Bernard Mala­mud
  • Beryl Bain­bridge
  • Billy Collins
  • Billy Wilder
  • Blaise Cen­drars
  • Boris Paster­nak
  • Bret Eas­ton El­lis
  • Budd Schul­berg
  • Calvin Trillin
  • Camilo José Cela
  • Car­los Fuentes
  • Carl Phillips
  • Car­olyn Kizer
  • Charles John­son
  • Charles Ol­son
  • Charles Simic
  • Charles Tom­lin­son
  • Charles Wright
  • Chinua Achebe
  • Christo­pher Ish­er­wood
  • Christo­pher Logue
  • Chris Ware
  • Claude Si­mon
  • Clau­dia Rank­ine
  • Con­rad Aiken
  • Cyn­thia Oz­ick
  • Czes­law Milosz
  • Dag Sol­stad
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  • Eileen Myles
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  • Elias Khoury
  • Elie Wiesel
  • Eliz­a­beth Bishop
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  • E. M. Forster
  • Em­manuel Car­rère
  • Ernest Hem­ing­way
  • Er­sk­ine Cald­well
  • Eu­dora Welty
  • Eu­gene Ionesco
  • Eve­lyn Waugh
  • Ezra Pound
  • Francine du Plessix Gray
  • Françoise Sagan
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  • Frank Bidart
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  • Fred­er­ick Sei­del
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  • Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez
  • Gar­ri­son Keil­lor
  • Gary Sny­der
  • Gay Talese
  • Ge­off Dyer
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  • George Se­feris
  • Georges Simenon
  • George Steiner
  • Gor­don Lish
  • Gore Vi­dal
  • Grace Pa­ley
  • Gra­ham Greene
  • Guillermo Cabr­era In­fante
  • Gün­ter Grass
  • Gustaw Her­ling
  • Guy Dav­en­port
  • Ha Jin
  • Harold Bloom
  • Harold Brod­key
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  • Harry Math­ews
  • Haruki Mu­rakami
  • Hein­rich Böll
  • He­len Vendler
  • Henri Cole
  • Henry Green
  • Henry Miller
  • Hermione Lee
  • Herta Müller
  • Hi­lary Man­tel
  • Hilton Als
  • Hort­ense Cal­isher
  • Hunter S. Thomp­son
  • Ian McE­wan
  • Ilya Ehren­burg
  • Imre Kertész
  • Iris Mur­doch
  • Ir­win Shaw
  • Isaac Ba­she­vis Singer
  • Isak Di­ne­sen
  • Ish­mael Reed
  • Is­mail Kadare
  • Italo Calvino
  • Jack Gilbert
  • Jack Ker­ouac
  • James Bald­win
  • James Dickey
  • James Ell­roy
  • James Fen­ton
  • James Jones
  • James Laugh­lin
  • James M. Cain
  • James Mer­rill
  • James Salter
  • James Tate
  • James Thurber
  • James Wright
  • Jane & Michael Stern
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  • Janet Mal­colm
  • Jan Mor­ris
  • Javier Marías
  • Jay McIn­er­ney
  • J. D. Mc­Clatchy
  • Jean Cocteau
  • Jeanette Win­ter­son
  • Jean Rhys
  • Jeffrey Eu­genides
  • Jerzy Kosin­ski
  • Jes­samyn West
  • J. G. Bal­lard
  • J. H. Prynne
  • Jim Crace
  • Jim Har­ri­son
  • Joan Did­ion
  • John Ash­bery
  • John Banville
  • John Barth
  • John Berry­man
  • John Cheever
  • John Dos Pas­sos
  • John Edgar Wide­man
  • John Fowles
  • John Gard­ner
  • John Gre­gory Dunne
  • John Guare
  • John Hall Whee­lock
  • John Hersey
  • John Hol­lan­der
  • John Irv­ing
  • John le Carré
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  • John Mor­timer
  • John Si­mon
  • John Stein­beck
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  • Jonathan Franzen
  • Jonathan Lethem
  • Jorge Luis Borges
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  • Joyce Carol Oates
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  • Karl Shapiro
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  • Ned Rorem
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  • Pablo Neruda
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  • Paul Auster
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  • Primo Levi
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  • Ray Brad­bury
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  • Robert Frost
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  • Roberto Calasso
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  • Rosa­mond Lehmann
  • Rus­sell Banks
  • Salman Rushdie
  • Sam Lip­syte
  • Sam Shep­ard
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  • Saul Bel­low
  • Sea­mus Heaney
  • Shelby Foote
  • Shirley Haz­zard
  • Si­mone de Beau­voir
  • S. J. Perel­man
  • Stacy Schiff
  • Stan­ley Elkin
  • Stan­ley Ku­nitz
  • Stephen King
  • Stephen Sond­heim
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  • Su­san Howe
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  • Tahar Ben Jel­loun
  • T. Cor­aghes­san Boyle
  • Ted Hughes
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  • Thomas McGuane
  • Thom Gunn
  • Thorn­ton Wilder
  • To­bias Wolff
  • Tom Stop­pard
  • Tom Wolfe
  • Toni Mor­ri­son
  • Tony Kush­ner
  • Tru­man Capote
  • T. S. Eliot
  • Um­berto Eco
  • Ur­sula K. Le Guin
  • Vi­vian Gor­nick
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • V. S. Naipaul
  • V. S. Pritch­ett
  • Walker Percy
  • Wal­lace Shawn
  • Wal­lace Steg­ner
  • Wal­ter Mosley
  • W. D. Snod­grass
  • Wendy Wasser­stein
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  • William Car­los Williams
  • William Faulkner
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  • William Goyen
  • William Kennedy
  • William Maxwell
  • William Mered­ith
  • William S. Bur­roughs
  • William Stafford
  • William Sty­ron
  • William Trevor
  • William T. Voll­mann
  • William Weaver
  • Woody Allen
  • Wright Mor­ris
  • W. S. Mer­win
  • Yehuda Amichai
  • Yevgeny Yev­tushenko
  • Yves Bon­nefoy

Ex­cerpts from in­ter­views which pro­vided in­for­ma­tion on writ­ing times:

  • (Paris Re­view in­ter­view) ap­pears to write mostly in the morn­ing to after­noon:

    A novel is such a long in­volve­ment; when I’m be­gin­ning a book, I can’t work more than two or three hours a day. I don’t know more than two or three hours a day about a new nov­el. Then there’s the mid­dle of a book. I can work eight, nine, twelve hours then, seven days a week—if my chil­dren let me; they usu­ally don’t. One lux­ury of mak­ing enough money to sup­port my­self as a writer is that I can afford to have those eight-, nine-, and twelve-hour days. I re­sented hav­ing to teach and coach, not be­cause I dis­liked teach­ing or coach­ing or wrestling but be­cause I had no time to write. Ask a doc­tor to be a doc­tor two hours a day. An eight-hour day at the type­writer is easy; and two hours of read­ing over ma­te­r­ial in the evening, too. That’s rou­tine. Then when the time to fin­ish the book comes, it’s back to those two- and three­-hour days. Fin­ish­ing, like be­gin­ning, is more care­ful work.

  • (2017 Paris Re­view in­ter­view)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you write every day?”

    MOSLEY: “Yeah, when I wake up in the morn­ing.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Week­ends?”

    MOSLEY: “Every day. Peo­ple ask me if I write even when I’m on va­ca­tion. And I say, Man, do you take a shit on va­ca­tion?”

  • (1990 Paris Re­view in­ter­view)

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your daily work habits?”

    MURDOCH: “I like work­ing and when I have time to work, I work. But I also have to do other things like wash­ing up and buy­ing food. For­tu­nately my hus­band does the cook­ing. I some­times have to go to Lon­don or I want to see my friends. Oth­er­wise, I work pretty steadily all the time. I go to bed early and I start work very ear­ly. I work all morn­ing, and then I shop and write let­ter­s—the let­ters take up a lot of time—in the after­noon. Then I work again from about half-past four un­til seven or eight. So I work steadily when I’ve got the open time, which is more days than not.”

  • , 2011 in­ter­view in The Paris Re­view:

    In­ter­viewer: “What is your writ­ing sched­ule like?”

    Gib­son: “When I’m writ­ing a book I get up at sev­en. I check my e-mail and do In­ter­net ablu­tions, as we do these days. I have a cup of coffee. Three days a week, I go to Pi­lates and am back by ten or eleven. Then I sit down and try to write. If ab­solutely noth­ing is hap­pen­ing, I’ll give my­self per­mis­sion to mow the lawn. But, gen­er­al­ly, just sit­ting down and re­ally try­ing is enough to get it start­ed. I break for lunch, come back, and do it some more. And then, usu­al­ly, a nap. Naps are es­sen­tial to my process. Not dreams, but that state ad­ja­cent to sleep, the mind on wak­ing.”

    In­ter­viewer: “And your sched­ule is steady the whole way through?”

    Gib­son: “As I move through the book it be­comes more de­mand­ing. At the be­gin­ning, I have a five-day work­week, and each day is roughly ten to five, with a break for lunch and a nap. At the very end, it’s a sev­en-day week, and it could be a twelve-hour day. To­ward the end of a book, the state of com­po­si­tion feels like a com­plex, chem­i­cally al­tered state that will go away if I don’t con­tinue to give it what it needs. What it needs is sim­ply to write all the time. Down­time other than sim­ply sleep­ing be­comes prob­lem­at­ic. I’m al­ways glad to see the back of that.”

  • (2008, “The Art of Fic­tion No. 197”)

    INTERVIEWER: “When in the day do you write?”

    ECO: “There is no rule. For me it would be im­pos­si­ble to have a sched­ule. It can hap­pen that I start writ­ing at seven o’­clock in the morn­ing and I fin­ish at three o’­clock at night, stop­ping only to eat a sand­wich. Some­times I don’t feel the need to write at all.”

    INTERVIEWER: “When you do write, how much do you write every day? Is there no rule for that as well?”

    ECO: “None. Lis­ten, writ­ing does­n’t mean nec­es­sar­ily putting words on a sheet of pa­per. You can write a chap­ter while walk­ing or eat­ing.”

    INTERVIEWER: “So every day is differ­ent for you?”

    ECO: “If I am in my coun­try­side home, at the top of the hills of Mon­te­fel­tro, then I have a cer­tain rou­tine. I turn on my com­put­er, I look at my e-mails, I start read­ing some­thing, and then I write un­til the after­noon. Later I go to the vil­lage, where I have a glass at the bar and read the news­pa­per. I come back home and I watch TV or a DVD in the evening un­til eleven, and then I work a lit­tle more un­til one or two o’­clock in the morn­ing. There I have a cer­tain rou­tine be­cause I am not in­ter­rupt­ed. When I am in Mi­lan or at the uni­ver­si­ty, I am not mas­ter of my own time—there is al­ways some­body else de­cid­ing what I should do.”

  • (The Art of Bi­og­ra­phy No. 2, 1999)

    I work in the small build­ing out back, and it’s just right for me. There’s no run­ning wa­ter and no tele­phone. No dis­trac­tions. Be­cause it has win­dows on all four sides and a high ceil­ing, there’s no feel­ing of be­ing boxed in. It’s off-lim­its to every­one but grand­chil­dren. They come out any­time they wish—the smaller the bet­ter. I work all day and just about every day. I go out about eight-thirty in the morn­ing, like I’m go­ing to the train, come back in for lunch, look at the mail, then I go back again for the after­noon. We built it when I was writ­ing The Great Bridge. Be­fore that I rented a lit­tle stu­dio from a neigh­bor who had built sev­eral of them, each on wooden skids. You could pick out a spot on his farm and he’d hook a stu­dio to his trac­tor and drag it there for you.

  • (The Art of Bi­og­ra­phy No. 4, 2013)

    We’ll go to York­shire for sev­eral weeks. We go to a ram­shackle old house, where you can just walk out of the house into the coun­try­side. We will get up not too late, and we will have break­fast and we will both go to our desks and all day long, un­til about three o’­clock in the after­noon, I will write my book, and then in the after­noon we will go for a walk. Then we’ll make sup­per, and then I’ll prob­a­bly do a bit more writ­ing in the evening. That is my writ­ing day in the coun­try. It’s very quiet and very con­cen­trat­ed. It’s the op­po­site of life at Wolf­son Col­lege, which is chock­-full of peo­ple and meet­ings and com­mit­tees and events and de­ci­sion mak­ing.

  • Michael Hol­royd (The Art of Bi­og­ra­phy No. 3, 2013)

    Our con­ver­sa­tions took place over two ex­tended after­noons in the sum­mer of 2012.

    INTERVIEWER: “What would you be do­ing at this time of day if I weren’t both­er­ing you?”

    HOLROYD: “When I am work­ing at a book, I tend to write in the morn­ings and do sec­ondary work and pon­der on the writ­ing later in the day. That was not the case when I was younger and had more cu­mu­la­tive en­ergy and con­cen­tra­tion.”

  • , Rose Tremain (The Art of Bi­og­ra­phy No. 7, 2017)

    HOLMES: “Ab­solutely right. When I was writ­ing Shel­ley, my old din­ing-room ta­ble was very im­por­tant be­cause it had two leaves that folded out. It gave me a huge spread for books, card cat­a­logues, pic­tures, and a big Olivetti type­writer. My neigh­bors in the flat be­low said, Richard, we hear this ter­ri­ble thump­ing at two A.M.! So I put more books un­der the ta­ble legs. I’ve never been a great morn­ing per­son. Every­one has a best writ­ing time. For me, it’s midafter­noon on, and read­ing as late as pos­si­ble.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Does Rose work on a differ­ent sched­ule?”

    HOLMES: “Yes, she’s a morn­ing girl. After twen­ty-five years, we still find that works sur­pris­ingly well. We get to­gether for meals. A light lunch, strong coffee to see us through, and then she’s fin­ish­ing work and I’m start­ing. But it’s the evenings that are so love­ly. We have late sup­per to­gether al­ways by can­dle­light, and talk and talk.”

  • (The Art of Bi­og­ra­phy No. 5, 2016)

    INTERVIEWER: “You start writ­ing in long­hand, cor­rect?”

    CARO: “Yes. I write on white le­gal pads. I sel­dom have only one draft in long­hand—I’d say I prob­a­bly have three or four. Then I go and do the same pages over on the type­writer, and then I throw them out. I go chap­ter by chap­ter. I can’t go on to an­other chap­ter un­til I feel this chap­ter is done.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you work from nine to five?”

    CARO: “I gen­er­ally get up around seven or so, and I walk to work through Cen­tral Park out­lin­ing the first para­graphs that I’m go­ing to write that day. But the thing is, as you get into a chap­ter, you get wound up. You wake up ex­cit­ed—I don’t mean”thrilled" ex­cited but “I want to get in there,” so I get up ear­lier and ear­li­er. Some­times Ina says, Do you know what time it is? I say, I don’t want to look. I work pretty long days. If I’m do­ing re­search, I can have lunch with friends, but if I’m writ­ing, I have a sand­wich at my desk. The guy at the Cos­mic Din­er, John, he knows my voice."

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you set daily quo­tas?”

    CARO: “I have to, be­cause I have a won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship with my ed­i­tor and my pub­lish­er. I have no real dead­lines. I’m never asked, When are you go­ing to de­liv­er? So it’s easy to fool your­self that you’re re­ally work­ing hard when you’re not. And I’m nat­u­rally lazy. So what I do is—peo­ple laugh at me—I put on a jacket and a tie to come to work, be­cause when I was young, every­body wore jack­ets and ties to work, and I want to re­mind my­self that I’m go­ing to a job. I have to pro­duce. I write down how many words I’ve done in a day. Not to the word—I count the lines. I do it as we used to do it in the news­pa­per busi­ness, ten words to a line. I do a lot of lit­tle things to try to make me re­mem­ber it’s a job. I try to do at least three pages a day. Some days you don’t, but with­out some kind of quo­ta, I think you’re fool­ing your­self.”

  • (The Art of Bi­og­ra­phy No. 6)

    INTERVIEWER: “Once you get started writ­ing, do you fin­ish a draft rel­a­tively quick­ly?”

    SCHIFF: “Well, I think both my fam­ily and my ed­i­tor would opt for the”rel­a­tive­ly." Gen­er­ally I need at least eigh­teen months to write a book. I’m a re­lent­less re­vis­er, so the pages take a while even when I know where I’m head­ed. Along the way, I in­evitably turn a cor­ner and find I need to re­turn to some­thing in the archives. That can be wrench­ing—when I’m writ­ing I want only to be at my desk. What­ever is sit­ting there feels frag­ile and fugi­tive. I worry that if I so much as turn my back, there will be a code blue. More­over, I’m liv­ing in­side those pages, in an­other re­al­ity al­to­geth­er, which means I’m wholly use­less at any­thing else. For at least a few years, you are a dis­placed per­son, hold­ing off one world for the sake of an­oth­er. And then there is the prob­lem of lunch, in which the writer’s day craters. I avoid mid­day com­mit­ments when I’m writ­ing, which en­dears me to no one."

  • (The Art of Comics No. 1, 2010)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you punch the clock? Do you say, I’m go­ing to work from two un­til five?”

    CRUMB: “No, I could never work reg­u­larly like that. I work in er­ratic spurts. Once I get rolling on some­thing I tend to be more reg­u­lar. Get­ting started is like get­ting a rocket off the ground. You need the most en­ergy and the most push to get start­ed; once you’re up there and you’re go­ing then it’s eas­ier to keep it go­ing. Sit down and pick up where you left off, you know. Get­ting go­ing is al­ways tough.”

  • (The Art of Crit­i­cism No. 1, 1991)

    INTERVIEWER: “Is there a par­tic­u­lar time of day when you like to write?”

    BLOOM: “There is­n’t one for me. I write in des­per­a­tion. I write be­cause the pres­sures are so great, and I am sim­ply so far past a dead­line that I must turn out some­thing.”

    INTERVIEWER: “So you don’t es­pouse a par­tic­u­lar work ethic on a daily ba­sis?”

    BLOOM: “No, no. I lead a dis­or­dered and hur­ried life.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Are there days when you do not work at all?”

    BLOOM: “Yes, alas, alas, alas. But one al­ways thinks about lit­er­a­ture. I don’t rec­og­nize a dis­tinc­tion be­tween lit­er­a­ture and life. I am, as I keep moan­ing, an ex­per­i­men­tal crit­ic. I’ve spent my life pro­claim­ing that what is called”crit­i­cal ob­jec­tiv­i­ty" is a farce. It is deep sub­jec­tiv­ity which has to be achieved, which is diffi­cult, whereas ob­jec­tiv­ity is cheap."

    INTERVIEWER: “What is it that you think keeps you from writ­ing when you’re un­able to write?”

    BLOOM: “De­spair, ex­haus­tion. There are long pe­ri­ods when I can­not write at all. Long, long pe­ri­ods, some­times last­ing many years. Some­times one just has to lie fal­low. And al­so, you know, in­ter­ests change. One goes into such differ­ent modes.”

  • (The Art of Crit­i­cism No. 2, 1995)

    INTERVIEWER: “You men­tion the fax, the tele­phone, the com­put­er. Let’s talk about the im­ple­ments of writ­ing and the way in which tech­nol­ogy does or does­n’t fac­tor into your own work.”

    STEINER: “Yes, I’m fas­ci­nated by the ac­tual ma­te­r­ial techne of writ­ing. I’m a morn­ing crea­ture. All my best work tends to be done in the morn­ing, es­pe­cially the early morn­ing, when some­how my mind and sen­si­bil­ity op­er­ate much more effi­cient­ly. I read and take notes in the after­noon, then sketch the writ­ing I want to do the next morn­ing. The after­noon is the time for charg­ing the bat­tery. I write on very old-fash­ioned type­writ­ers. The Paris Re­view has the largest col­lec­tion of in­sight into this of any pub­li­ca­tion. It’s ut­terly ir­ra­tional, but I love foolscap; in Amer­ica it’s called”legal" size. It used to be avail­able in any sta­tionery shop, but you now have to or­der it in ad­vance. I tend to type sin­gle-space on those huge sheets, badly typed with­out any at­ten­tion, often even to para­graph­ing. This is the first naively typed, brute out­put. The sec­ond one will be dou­ble-spaced, and be­gin to be on nor­mal-size typ­ing pa­per, but still with a lot of hand in­ser­tions and cor­rec­tions. So in a funny way, my rough draft is a sin­gle-spaced, typed scrib­ble on foolscap. I don’t know when it be­gan, but I’ve been do­ing this for many, many years and I walk up and down the room like a de­prived mother hen when I do not have that odd size of pa­per which some­how cor­re­sponds to the way I see a prob­lem."

  • He­len Vendler (The Art of Crit­i­cism No. 3, 1996)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you work dai­ly? What is your rou­tine?”

    VENDLER: “No, I have no rou­tine. I hate rou­tines. I have no fixed hours for sleep­ing, eat­ing, wak­ing, work­ing.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you write at a desk or in bed or on a so­fa?”

    VENDLER: “I write in var­i­ous places . . . some­times on the so­fa, some­times in bed, some­times sit­ting at the com­put­er. I hate rou­tine more than any­thing else. I’m a night per­son, so I tend to write later in the day rather than ear­lier, but I have no fixed hours and no fixed days…What I mind more than slow­ing down, which every­one has done by six­ty-three, is that in a day you no longer have a third wind and some­times you don’t even have a sec­ond wind. I al­ways had a third wind for many years, and then I al­ways had a sec­ond wind. Now, if I’ve had a hard day, I don’t feel dis­posed to write at night.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 35, 1965)

    INTERVIEWER: “Peo­ple say that you have great self­-dis­ci­pline and that you never let a day go by with­out work­ing. At what time do you start?”

    DE BEAUVOIR: “I’m al­ways in a hurry to get go­ing, though in gen­eral I dis­like start­ing the day. I first have tea and then, at about ten o’­clock, I get un­der way and work un­til one. Then I see my friends and after that, at five o’­clock, I go back to work and con­tinue un­til nine. I have no diffi­culty in pick­ing up the thread in the after­noon. When you leave, I’ll read the pa­per or per­haps go shop­ping. Most often it’s a plea­sure to work.”

    INTERVIEWER: “When do you see Sartre?”

    DE BEAUVOIR: “Every evening and often at lunchtime. I gen­er­ally work at his place in the after­noon.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do your writer friends have the same habits as you?”

    DE BEAUVOIR: “No, it’s quite a per­sonal mat­ter. Genet, for ex­am­ple, works quite differ­ent­ly. He puts in about twelve hours a day for six months when he’s work­ing on some­thing and when he has fin­ished he can let six months go by with­out do­ing any­thing. As I said, I work every day ex­cept for two or three months of va­ca­tion when I travel and gen­er­ally don’t work at all. I read very lit­tle dur­ing the year, and when I go away I take a big valise full of books, books that I did­n’t have time to read. But if the trip lasts a month or six weeks, I do feel un­com­fort­able, par­tic­u­larly if I’m be­tween two books. I get bored if I don’t work.”

  • , ac­cord­ing to (The Art of the Es­say No. 1, 1969)

    INTERVIEWER: “You have won­dered at Ken­neth Robert­s’s work­ing meth­od­s—his sta­mina and dis­ci­pline. You said you often went to zoos rather than write. Can you say some­thing of dis­ci­pline and the writer?”

    WHITE: “Ken­neth Roberts wrote his­tor­i­cal nov­els. He knew just what he wanted to do and where he was go­ing. He rose in the morn­ing and went to work, me­thod­i­cally and in­dus­tri­ous­ly. This has not been true of me. The things I have man­aged to write have been var­ied and spot­ty—a mish­mash. Ex­cept for cer­tain rou­tine chores, I never knew in the morn­ing how the day was go­ing to de­vel­op. I was like a hunter, hop­ing to catch sight of a rab­bit. There are two faces to dis­ci­pline. If a man (who writes) feels like go­ing to a zoo, he should by all means go to a zoo. He might even be lucky, as I once was when I paid a call at the Bronx Zoo and found my­self at­tend­ing the birth of twin fawns. It was a fine sight, and I lost no time writ­ing a piece about it. The other face of dis­ci­pline is that, zoo or no zoo, di­ver­sion or no di­ver­sion, in the end a man must sit down and get the words on pa­per, and against great odds. This takes sta­mina and res­o­lu­tion. Hav­ing got them on pa­per, he must still have the dis­ci­pline to dis­card them if they fail to mea­sure up; he must view them with a jaun­diced eye and do the whole thing over as many times as is nec­es­sary to achieve ex­cel­lence, or as close to ex­cel­lence as he can get. This varies from one time to maybe twen­ty.”

  • (The Art of the Es­say No. 3, 2018)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have writ­ing rit­u­als?”

    ALS: “Yes. The rit­ual as­pect is get­ting my head to­gether to do it. I don’t want to add more shit to the ex­pe­ri­ence, so it’s very sim­ple. I love Wendy Williams, be­cause she does­n’t speak Eng­lish. She speaks Wendy, and that frees me to imag­ine my own lan­guage. I wake up early and have a lit­tle break­fast, then Wendy’s over, and I make the bed and get to work. I also like to stop writ­ing at a thought that’s go­ing to be wait­ing for me the next day so it’s less daunt­ing sit­ting down again.”

  • (The Art of Mem­oir No. 1, 2009)

    Mostly morn­ings at home. I made a habit in grad school of get­ting up at five in the morn­ing to work. When my son was born, in ’86, I had to get up re­ally ear­ly, like four. I was teach­ing six sec­tions of comp at three differ­ent schools, and that was the only time I had. For ten years there, I did­n’t have time to shave both legs the same day. If I had even an hour, I could work any­where. I was very un­per­snick­ety. But I usu­ally can’t write big prose while teach­ing. I can write jour­nal­ism or lec­tures. And I’m al­ways scrib­bling po­em­s…But with Lit, I faced such time pres­sure, I had to write ly­ing down. If I sat up and typed with this in­jury, I’d last maybe six or seven hours. Ly­ing down with my lap­top on my knees, I could go from seven in the morn­ing un­til eight or nine at night. I did that seven days a week. I felt like a Turk­ish pasha. I’d lie around in silk pa­ja­mas. And eat pis­ta­chios all day.

  • (Adam Phillips, The Art of Non­fic­tion No. 7, 2014)

    On the days he sees pa­tients, Phillips ar­rives at the office as early as six in the morn­ing in or­der to read for an hour or two be­fore his first ap­point­ment. (He claims to re­quire very lit­tle sleep.) He also reads be­tween con­sul­ta­tions, when­ever he can. As he puts it, “I need to hear other voic­es.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you go into the office to write?”

    PHILLIPS “Yes, I can only write in my office. I love the ro­mance of peo­ple who can write any­where, who can write in ho­tels, but I can’t write any­where but in that room. At least, so far I can only write in that room.”

    (An­other short­-sleep­er?)

  • (The Art of Non­fic­tion No. 6, 2013)

    INTERVIEWER: “Is there a con­sis­tent rou­tine?”

    DYER: “I al­ways have a nap some­time be­tween two and five in the after­noon. Be­yond that, we’d have to talk about each book in turn and what stage I was at in a par­tic­u­lar book. Which means, I sup­pose, that the an­swer is no. I find it in­cred­i­bly diffi­cult to set­tle and I have very lim­ited pow­er­s—if we can dig­nify it with that word—of con­cen­tra­tion, so at first I’m up and out of my chair every few min­utes. Later on I can stay at the desk for longer pe­ri­ods un­til even­tu­ally I don’t even have to force my­self to stay there. The gen­eral process is just to splurge stuff out, with­out be­ing par­tic­u­larly wor­ried about the spelling or any­thing. Just splurg­ing to make sure there’s some­thing there. And then I be­gin knock­ing it into shape both at the level of the sen­tence and the over­ar­ch­ing struc­ture. But that ini­tial phase is the one I in­creas­ingly hate, so I try to get it done as quickly as pos­si­ble, in the five-minute bursts that I’m ca­pa­ble of putting in at the desk be­fore I get up to do some­thing else. It would be a bet­ter way of work­ing if I could write in proper sen­tences from the be­gin­ning. Why I don’t do that is a mys­tery to me, or would be, were it not a mys­tery at all. It’s be­cause I’m so im­pa­tient. I want to get all the con­tent down so that I can then move on to the fun part, which is sort­ing out the sen­tences. So my im­pa­tience to get to that point ends up post­pon­ing it.”

  • (The Art of Non­fic­tion No. 2, 2009)

    GAY TALESE: “Usu­ally I wake up in bed with my wife. I don’t want to have break­fast with any­one. So I go from the third floor, which is our bed­room, to the fourth floor, where I keep my clothes. I get dressed as if I’m go­ing to an office. I wear a tie.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Cuff links?”

    TALESE: “Yes. I dress as if I’m go­ing to an office in mid­town or on Wall Street or at a law firm, even though what I am re­ally do­ing is go­ing down­stairs to my bunker. In the bunker there’s a lit­tle re­frig­er­a­tor, and I have or­ange juice and muffins and coffee. Then I change my clothes.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You never write di­rectly onto the com­put­er?”

    TALESE: “Oh no, I could­n’t do that. I want to be forced to work slowly be­cause I don’t want to get too much on pa­per. By the end of the morn­ing I might have a page, which I will pin up above my desk. After lunch, around five o’­clock, I’ll go back to work for an­other hour or so.”

  • (The Art of Non­fic­tion No. 3, 2010)

    It sounds very me­chan­i­cal, but the effect is the ex­act op­po­site. What it does is free you to write. It lib­er­ates you to write. You’ve got all the notes there; you come in in the morn­ing and you read through what you’re go­ing to try to write, and there’s not that much to read. You’re not wor­ried about the other nine­ty-five per­cent, it’s off in a folder some­where. It’s you and the key­board. You get away from the me­chan­ics through this me­chan­i­cal means. The spon­tane­ity comes in the writ­ing, the phrase­ol­o­gy, the telling of the sto­ry—after you’ve put all this stuff aside. You can read through those rel­e­vant notes in a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time, and you know that’s what you want to be cov­er­ing. But then you spend the rest of your day hop­ing spon­ta­neous things will oc­cur.

    It may sound like I’ve got some sort of for­mula by which I write. Hell, no! You’re out there com­pletely on your own—all you’ve got to do is write. OK, it’s nine in the morn­ing. All I’ve got to do is write. But I go hours be­fore I’m able to write a word. I make tea. I mean, I used to make tea all day long. And ex­er­cise, I do that every other day. I sharp­ened pen­cils in the old days when pen­cils were sharp­ened. I just ran pen­cils down. Ten, eleven, twelve, one, two, three, four—this is every day. This is damn near every day. It’s four-thirty and I’m be­gin­ning to pan­ic. It’s like a coil­ing spring. I’m re­ally un­hap­py. I mean, you’re go­ing to lose the day if you keep this up long enough. Five: I start to write. Sev­en: I go home. That hap­pens over and over and over again. So why don’t I work at a bank and then come in at five and start writ­ing? Be­cause I need those seven hours of gong­ing around. I’m just not that dis­ci­plined. I don’t write in the morn­ing—I just try to write.

  • (The Art of Non­fic­tion No. 9, 2016)

    As I’ve got­ten old­er, my habits have changed. I used to write late at night. I would wake up in the morn­ing, and I’d kind of fid­get and get things set up and clear my throat, and by the time every­thing was just right, it would be after din­ner, and I’d get started around ten or eleven and work all night. Some­where Wal­ter Ben­jamin says that you can’t feel con­fi­dent about any piece of work that you haven’t sat all night over. It’s sort of true. I do still find my­self pulling al­l-nighters. But I’ve dis­cov­ered that the best time for me these days is to start soon after wak­ing. Try not to look at my e-mail. Try to get to it when my brain is still soft. You know, sleep en­tan­gled—be­cause it’s more raw, and be­cause it’s less self­-con­scious. Writ­ing needs a cer­tain kind of self­-con­scious­ness, at some point, but it will never do in launch­ing the ini­tial sal­vo.

  • Amy Clampitt (The Art of Po­etry No. 45, 1993)

    My fa­vorite place for writ­ing, the place where I’m most likely to get some­thing writ­ten, is the coast of Maine, where I’ve spent some time—n­ever more than six weeks at a stretch, usu­ally less—n­early every sum­mer since 1974. I find a place to put my type­writer where I can look at the wa­ter. I tend to work best in the morn­ing—I’m not a night per­son, al­though I have oc­ca­sion­ally woken up with a phrase in my head and not been able to sleep. I used to keep some­thing to write with un­der the pil­low just in case some­thing like that came to me—­some­times it was very hard to de­ci­pher be­cause I don’t like to turn the light on. I’m not an ob­ses­sive writer at all. I know of peo­ple who say that they write every day—I don’t. I wish I were that or­ga­nized, but I’m not. There are times when there are other things I have to do. I need some time when I’m not go­ing to be in­ter­rupt­ed. I can some­times write through in­ter­rup­tions, but that’s be­cause I’ve sort of set my­self in that mode. I’m very er­ratic about it.

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 26, 1980)

    INTERVIEWER: “When you’re not on tour, when you’re at home, do you have a reg­u­lar work­ing sched­ule?”

    VOZNESENSKY: “Nev­er.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You wait for it to hap­pen?”

    VOZNESENSKY: “I don’t sched­ule. No­body does. In Rus­sia, every­thing is im­pro­vi­sa­tion. No­body can tell where he’ll be on Fri­day night. Let me give you an ex­am­ple. When I came to Amer­i­ca, I wanted very much to visit my dear friend Robert Low­ell’s grave. We drove out from Boston in the late after­noon—a din­ner had been arranged for that evening. It was dark by the time we found the grave in the for­est. I was with a young poet from Boston, and I said to him,”Please, I’m sor­ry, ex­cuse me, it is im­po­lite, but leave me alone, go to your car, I want half an hour alone." Then I be­gan to write po­et­ry. Later I asked him to find a phone and call the peo­ple and tell them we would­n’t come to din­ner. They were all friends of Low­ell’s and they were very up­set with me. But how could I have gone to a din­ner party and bro­ken the mood of that en­coun­ter? Even if I had­n’t been writ­ing a po­em, I could­n’t have gone to a party after that visit to his grave."

  • , via (The Art of Po­etry No. 40, 1988)

    …“In any case, if I share any other lit­er­ary char­ac­ter­is­tics with [W. H.] Au­den, the chances are very great that I ac­quired them through study­ing his work.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your mem­o­ries of him on ?” [~1951]

    HECHT: “He kept to an in­flex­i­ble sched­ule of work and play. He rose ear­ly, wrote and read be­fore break­fast, which was likely to be no more than coffee. (I was told all this.) Con­tin­ued work till about three PM, paus­ing for a light lunch. The rest of the day was for re­lax­ation and amuse­ment. He used to say that he was never able to work be­yond mid-after­noon, but only came to un­der­stand the rea­son for this when he had be­come a con­vinced Chris­tian, be­cause he then re­al­ized that three p.m. is the canon­i­cal hour of the cru­ci­fix­ion. He was no less punc­tual about cock­tails and din­ner, and went home to bed, even be­ing known to leave his own birth­day par­ties at a fixed time in or­der to be up and at work at his sched­uled time of, I think it was, six. He cred­ited his par­ents with in­still­ing in him this use­ful dis­ci­pline.”

    Au­den, The Art of Po­etry No. 17, 1974:

    INTERVIEWER: “Many po­ets are night work­ers, man­ic, ir­reg­u­lar in their habits.”

    AUDEN: “Sor­ry, my dear, one must­n’t be bo­hemi­an!”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 224, 2014)

    Aharon Ap­pelfeld says that in or­der to be a se­ri­ous writer you need to have a rou­tine. For years his rou­tine has been to write with a Biro on sheets of or­di­nary white pa­per in the café at Ti­cho House, in Jerusalem, which was once the house of a wealthy doc­tor and where this in­ter­view took place.

    INTERVIEWER: “So you come here to work at Ti­cho House twice a week?”

    APPELFELD: “Yes. I come here some­where around ten or eleven. I stay here for two or three hours and then I go home. It’s a rou­tine. Gen­er­al­ly, when we say rou­tine, it sounds bad, but rou­tine is im­por­tant.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You write long­hand. How many pages per day?”

    APPELFELD: “One page, some­times half a page, some­times one and a half pages. I stop when I am tired—when I do not see more, when I do not hear more.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Then you go home and read what you’ve done?”

    APPELFELD: “Yes, in the late after­noon, after I have had my lunch, I spend an­other two hours on the same pages, then I leave it. I used to type them. I liked to type them very much. Sud­denly you see there is some­thing you have done. It was a joy. But now a woman comes to my house and I dic­tate. My old type­writer does­n’t work any­more.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 91, 1986)

    INTERVIEWER: “Are you dis­ci­plined? Do you keep reg­u­lar work­ing hours?”

    ROBBE-GRILLET: “No. I am not very dis­ci­plined but it usu­ally works out that I do things at the same time. I get up late, have break­fast slow­ly, and start work at 11 a.m. I work through till three or four, and then I have a meal, per­haps a nap, start again around eight, and work through till mid­night. So, twice four hours. At the mo­ment I am writ­ing the se­quel to the Mir­ror, en­ti­tled Ro­manesque. It has taken me a month to write seven pages!”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 214, 2011)

    HOLLINGHURST: …“Per­haps one is never as ex­cited by any­thing as much as one’s first book, be­cause then every­thing is po­ten­tial. I had moved to Lon­don in 1981 and was work­ing ful­l-time at the Times Lit­er­ary Sup­ple­ment, so I wrote the book in the evenings and on the week­ends, with a glass or two of wine, which seemed to me a dis­in­hibitor. Of course the third glass of wine tended to dis­in­hibit me a bit too much. There was a big change when I be­gan to write ful­l-time. I turned my­self into a morn­ing-and-caffeine writer rather than an evening-and-al­co­hol writer. I don’t know if you can de­tect this at all in what I ac­tu­ally wrote.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you write every day?”

    HOLLINGHURST: “I spend ages not writ­ing, and I have quite long spells in the course of a book when I’m not writ­ing. But once I get go­ing, I have a strict dis­ci­pline. Kazuo Ishig­uro told me his tech­nique, which he called a”crash," where he would plan a book for a long time and then set aside a pe­riod of four weeks in which he had ab­solutely no en­gage­ments. He would write for ten hours a day, and then at the end of the month he would have a draft of a nov­el. It’s a very good model for some­one like my­self who is nat­u­rally rather lazy. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, in the case of The Stranger’s Child, it took four years in­stead of four weeks. I used to draw a line through the weeks of my di­ary to re­mind my­self not to make any plans, and I would go out to see friends or to the pic­tures once a week. It has the de­fect of mak­ing you crazy and unso­cial­ized but also the ben­e­fit of al­low­ing you to think con­tin­u­ous­ly, as Henry James ex­horted him­self to do. It’s won­der­ful just to live in the world of cre­ation and know that there aren’t any other de­mands on you, and that you’re go­ing to think as deeply and as con­tin­u­ously as you can about the thing in hand."

  • (The Art of Trans­la­tion No. 2, 1999)

    INTERVIEWER: “Can you take us through a sam­ple work­ing day on one of these trans­la­tions?”

    FAGLES: “I have a mer­ci­less in­ter­nal clock that wakes me up rather early and gets me to my desk by sev­en-thirty or so and puts me to work on Homer. The work it­self? The eas­i­est thing to say is here, on one side, I’d have the Home­ric texts and com­men­taries and lex­i­cons, and on the oth­er, as much as I could man­age of Eng­lish and Amer­i­can po­et­ry, in my head or in an open book—say, Derek Wal­cot­t’s Omeros. There are about twen­ty-seven hun­dred years that sep­a­rate the two tra­di­tions, and the trick (and the hard labor) is some­how to bring the two to­geth­er. What I al­ways do is read the Greek aloud un­til I be­gin to feel or find some Eng­lish lurk­ing be­tween the Greek words, be­tween the Greek lines, and I keep on mum­bling like a ma­ni­ac: An­dra moi en­nepe, Mousa, po­lutro­pon, hos mala polla / plangthê, epei Troiês hi­eron ptoli­ethron eperse.”Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns / dri­ven time and again off course, once he had plun­dered / the hal­lowed heights of Troy." The two pas­sages are hardly equal, ob­vi­ous­ly—Home­r’s in­fi­nitely greater—but try­ing to work from the Greek lines some Eng­lish ca­dence of my own, try­ing over and over, would con­sume about three hours every morn­ing. I once drove Robert Fitzger­ald back to the Newark air­port after he gave a read­ing in Prince­ton, and I said (fatu­ous­ly, when he was halfway through his Il­iad), It’s an aw­fully long po­em, is­n’t it, Robert? And he replied, Yes, Bob, but I wake up every morn­ing with Homer as my com­pan­ion. That’s the priv­i­lege. I know ex­actly how that feels now. It’s quite a priv­i­lege, and one you hate to leave."

  • Au­gust Klein­zahler (The Art of Po­etry No. 93, 2007)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have a fa­vorite time of day in which you write?”

    KLEINZAHLER: “Ex­clu­sively in the morn­ing, eight to eleven. I can do things later but that’s when my en­ergy is up. I get very im­pa­tient with com­pany dur­ing those hours, which my wife does­n’t like. If I could afford it I’d have an office, al­though when I’ve had an office at uni­ver­si­ties I haven’t been able to do jack.”

  • (The Art of Screen­writ­ing No. 4, 2014)

    A for­mer Jeop­ardy! cham­pion who on­ce, rather than give notes, jumped up and danced to “Zou Bisou Bisou” for Jes­sica Paré (Megan Draper on the show), Weiner seems never to sleep. Our in­ter­view took place in four ses­sions that spanned al­most eigh­teen month­s—real months, that is. More time than that passed on the show dur­ing the same pe­ri­od, but to say ex­actly how much would be, in Wein­er’s uni­verse, a spoil­er. We spoke late into the night after he had spent full days in pre­pro­duc­tion meet­ings, in edit­ing, in sound-mix­ing ses­sions, on set, and in the writ­ers’ room—and we could only sit down to talk on the rare nights when he did­n’t have to write. Even with this sched­ule, he comes in every morn­ing in­spired by a movie he’s seen, an ar­ti­cle he’s read, or a poem he’s re­mem­bered. (I’m lucky to be a writer on the show.) Weiner be­gins every sea­son by reread­ing John Cheev­er’s pref­ace to his Col­lected Sto­ries: “A writer can be seen clum­sily learn­ing to walk, to tie his neck­tie, to make love, and to eat his peas off a fork. He ap­pears much alone and de­ter­mined to in­struct him­self.” The life of a showrun­ner leaves him al­most no time to be alone, but Weiner seems al­ways to be in­struct­ing him­self.

    WEINER: “You know, I got a sub­scrip­tion to The Paris Re­view when I was four­teen or fifteen years old. I read those in­ter­views all the time. They were re­ally help­ful.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How did they help you?”

    WEINER: “There were peo­ple talk­ing about writ­ing like it was a job, first of all. And then say­ing”I don’t know" a lot. It’s help­ful, when you’re a kid, to hear some­one say­ing “I don’t know.” Al­so, they were ask­ing ques­tions that I would’ve asked, only I’d have been em­bar­rassed to ask them. Like, What time of day do you write?"

    INTERVIEWER: “What time of day do you write?”

    WEINER: “I write at night on this job be­cause I have to, ex­cept Sun­days when I write all day and all night. Left to my own de­vices I will al­ways end up writ­ing late at night, be­cause I’m a pro­cras­ti­na­tor. But if there’s a dead­line, I will write round the clock.”

    An­other pos­si­ble short sleep­er.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 6, 1954)

    Nev­er. I never work from notes. I had met a woman of Rome—ten years be­fore. Her life had noth­ing to do with the nov­el, but I re­mem­bered her, she seemed to set off a spark. No, I have never taken notes or ever even pos­sessed a note­book. My work, in fact, is not pre­pared be­fore­hand in any way. I might add, too, that when I’m not work­ing I don’t think of my work at all. When I sit down to write—that’s be­tween nine and twelve every morn­ing, and I have nev­er, in­ci­den­tal­ly, writ­ten a line in the after­noon or at night—when I sit at my ta­ble to write, I never know what it’s go­ing to be till I’m un­der way. I trust in in­spi­ra­tion, which some­times comes and some­times does­n’t. But I don’t sit back wait­ing for it. I work every day.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 24, 1969)

    I work reg­u­lar­ly. I al­ways work in the morn­ings, and then again a lit­tle bit be­fore din­ner. I’m not one of those who work at night. I pre­fer to read at night. I usu­ally work four or five hours a day. I keep at it as long as I can, un­til I feel my­self go­ing stale. Some­times, when I bog down, I start read­ing—­fic­tion or psy­chol­ogy or his­to­ry, it does­n’t much mat­ter what—not to bor­row ideas or ma­te­ri­als, but sim­ply to get started again. Al­most any­thing will do the trick.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 137, 1994)

    INTERVIEWER: “Have you ever had a spe­cific time to write?”

    MUNRO: “When the kids were lit­tle, my time was as soon as they left for school. So I worked very hard in those years. My hus­band and I owned a book­store, and even when I was work­ing there, I stayed at home un­til noon. I was sup­posed to be do­ing house­work, and I would also do my writ­ing then. Later on, when I was­n’t work­ing every­day in the store, I would write un­til every­body came home for lunch and then after they went back, prob­a­bly till about two-thir­ty, and then I would have a quick cup of coffee and start do­ing the house­work, try­ing to get it all done be­fore late after­noon.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What about be­fore the girls were old enough to go to school?”

    MUNRO: “Their naps.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You wrote when they had naps?”

    MUNRO: “Yes. From one to three in the after­noon. I wrote a lot of stuff that was­n’t any good, but I was fairly pro­duc­tive. The year I wrote my sec­ond book, Lives of Girls and Women, I was enor­mously pro­duc­tive. I had four kids be­cause one of the girls’ friends was liv­ing with us, and I worked in the store two days a week. I used to work un­til maybe one o’­clock in the morn­ing and then get up at six. And I re­mem­ber think­ing, You know, maybe I’ll die, this is ter­ri­ble, I’ll have a heart at­tack. I was only about thir­ty-nine or so, but I was think­ing this; then I thought, Well even if I do, I’ve got that many pages writ­ten now. They can see how it’s go­ing to come out. It was a kind of des­per­ate, des­per­ate race. I don’t have that kind of en­ergy now.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What was the process in­volved in writ­ing Lives?”

    MUNRO: “I re­mem­ber the day I started to write that. It was in Jan­u­ary, a Sun­day. I went down to the book­store, which was­n’t open Sun­days, and locked my­self in. My hus­band had said he would get din­ner, so I had the after­noon. I re­mem­ber look­ing around at all the great lit­er­a­ture that was around me and think­ing, You fool! What are you do­ing here? But then I went up to the office and started to write the sec­tion called”Princess Ida," which is about my moth­er. The ma­te­r­ial about my mother is my cen­tral ma­te­r­ial in life, and it al­ways comes the most read­ily to me. If I just re­lax, that’s what will come up. So, once I started to write that, I was off. Then I made a big mis­take. I tried to make it a reg­u­lar nov­el, an or­di­nary sort of child­hood ado­les­cence nov­el. About March I saw it was­n’t work­ing. It did­n’t feel right to me, and I thought I would have to aban­don it. I was very de­pressed. Then it came to me that what I had to do was pull it apart and put it in the story form. Then I could han­dle it. That’s when I learned that I was never go­ing to write a real novel be­cause I could not think that way."

    INTERVIEWER: “We did­n’t ask you ques­tions about your writ­ing day. How many days a week do you ac­tu­ally write?”

    MUNRO: “I write every morn­ing, seven days a week. I write start­ing about eight o’­clock and fin­ish up around eleven. Then I do other things the rest of the day, un­less I do my fi­nal draft or some­thing that I want to keep work­ing on then I’ll work all day with lit­tle breaks.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Are you rigid about that sched­ule, even if there’s a wed­ding or some other re­quired event?”

    MUNRO: “I am so com­pul­sive that I have a quota of pages. If I know that I am go­ing some­where on a cer­tain day, I will try to get those ex­tra pages done ahead of time. That’s so com­pul­sive, it’s aw­ful. But I don’t get too far be­hind, it’s as if I could lose it some­how. This is some­thing about ag­ing. Peo­ple get com­pul­sive about things like this. I’m also com­pul­sive now about how much I walk every day.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 236, 2017)

    Usu­ally I get up around nine, I stay up quite late, till one or two in the morn­ing, and work till quite late. But for How to be both I would get up at seven and use the first two hours to skim read—I was writ­ing the book very fast and knew far too lit­tle about the Re­nais­sance. So in the hours I’d usu­ally still be asleep and dream­ing, I read books about, say, the for­ma­tion of build­ing ma­te­ri­als in Fer­rara in the twelfth, thir­teen­th, and four­teenth cen­turies. At one point, for in­stance, the lo­cal river path was di­vert­ed, which made for a whole new pos­si­ble clay mix, a new kind of brick. The stuff of dreams. But that was un­usual for me. Nor­mally I don’t do re­search at all. If I’m not writ­ing to meet a dead­line, I tend to spend the morn­ings do­ing ad­min—e­mails and stuff—and then start writ­ing about two or three in the after­noon and work through un­til about eight or nine. I’m quite lazy, though. I spend lots of time star­ing into space and wan­der­ing around the room, pick­ing things up, open­ing books, putting them down again.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 148, 1996)

    The first rule is never to travel when I’m preg­nant with a book. I tend not to travel abroad when I’m writ­ing, and even within this coun­try I limit my­self to three or four times a year. It does­n’t al­ways work out, but that is my pat­tern. As for my day, I start at six a.m. with a forty-minute walk in the de­sert, sum­mer and win­ter…I then have my coffee and come down to this room, sit at my desk, and wait. With­out read­ing, lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, or an­swer­ing the phone. Then I write, some­times a sen­tence, some­times a para­graph—in a good day, half a page. But I am here at least seven or eight hours every day. I used to feel guilty about an un­pro­duc­tive morn­ing, es­pe­cially when I lived on the kib­butz, and every­one else was work­ing—­plow­ing fields, milk­ing cows, plant­ing trees. Now I think of my work as that of a shop­keep­er: it is my job to open up in the morn­ing, sit, and wait for cus­tomers. If I get some, it is a blessed morn­ing, if not, well, I’m still do­ing my job. So the guilt has gone, and I try to stick to my shop­keep­er’s rou­tine. Chores like an­swer­ing let­ters, fax­es, and tele­phone calls are squeezed in an hour be­fore lunch or din­ner. Per­haps po­ets and short­-s­tory writ­ers can work with a differ­ent pat­tern. But writ­ing nov­els is a very dis­ci­plined busi­ness. Writ­ing a poem is like hav­ing an affair, a one-night stand; a short story is a ro­mance, a re­la­tion­ship; a novel is a mar­riage—one has to be cun­ning, de­vise com­pro­mis­es, and make sac­ri­fices.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 176, 2003)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you re­quire a cer­tain en­vi­ron­ment to work?”

    HEMPEL: “I used to write only at night. All night, with a Walk­man on. Did that for the first book. Much of the sec­ond book. Now there’s too much I have to get done in the day. You try not to be pre­cious about it. An av­er­age day in­cludes around two hours of writ­ing-writ­ing, about six miles of dog walk­ing (which also counts as writ­ing), a lot of time on E-mail, a movie, some foren­sics shows, and CNN to see what I missed.” (The Art of Fic­tion No. 180, 2003)

    INTERVIEWER: “What’s your writ­ing day like?”

    BARRETT: “It de­pends. If things are lined up and I’m ahead of my­self in terms of re­search, I’ll write in the morn­ing, and then sort of gather stuff to­gether in the after­noon. Say if I’m go­ing to write about rhodo­den­drons, I’ll get to­gether all the stuff about rhodo­den­drons in the house. And then I read it over in the after­noon or evening and try to write the pas­sage the fol­low­ing morn­ing. But some­times, when I’m stuck, a scene will get to the point where I can’t write the next sen­tence be­cause I don’t know some­thing. What I just de­scribed is how I wrote Voy­age and Ser­vants of the Map and a few sto­ries be­fore that. My days are not as rigidly planned out now as they used to be. I travel too much. I’m al­ways go­ing off to give read­ings or to teach. I’m try­ing to get back to be­ing more flex­i­ble—the way I was when I was younger, be­cause I had to be. That lit­tle stretch of years when I was home enough and quiet enough that I could be quite firm about my sched­ule seems to be over, un­for­tu­nate­ly. I don’t have that lux­ury right now, but I did­n’t have it when I was work­ing on my first books, and they still got writ­ten.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 20, 1957)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you work every day?”

    WILSON: “Good­ness, no. I did that when I was a civil ser­vant and I don’t pro­pose to do so now. But when I’m writ­ing a book I do work every day.”

    INTERVIEWER: “To a sched­ule?”

    WILSON: “Not re­al­ly. No. I usu­ally work from 8 to 2, but if it’s go­ing well I may go on to 4. Only if I do I’m ex­tremely ex­haust­ed. In fact, when the book is go­ing well the only thing that stops me is sheer ex­haus­tion. I would­n’t like to do what Eliz­a­beth Bowen once told me she did—write some­thing every day, whether I was work­ing on a book or not.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 103, 2019)

    When I taught high school, I’d block out every Sun­day morn­ing for writ­ing, but that’s be­cause there was no other time for writ­ing, so I had to make time. It hap­pened to be Sun­day, but it had noth­ing to do with Sun­day be­ing a day of wor­ship for many peo­ple. So that was a kind of rit­u­al, I sup­pose. For a while I had a house on Cape Cod with a gar­den shack that got con­verted into a writ­ing stu­dio. So there was the rit­ual of go­ing into a par­tic­u­lar space to write, but the time was ran­dom. Now I just write on the couch in my study or in the liv­ing room, when­ever I feel I have an idea that could go some­where, which is more often than not late at night. But I can’t make my­self write at a given time. And frankly, I don’t want to. There are so many other things in a day to do, that I want to do, or have to do, be­sides write po­ems.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 98, 1987)

    I only write in the sum­mer hol­i­days when the In­sti­tute is closed. Each novel has been writ­ten dur­ing a sum­mer, over three or four months. Then I work every day all day and stop in the evening. I try to switch off com­pletely and not think about it till the next day.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 209, 2011)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you still write late at night?”

    BEATTIE: “I don’t write ex­clu­sively at night. But I do have more en­ergy later in the day.”

  • (The Art of The­ater No. 11, 1997)

    INTERVIEWER: “What sort of writ­ing rou­tine do you have? How do you op­er­ate?”

    MAMET: “I don’t know. I’ve ac­tu­ally been ve­he­mently de­lud­ing my­self, think­ing that I have no set habits what­ev­er. I know that I have very good habits of thought, and I’m try­ing to make them bet­ter. But as for where I go, what I do and who’s around when I work—those things are never im­por­tant to me.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 199, 2009)

    The writ­ing life is a per­fect life for me. I can do my own thing and I can work at three AM if I want to….I don’t have a rou­tine. I strug­gle to find time to write. This ranch is part of the prob­lem. Yes­ter­day I had a lot of writ­ing to do and I could­n’t do it be­cause a neigh­bor­ing ranch called to say they were go­ing to put bulls out in the pas­ture there. So I had to get over to the bridge over Jack Crick and let down the pan­els across the stream to stop the bulls from com­ing through onto my prop­er­ty. And that’s what hap­pened to the after­noon. So I don’t have a set sched­ule for writ­ing. When I was do­ing those Fine Just the Way It Is sto­ries last sum­mer, I think it was a two- or three­-month stint to do all of the sto­ries, and I could just work on it con­stantly from first light till late at night. When I’m in the groove, be­lieve me, I’m in the groove. Noth­ing gets in the way. I do it.

  • , (The Art of Fic­tion No. 48, 1973)

    INTERVIEWER: “At what time of day do you usu­ally work?”

    BURGESS: “I don’t think it mat­ters much; I work in the morn­ing, but I think the after­noon is a good time to work. Most peo­ple sleep in the after­noon. I’ve al­ways found it a good time, es­pe­cially if one does­n’t have much lunch. It’s a quiet time. It’s a time when one’s body is not at its sharpest, not at its most re­cep­tive—the body is qui­es­cent, som­no­lent; but the brain can be quite sharp. I think, al­so, at the same time that the un­con­scious mind has a habit of as­sert­ing it­self in the after­noon. The morn­ing is the con­scious time, but the after­noon is a time in which we should deal much more with the hin­ter­land of the con­scious­ness.”

    INTERVIEWER: “That’s very in­ter­est­ing. Thomas Mann, on the other hand, wrote re­li­giously vir­tu­ally every day from nine to one, as though he were punch­ing a time clock.”

    BURGESS: “Yes. One can work from nine to one, I think it’s ide­al; but I find that the after­noon must be used. The after­noon has al­ways been a good time for me. I think it be­gan in Malaya when I was writ­ing. I was work­ing all morn­ing. Most of us slept in the after­noon; it was very qui­et. Even the ser­vants were sleep­ing, even the dogs were asleep. One could work qui­etly away un­der the sun un­til dusk fell, and one was ready for the events of the evening. I do most of my work in the after­noon.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 68, 1978)

    INTERVIEWER: “Have your work­ing meth­ods var­ied much over the years?”

    POWELL: “Not a lot. I re­ally al­ways, when­ever I could, have worked all the morn­ing. But in my early days I would quite often sit in front of a type­writer the whole morn­ing with­out pro­duc­ing any­thing at al­l—it was not at all un­com­mon. Lat­terly I’ve got much more con­trol as re­gards pro­duc­ing some­thing, but one pays for that by not be­ing able to do it later in the day. And when I was younger I found I could usu­ally work all morn­ing and then again after tea for an hour or so. But now I find that any se­ri­ous work has got to be done in the morn­ing, that I re­ally am pretty well out for what you might call in­vent­ing any­thing after that, al­though I copy things out. My sys­tem is to do end­less copies.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 80, 1984)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you take hol­i­days?”

    KOESTLER: “I some­times dis­place my­self to a sun­nier cli­mate but I al­ways take the office with me.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Where to?”

    KOESTLER: “The south of France, the Aus­trian Ty­rol. I’m al­ways work­ing, you know. Nine-thirty un­til one. I have much read­ing to do and I’m a very slow read­er, one of my mis­for­tunes. If I’m re­view­ing a philo­soph­i­cal book it takes me a week to read it.”

  • William Weaver (“The Art of Trans­la­tion No. 3”, 2002)

    INTERVIEWER: “Let’s talk a bit about the re­al­i­ties of trans­la­tion. What were the differ­ences be­tween the var­i­ous writ­ers you have worked with? Who was easy to work with? Who was hard? Who was plea­sur­able? Who was a pain in the neck?”

    WEAVER: “ was a pain in the neck. In fact, used to say that she was part witch. She was cer­tainly a kind of clair­voy­ant. When I was trans­lat­ing La Sto­ria (His­tory), I was liv­ing in Tus­cany. Every now and then she would call me up in the morn­ing. I had told her once that I worked from the time I got up un­til about ten-thir­ty, and then I would have a cup of coffee, and then I would work again un­til lunchtime. She would al­ways phone at ten-thir­ty, think­ing that that was my break. The rea­son I took the break was that I did­n’t want to think about trans­la­tion for half an hour or so be­fore I went back to it. But she would call and start ask­ing ques­tions. She said, Now on page three hun­dred and fifty-nine when I use the word so-and-so, how will you trans­late that? And I said, El­sa, I’m on page one hun­dred and twen­ty-three. I’ve got no idea! That did­n’t stop her, and she started call­ing me al­most daily at ten-thir­ty, ru­in­ing my morn­ing. Fi­nally I sat down and wrote her a long let­ter: Dear El­sa, I’m giv­ing up the job. I think you bet­ter find some­body else. I don’t think that this is work­ing. I made a copy for the pub­lisher and an­other for my agent, and I sealed them all in air­mail en­velopes on a ta­ble in the en­trance hall, from which the mail went out in the morn­ing. It was­n’t go­ing to go out un­til the next day. Just then Elsa called and said, I’m call­ing to say this is the last time I’m go­ing to call you be­cause I re­al­ize that this is not help­ing you. She had read my mind. I thought I’d torn up all the let­ters, but I ap­par­ently saved a car­bon for my­self, and years later when a stu­dent of mine was go­ing through my pa­pers he said, Bill, here’s this weird let­ter to Elsa Morante. I’d com­pletely for­got­ten about it. She was by far the hard­est per­son I worked with. The most plea­sur­able is cer­tainly Um­berto Eco, not only be­cause he’s so much fun any­way, but also be­cause he knows that you have to change some words when trans­lat­ing.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 184, 2004)

    HANNAH: “Right. Gosh, I hate to pub­lish this, be­cause young peo­ple will do any­thing it takes. But at first, yes. Teach­ing at Clem­son was very hard work. I’d come home, put down the ba­bies—and I was try­ing to be a good fa­ther and I think I was—but then that free­dom, it was as­ton­ish­ing, my God. Every man or woman who comes home and takes a glass of wine or a cou­ple of hits of bour­bon on the rocks knows what I mean. Just this to­tal loos­en­ing and re­lease from the white noise of the day, so that you en­ter an­other zone. In­stead of go­ing to sleep I would hit the type­writer and some­times write un­til four and teach my classes very hag­gard­ly. But I was often taught that every­thing is worth it for art. Every­thing. It was a cult. I re­mem­ber Bill Har­ri­son say­ing,”Don’t play with your child that much." In other words, don’t be that good of a fa­ther. Get to that book. The ideal was Flaubert, who la­bored seven years on Madame Bo­vary and sweated out every word, le mot juste, the right word. So yeah, I learned things that way, but on the other hand I would have learned things had I been sober."

    “Right now, it’s just what life gave me. It’s my back­yard. Thank God I never ran over a child or had a car wreck. I scared my young chil­dren, dri­ving fast and be­ing loony. That’s the most re­gret­table thing, that I scared my young chil­dren.”

    “To­day, I’m well out. I could­n’t do it phys­i­cal­ly. I wish my genes were differ­ent, that I could have taken three beers max, like most peo­ple.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 164, 2000)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have a strict rou­tine?”

    BAINBRIDGE: “When I’m writ­ing, yes. I work day and night. I don’t go out. I some­times don’t go to bed, but just nap on that so­fa. I often don’t have a bath, be­cause the treat of hav­ing a long bath after five days and wash­ing my hair re­vi­tal­izes me. I smoke, but I don’t drink. When I’m writ­ing jour­nal­ism, I some­times have one drink, or if I get stuck in a book, I might have a shot. I live like that day and night for about four months, then it is over, the book is fin­ished and I have a long bath. But by then, often the pa­per­back of the pre­vi­ous book is out, or the Amer­i­can edi­tion, and one has to do the pub­lic­ity for it, with all that it en­tails by way of trav­el­ing and so on. Lately it has been a rat race.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 41, 1989)

    INTERVIEWER: “I guess what I re­ally wanted to ask is a ques­tion about your daily rou­tine—if there is one. Do you sched­ule your writ­ing, or does it come in desul­tory bursts?”

    WRIGHT: “I used to have a rou­tine—­for years I wrote in the after­noon, un­like any­one else I’ve ever heard of, When I was in Italy I trans­lated Mon­rale in the morn­ing, and twenty years lat­er, in 1983, I did it again when I was work­ing on the Cam­pana. But that makes it sound as though I had a fixed rou­tine, cer­tain hours when I did cer­tain things. And I don’t have any such thing. And never did ex­cept for the hour and a half it takes me to read the news­pa­per each morn­ing. Of course there’s b.c., and a.d.—Be­fore Child and After De­liv­ery. The past eigh­teen years have been much differ­ent from the nine be­fore that. And cer­tainly bet­ter, I might add. The be­gin­nings of my lit­tle ex­per­i­ments with dis­lo­ca­tion and dis­con­ti­nu­ity, the ab­stract­ing of the story line, all took place out of ne­ces­sity in my case. Time was grabbed when grab­bable, what with teach­ing, fam­i­ly, and all the other em­a­na­tions bid­ding for its ser­vices. In­no­va­tion was the child of ne­ces­sity for me. My po­ems be­came, or started to be­come, dis­con­sec­u­tive, go­ing from stanza to stanza as units rather than from be­gin­ning to end as a seam­less piece. Lat­er, in The South­ern Cross, The Other Side of the River, and Zone Jour­nals, I tended to make an aes­thetic of such im­puls­es, and to widen them. All of which re­ally does­n’t an­swer your ques­tion, does it?”

    INTERVIEWER: “No, but it an­swers an­other ques­tion, and I’ll ask it in just a minute. But first, let’s get back to the busi­ness of your sched­ule, and if you have one.”

    WRIGHT: “No, I never did have a sched­ule, though I was chip­ping away at things rather con­sis­tent­ly. When I was work­ing on some­thing, I worked on it every chance I got, morn­ing, after­noon, or evening. So work would come in bursts, but not desul­tory ones. For in­stance, on”A Jour­nal of the Year of the Ox," I seemed to be work­ing every day that year. Ob­ses­sive­ly. Of course, I tend to think about writ­ing ob­ses­sively even when I don’t have a pro­ject. I’d like to be writ­ing all the time. I sel­dom read nov­els any more be­cause I don’t want to get caught up in some­thing that might take me three to four days, or longer, away from think­ing about po­ems. This hardly be­comes jus­ti­fi­able when I go, as I have done, three months or longer be­tween po­ems. But one must pro­tect one’s stan­dards, must­n’t one? For a highly or­ga­nized per­son, as I am, my writ­ing sched­ule is wholly er­rat­ic."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 38, 1950)

    INTERVIEWER: “And your work habits? You’ve said some­where that you get up at dawn and work for sev­eral hours.”

    CENDRARS: “I never for­get that work is a curse—which is why I’ve never made it a habit. Cer­tain­ly, to be like every­one else, lately I’ve wanted to work reg­u­larly from a given hour to a given hour; I’m over fifty-five and I wanted to pro­duce four books in a row. That fin­ished, I had enough on my back. I have no method of work. I’ve tried one, it worked, but that’s no rea­son to fix on it for the rest of my life. One has other things to do in life aside from writ­ing books.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 68, 1981)

    I am a morn­ing writer; I am writ­ing at eight-thirty in long­hand and I keep at it un­til twelve-thir­ty, when I go for a swim. Then I come back, have lunch, and read in the after­noon un­til I take my walk for the next day’s writ­ing. I must write the book out in my head now, be­fore I sit down. I al­ways fol­low a tri­an­gu­lar pat­tern on my walks here in Prince­ton: I go to Ein­stein’s house on Mer­cer Street, then down to Thomas Man­n’s house on Stock­ton Street, then over to Her­man Broch’s house on Eve­lyn Place. After vis­it­ing those three places, I re­turn home, and by that time I have men­tally writ­ten to­mor­row’s six or seven pages.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 139, 1994)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you find a par­tic­u­lar time or place that you like to write—a time of day or a place in your house or your office?”

    ACHEBE: “I have found that I work best when I am at home in Nige­ria. But one learns to work in other places. I am most com­fort­able in the sur­round­ings, the kind of en­vi­ron­ment about which I am writ­ing. The time of day does­n’t mat­ter, re­al­ly. I am not an ear­ly-morn­ing per­son; I don’t like to get out of bed, and so I don’t be­gin writ­ing at five A.M., though some peo­ple, I hear, do. I write once my day has start­ed. And I can work late into the night, al­so. Gen­er­al­ly, I don’t at­tempt to pro­duce a cer­tain num­ber of words a day. The dis­ci­pline is to work whether you are pro­duc­ing a lot or not, be­cause the day you pro­duce a lot is not nec­es­sar­ily the day you do your best work. So it’s try­ing to do it as reg­u­larly as you can with­out mak­ing it—with­out im­pos­ing too rigid a timetable on your self. That would be my ide­al.”

  • (The Art of The­ater No. 9, 1992)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you work every­day?”

    GUARE: “I lit­er­ally get sick if I don’t. I like to work; I like to get up in the morn­ing and go to work.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 49, 1974)

    Ish­er­wood works every morn­ing and then usu­ally walks to the ocean to swim. The sub­stance of this in­ter­view was there­fore recorded in a se­ries of late-after­noon ses­sion­s—teatime. Pos­si­bly the con­ver­sa­tion re­flects some­thing of the hour.

  • Cyn­thia Oz­ick (The Art of Fic­tion No. 95, 1987)

    INTERVIEWER: “You write all night. Have you al­ways done so?”

    CYNTHIA OZICK: [S­peak­ing, not yet typ­ing.] “Al­ways. I’ve writ­ten in day­light, too, but mainly I go through the night.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How does this affect your in­ter­ac­tion with the rest of so­ci­ety?”

    OZICK: “It’s ter­ri­ble. Most so­cial life be­gins in the evening, when I’m just start­ing. So when I do go out at night, it means I lose a whole day’s work.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You don’t just start at mid­night or when­ever you get home?”

    OZICK: “I al­most never get home at mid­night. I’m al­ways the last to leave a par­ty.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your reg­u­lar work­ing hours?”

    OZICK: “You’re talk­ing as if there’s some sort of pre­dictable sched­ule. I don’t have work­ing hours. I wake up late. I read the mail, which some­times is a very com­plex pro­ce­dure. Then I eat break­fast with the Times. Then I start prim­ing the pump, which is to read. I an­swer the let­ters.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 128, 1992)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you fol­low a reg­u­lar writ­ing sched­ule, set­ting aside a cer­tain amount of time to work every day?”

    SIMON: “Each after­noon I start at around three­-thirty and work un­til about sev­en-thirty or eight.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 244, 2019)

    INTERVIEWER: “It’s also the least”nar­rat­ed" of your nov­els. The most om­ni­scient. And it cov­ers a lot of time. Have you found that your prac­tice or your am­bi­tions in the nov­els have changed over the years?"

    McDERMOTT: “I sup­pose my prac­tice has re­mained much the same—get to your desk, write. There may have been more ur­gency on my part when my kids were at home, when I had only un­til three every after­noon. Then again, at my age, there’s a sim­i­lar ur­gency. How many more chances are you go­ing to have to get this novel thing right? There’s still a clock at my back, it’s still tick­ing.”

    INTERVIEWER: “When Child of My Heart was pub­lished you came to UCLA to read, and some­one asked what your sched­ule was, writ­ing that nov­el. You said you worked three or four hours a day, three or four days a week. An­other vis­i­tor, a male writer, had pre­vi­ously an­swered that same ques­tion by say­ing that he worked eight to ten hours, seven days a week. My stu­dents en­joyed guess­ing that both of you were fib­bing, both ex­ag­ger­at­ing in the di­rec­tion ex­pected for your gen­der. Can you tell me more about your work­ing habits?”

    McDERMOTT: “I’ve al­ways tried to shape my writ­ing time as if this were a real job. At my desk by nine in the morn­ing, break for lunch, write un­til five or six. Or, when my chil­dren were home, un­til three­—an­other kind of ninth hour. Five days a week when I’m not teach­ing, four days a week when I am. But, of course, you asked me what my sched­ule was writ­ing that nov­el, and I sup­pose the mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion comes from the fact of my two-novel habit. At the time I was writ­ing Child of My Heart, that book was my way of tak­ing a break—pro­cras­ti­nat­ing—from writ­ing the novel that would even­tu­ally be­come After This. So my an­swer was, I sup­pose, hon­est, but with­out con­text. Three or four hours a day, three or four days a week on that nov­el, the rest of the time on the other nov­el, four or five days a week, nine to three, or five. Rarely on week­ends, though. I think it’s al­ways a good idea to live a bit.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 230, 2016)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you write every day?”

    SOLSTAD: “For a long time I had a sys­tem, I call it the 3-1-3 sys­tem. Three days of work. On the after­noon of the third day—­drink­ing. Then you can get as drunk as you want. On the fourth day, you rest. Then you’re ready for three new days of work. I drink less now—age takes its toll. But when I was phys­i­cally in bet­ter shape, I did that all the time. And it worked very well. It gives you a lot of work days, only one day off a week.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 194, 2007)

    INTERVIEWER: “So how do you do it now?”

    GROSSMAN: “I start every morn­ing around six by walk­ing for an hour in the hills of Jerusalem—of Mevasseret—where we live. Then I go to work in a one-room apart­ment I rented in a vil­lage close to my home. When I was look­ing at the place, the land­lady said, Un­for­tu­nate­ly, there is no phone line here. I said, Won­der­ful! I’ll take it. I go there every morn­ing, no mat­ter what, for six hours of to­tal iso­la­tion.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Then you’re done for the day?”

    GROSSMAN: “No, then I go back and write at home. But I do differ­ent work in the after­noon or evening. I mostly re­vise what I wrote in the morn­ing. I erase. It’s less cre­ative be­cause life is around—­fam­ily and friends.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 135, 1993)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you think it made a differ­ence in your ca­reer that you started writ­ing nov­els late, when you were ap­proach­ing thir­ty?”

    DeLILLO: “Well, I wish I had started ear­lier, but ev­i­dently I was­n’t ready. First, I lacked am­bi­tion. I may have had nov­els in my head but very lit­tle on pa­per and no per­sonal goals, no burn­ing de­sire to achieve some end. Sec­ond, I did­n’t have a sense of what it takes to be a se­ri­ous writer. It took me a long time to de­velop this. Even when I was well into my first novel I did­n’t have a sys­tem for work­ing, a de­pend­able rou­tine. I worked hap­haz­ard­ly, some­times late at night, some­times in the after­noon. I spent too much time do­ing other things or noth­ing at all. On hu­mid sum­mer nights I tracked horse­flies through the apart­ment and killed them—not for the meat but be­cause they were dri­ving me crazy with their buzzing. I had­n’t de­vel­oped a sense of the level of ded­i­ca­tion that’s nec­es­sary to do this kind of work.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your work­ing habits now?”

    DeLILLO: “I work in the morn­ing at a man­ual type­writer. I do about four hours and then go run­ning. This helps me shake off one world and en­ter an­oth­er. Trees, birds, driz­zle—it’s a nice kind of in­ter­lude. Then I work again, later after­noon, for two or three hours. Back into book time, which is trans­par­en­t—you don’t know it’s pass­ing. No snack food or coffee. No cig­a­rettes—I stopped smok­ing a long time ago. The space is clear, the house is qui­et. A writer takes earnest mea­sures to se­cure his soli­tude and then finds end­less ways to squan­der it. Look­ing out the win­dow, read­ing ran­dom en­tries in the dic­tio­nary. To break the spell I look at a pho­to­graph of Borges, a great pic­ture sent to me by the Irish writer Colm Tóibín. The face of Borges against a dark back­ground—Borges fierce, blind, his nos­trils gap­ing, his skin stretched taut, his mouth amaz­ingly vivid; his mouth looks paint­ed; he’s like a shaman painted for vi­sions, and the whole face has a kind of steely rap­ture. I’ve read Borges of course, al­though not nearly all of it, and I don’t know any­thing about the way he worked—but the pho­to­graph shows us a writer who did not waste time at the win­dow or any­where else. So I’ve tried to make him my guide out of lethargy and drift, into the oth­er­world of mag­ic, art, and div­ina­tion.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 105, 1988)

    INTERVIEWER: “Can you dis­cuss your work process? When do you sit down to write, and what do you do to warm up?”

    WHITE: “Oh, it’s very tor­ment­ed. I try to write in the morn­ing, and I write in long­hand, and I write in very beau­ti­ful note­books [White dis­plays a cou­ple of hard­bound note­books filled with thick, hand-laid pa­per] and with very beau­ti­ful pens. I just write away, and then . . . This is a first go at it, and then I start cross­ing out, and it gets cra­zier and cra­zier, with in­serts and so on. Fi­nal­ly, two or three years of this go by and then one day I call in a typ­ist. I dic­tate the en­tire book to her or him. The typ­ist is a sort of ed­i­tor in that he or she will tell me what is re­ally ter­ri­ble and what’s good, or what’s in­con­sis­tent and does­n’t make sense. I get to­gether a whole ver­sion this way and then I stew over it some more. Even­tu­ally my ed­i­tor reads it, and then he tells me to change things, and it goes on like that. If I write a page a day, I’m lucky. But I write less. And months go by with­out my writ­ing at all, and I get very crazy when I write! Sick, phys­i­cal­ly.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You seem to be more a crea­ture of in­spi­ra­tion than habit, which coun­ters the dic­tum many writ­ers have about get­ting up every morn­ing and writ­ing for sev­eral hours a day, come what may.”

    WHITE: “Writ­ers say two things that strike me as non­sense. One is that you must fol­low an ab­solute sched­ule every­day. If you’re not writ­ing well, why con­tinue it? I just don’t think this grind­ing away is use­ful. The other thing they say: I write be­cause I must. Well, I have never felt that, and I doubt most of them do ei­ther. I think they are mouthing a cliché. I don’t think most peo­ple write be­cause they must; per­haps eco­nom­i­cally they must, but spir­i­tu­al­ly? I won­der. I think many writ­ers would be per­fectly happy to lay down their pens and never write again if they could main­tain their pres­tige, pro­fes­sor­ship and PEN mem­ber­ship.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 82, 1984)

    INTERVIEWER: “How do you or­ga­nize your time? Do you write reg­u­lar­ly, every day? Philip Roth has said that he writes eight hours a day three hun­dred and six­ty-five days a year. Do you work as com­pul­sive­ly?”

    O’BRIEN: “He is a man, you see. Women have the glo­ri­ous ex­cuse of hav­ing to shop, cook, clean! When I am work­ing I write in a kind of trance, long­hand, in these sev­eral copy­books. I meant to tidy up be­fore you came! I write in the morn­ing be­cause one is nearer to the un­con­scious, the source of in­spi­ra­tion. I never work at night be­cause by then the shack­les of the day are around me, what James Stephens (au­thor of The Crock of Gold) called”That flat, dull cat­a­logue of dreary things that fas­ten them­selves to my wings," and I don’t sit down three hun­dred and six­ty-five days a year be­cause I’m not that kind of writer. I wish I were! Per­haps I don’t take my­self that se­ri­ous­ly. An­other rea­son why I don’t write con­stantly is that I feel I have writ­ten all I had wanted to say about love and loss and lone­li­ness and be­ing a vic­tim and all that. I have fin­ished with that ter­ri­to­ry. And I have not yet em­braced an­other one. It may be that I’m go­ing to­wards it—I hope and pray that this is the case."

    INTERVIEWER: “When you are writ­ing, are you dis­ci­plined? Do you keep reg­u­lar hours, turn down in­vi­ta­tions, and hi­ber­nate?”

    O’BRIEN: “Yes, but dis­ci­pline does­n’t come into it. It is what one has to do. The im­pulse is stronger than any­thing. I don’t like too much so­cial life any­way. It is gos­sip and bad white wine. It’s a waste. Writ­ing is like car­ry­ing a fe­tus. I get up in the morn­ing, have a cup of tea, and come into this room to work. I never go out to lunch, nev­er, but I stop around one or two and spend the rest of the after­noon at­tend­ing to mun­dane things. In the evening I might read or go out to a play or a film, or see my sons. Did I tell you that I spend a lot of time mop­ing? Did Philip Roth say that he moped?”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 70, 1994)

    INTERVIEWER: “What is your writ­ing process like?”

    MILOSZ: “I write every morn­ing, whether one line or more, but only in the morn­ing. I write in note­books and then type drafts into my com­put­er. I never drink coffee and never use any stim­u­lants when I write. I do drink mod­er­ate­ly, but only after my work. I prob­a­bly don’t fit the im­age of the neu­rotic mod­ern writer for those rea­sons, but who knows?”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 233, 2017)

    INTERVIEWER: “How did you find time to write dur­ing the war?”

    KHOURY: “I wrote in spurts. For ex­am­ple, I fin­ished the first draft of White Masks in three weeks. I wrote so fast my hand hurt. I’ve never writ­ten in that way again. There were times when I was fight­ing, in Beirut or out­side the city, and times when I was work­ing at the Re­search Cen­ter. So it was­n’t a mat­ter of sit­ting down to write for three hours every morn­ing like I do now. I wrote when­ever I could, mostly in the evenings. Like I said, I was ob­sessed, or pos­sessed. Do you know the story of , the Umayyad po­et? He was a Chris­t­ian in the time of . They say that when al-Akhtal stood to re­cite his po­ems in front of the caliph, his en­e­mies would try to em­bar­rass him by ask­ing whether he prayed when he heard the muezzin call the faith­ful. So al-Akhtal told them, I pray when­ever I’m vis­ited by prayer. I’m the same way with writ­ing.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 79, 1984)

    INTERVIEWER: “What about the process of each? Is it a strug­gle, for in­stance, to get up each morn­ing to write about some­thing you would pre­fer not to write about?”

    WIESEL: “It de­pends. I don’t have many ex­am­ples of writ­ing about the Holo­caust be­cause I haven’t writ­ten that much about it. But there is never a strug­gle in the morn­ing. It’s a pleas­ant agony. I am my­self only when I work. I work for four hours with­out in­ter­rup­tion. Then I stop for my stud­ies. But these four hours are re­ally mine. It is a strug­gle when I have to cut. I re­duce nine hun­dred pages to one hun­dred sixty pages. I also en­joy cut­ting. I do it with a masochis­tic plea­sure al­though even when you cut, you don’t. Writ­ing is not like paint­ing where you add. It is not what you put on the can­vas that the reader sees. Writ­ing is more like a sculp­ture where you re­move, you elim­i­nate in or­der to make the work vis­i­ble. Even those pages you re­move some­how re­main. There is a differ­ence be­tween a book of two hun­dred pages from the very be­gin­ning, and a book of two hun­dred pages which is the re­sult of an orig­i­nal eight hun­dred pages. The six hun­dred pages are there. Only you don’t see them.”

  • David Ig­na­tow (The Art of Po­etry No. 23, 1979)

    INTERVIEWER: “Are you an im­pul­sive writer, or do you set aside a cer­tain num­ber of hours to write?”

    IGNATOW: “I’ve al­ter­nated be­tween be­ing im­pul­sive and sched­uled. When I was liv­ing out in East Hamp­ton, dur­ing the three grants that I was lucky to get, I or­ga­nized my­self on a morn­ing sched­ule, and, whether I had any­thing to say or not, I would sit down at the type­writer and slip in a piece of pa­per there, and I would tell my­self there was noth­ing to write un­til some­thing fi­nally emerged, and I’d just keep at it for three or four hours. Those were the years when I did­n’t have to teach; I did­n’t have any other sched­ule to keep ex­cept my writ­ing sched­ule, and so a lot of work got pro­duced. Now, try­ing to keep a sched­ule these days while teach­ing . . . it’s im­pos­si­ble! I write when I can.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 110, 1989)

    INTERVIEWER: “How do you work, and at what hours?”

    ELIZABETH SPENCER: “I’m a morn­ing work­er. The minute my hus­band is out the door to work, out comes the pa­per, the type­writer, the man­u­script I’m work­ing on. I knock off at about two, eat and take a nap if pos­si­ble, then I’m out for gro­ceries, so­cial­iz­ing, what­ev­er.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 21, 1958)

    He keeps track of his daily pro­gress—“so as not to kid my­self”—on a large chart made out of the side of a card­board pack­ing case and set up against the wall un­der the nose of a mounted gazelle head. The num­bers on the chart show­ing the daily out­put of words differ from 450, 575, 462, 1250, to 512, the higher fig­ures on days Hem­ing­way puts in ex­tra work so he won’t feel guilty spend­ing the fol­low­ing day fish­ing on the Gulf Stream.

    INTERVIEWER: “Could you say some­thing of this process? When do you work? Do you keep to a strict sched­ule?”

    HEMINGWAY: “When I am work­ing on a book or a story I write every morn­ing as soon after first light as pos­si­ble. There is no one to dis­turb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have writ­ten and, as you al­ways stop when you know what is go­ing to hap­pen next, you go on from there. You write un­til you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will hap­pen next and you stop and try to live through un­til the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morn­ing, say, and may go on un­til noon or be through be­fore that. When you stop you are as emp­ty, and at the same time never empty but fill­ing, as when you have made love to some­one you love. Noth­ing can hurt you, noth­ing can hap­pen, noth­ing means any­thing un­til the next day when you do it again. It is the wait un­til the next day that is hard to get through.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 47, 1972)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you write when you’re away from home?”

    WELTY: “I’ve found it pos­si­ble to write al­most any­where I’ve hap­pened to try. I like it at home bet­ter be­cause it’s much more con­ve­nient for an early ris­er, which I am. And it’s the only place where you can re­ally promise your­self time and keep out in­ter­rup­tions. My ideal way to write a short story is to write the whole first draft through in one sit­ting, then work as long as it takes on re­vi­sions, and then write the fi­nal ver­sion all in one, so that in the end the whole thing amounts to one long sus­tained effort. That’s not pos­si­ble any­where, but it comes near­est to be­ing pos­si­ble in your own home.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you type­write?”

    WELTY: “Yes, and that’s use­ful—it helps give me the feel­ing of mak­ing my work ob­jec­tive. I can cor­rect bet­ter if I see it in type­script. After that, I re­vise with scis­sors and pins. Past­ing is too slow, and you can’t undo it, but with pins you can move things from any­where to any­where, and that’s what I re­ally love do­ing—putting things in their best and proper place, re­veal­ing things at the time when they mat­ter most. Often I shift things from the very be­gin­ning to the very end. Small things—one fact, one word—but things im­por­tant to me. It’s pos­si­ble I have a re­verse mind and do things back­wards, be­ing a bro­ken left­-han­der. Just so I’ve caught on to my weak­ness.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 62, 1982)

    INTERVIEWERS: “Do you need iso­la­tion in or­der to write?”

    CALDWELL: “I do like pri­va­cy. In the old days in New York you could rent a room very cheap­ly, and I wrote sev­eral books in rented rooms be­cause I had no dis­trac­tions what­so­ev­er. I could put a type­writer on the bed, sit op­po­site it in a chair, and write that way all day and night if I wanted to.”

    INTERVIEWERS: “Do you ever have to over­come in­er­tia to get your­self writ­ing in the morn­ing?”

    CALDWELL: “No, I would­n’t say so at all. Now, I might have the feel­ing com­ing in here that I don’t know what I’m go­ing to do. I might be wor­ried about that. But I’ll come in any­way and sit here un­til some­thing hap­pens. You see, it’s some­thing I wanted to do to be­gin with and so I’ll still have that urge to see it through. I guess that tal­ent is just a part of be­ing a writer. You’ve got to have de­sire in or­der to make it all work.”

    INTERVIEWERS: “Your new book, A Year of Liv­ing, has so far taken you a year and a half to write. Would you de­scribe your daily writ­ing sched­ule for that book?”

    CALDWELL: “Well, for this par­tic­u­lar book I got into the habit of work­ing twice a day. I am here at the type­writer at six o’­clock with the lights on every morn­ing and work un­til ten or eleven o’­clock. Then from four un­til seven I’ll be back at it again.”

    INTERVIEWERS: “Did other books have differ­ent sched­ules?”

    CALDWELL: “Yes, I used to have all kinds of sched­ules. Years ago, in the state of Maine, I chose to write my book on even days and work out­side on odd days. When win­ter came, I shov­eled snow and slept a lit­tle dur­ing the day, then stayed up all night to write. An­other early method I used was to take a trip to write a short sto­ry. I’d ride a bus, from Boston to Cleve­land may­be, and get off at night once in a while to write. I’d do a story that way in about a week’s time. Then, for a while, I took the night boats be­tween Boston and New York. The Fall River Line, the New Bed­ford Line, the Cape Cod Line, all go­ing to New York at night. The rhythm of the wa­ter might have helped my sen­tence struc­ture a lit­tle; at least I thought it did. Those were all early meth­ods, or sched­ules, of writ­ing. Every­thing since then has been a lit­tle bit differ­ent.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 37, 1986)

    To live next door to Wal­cott, even for a week, is to un­der­stand how he has man­aged to be so pro­duc­tive over the years. A prodi­gious work­er, he often starts at about 4:30 in the morn­ing and con­tin­ues un­til he has done a four- or five-hour stin­t—by the time most peo­ple are get­ting up for the day.

    WALCOTT: …“Late­ly, I find my­self get­ting up ear­lier, which may be a sign of late mid­dle age. It wor­ries me a bit. I guess this is part of the rit­u­al: I go and make a cup of coffee, put on the ket­tle, and have a cig­a­rette. By now I’m not too sure if out of habit I’m get­ting up for the coffee rather than to write. I may be get­ting up that early to smoke, not re­ally to write.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What time is this?”

    WALCOTT: “It can vary. Some­times it’s as early as half-past three, which is, you know, not too nice. The av­er­age time would be about five. It de­pends on how well I’m sleep­ing. But that hour, that whole time of day, is won­der­ful in the Caribbean. I love the cool dark­ness and the joy and splen­dor of the sun­rise com­ing up. I guess I would say, es­pe­cially in the lo­ca­tion of where I am, the early dark and the sun­rise, and be­ing up with the coffee and with what­ever you’re work­ing on, is a very rit­u­al­is­tic thing. I’d even go fur­ther and say it’s a re­li­gious thing. It has its in­stru­ments and its sur­round­ings. And you can feel your own spirit wak­ing.”

  • Francine du Plessix Gray (The Art of Fic­tion No. 96, 1987)

    INTERVIEWER: “But let’s take a day when you’re fin­ished with chores by mid-morn­ing.”

    GRAY: “I like to get to this stu­dio a lit­tle be­fore eleven, ide­al­ly, and stay here un­til six thirty or sev­en. Three to seven p.m., that’s when the best ideas come, and if I started at nine a.m. my back would never hold up un­til four p.m.—I’ve had se­vere back prob­lems, like many writ­ers, and in my case only ex­er­cise brings re­lief. So dur­ing the six or seven hours I spend in this room I like to take an ath­letic break: yo­ga, swim­ming forty laps, a few sets of ten­nis sin­gles or a two-mile walk, de­pend­ing on the sea­son. And in sum­mer there’s my beloved veg­etable gar­den to weed and pick and freeze from. Mind you, dur­ing the time I sit here very lit­tle”writ­ing" goes on—I write first draft by hand, on yel­low le­gal pad, be­fore putting it into my ter­rific new IBM com­put­er. I write very im­pul­sive­ly, so ter­ri­bly fast only I can de­ci­pher my scrawl. But only one quar­ter of this first out­pour­ing, at the most, is us­able, so ac­tu­al­ly, I work very slow­ly. It’s mostly pac­ing, re­search­ing, brew­ing end­less cups of herb tea while I think of how to an­no­tate these ter­ri­ble ear­lier drafts. Hours are spent fig­ur­ing how to rewrite one sin­gle sen­tence—I’ve never man­aged to write any­thing, even a book re­view, in fewer than three or four drafts. Again, the most im­por­tant as­pect of com­ing to this room for sev­eral hours a day is a tal­is­manic one—it’s here, for the past twenty years, by cre­at­ing a pres­ence of words along­side me, that I’ve slowly be­come some­thing I can be­gin to call my­self, and trav­eled away from that “ocean of gib­ber­ish” that men­aces us through­out life."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 69, 1981)

    INTERVIEWER: “In in­ter­views a few years ago, you seemed to look back on be­ing a jour­nal­ist with awe at how much faster you were then.”

    GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ: “I do find it harder to write now than be­fore, both nov­els and jour­nal­ism. When I worked for news­pa­pers, I was­n’t very con­scious of every word I wrote, whereas now I am. When I was work­ing for El Es­pec­ta­dor in Bo­gotá, I used to do at least three sto­ries a week, two or three ed­i­to­r­ial notes every day, and I did movie re­views. Then at night, after every­one had gone home, I would stay be­hind writ­ing my nov­els. I liked the noise of the Lino­type ma­chi­nes, which sounded like rain. If they stopped, and I was left in si­lence, I would­n’t be able to work. Now, the out­put is com­par­a­tively small. On a good work­ing day, work­ing from nine o’­clock in the morn­ing to two or three in the after­noon, the most I can write is a short para­graph of four or five lines, which I usu­ally tear up the next day.”

    INTERVIEWER: “When do you work best now? Do you have a work sched­ule?”

    GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ: “When I be­came a pro­fes­sional writer the biggest prob­lem I had was my sched­ule. Be­ing a jour­nal­ist meant work­ing at night. When I started writ­ing ful­l-time I was forty years old, my sched­ule was ba­si­cally from nine o’­clock in the morn­ing un­til two in the after­noon when my sons came back from school. Since I was so used to hard work, I felt guilty that I was only work­ing in the morn­ing; so I tried to work in the after­noons, but I dis­cov­ered that what I did in the after­noon had to be done over again the next morn­ing. So I de­cided that I would just work from nine un­til two-thirty and not do any­thing else. In the after­noons I have ap­point­ments and in­ter­views and any­thing else that might come up. I have an­other prob­lem in that I can only work in sur­round­ings that are fa­mil­iar and have al­ready been warmed up with my work. I can­not write in ho­tels or bor­rowed rooms or on bor­rowed type­writ­ers. This cre­ates prob­lems be­cause when I travel I can’t work. Of course, you’re al­ways try­ing to find a pre­text to work less. That’s why the con­di­tions you im­pose on your­self are more diffi­cult all the time. You hope for in­spi­ra­tion what­ever the cir­cum­stances. That’s a word the ro­man­tics ex­ploited a lot. My Marx­ist com­rades have a lot of diffi­culty ac­cept­ing the word, but what­ever you call it, I’m con­vinced that there is a spe­cial state of mind in which you can write with great ease and things just flow. All the pre­texts—­such as the one where you can only write at home­—dis­ap­pear. That mo­ment and that state of mind seem to come when you have found the right theme and the right ways of treat­ing it. And it has to be some­thing you re­ally like, too, be­cause there is no worse job than do­ing some­thing you don’t like.”

    “One of the most diffi­cult things is the first para­graph. I have spent many months on a first para­graph, and once I get it, the rest just comes out very eas­i­ly. In the first para­graph you solve most of the prob­lems with your book. The theme is de­fined, the style, the tone. At least in my case, the first para­graph is a kind of sam­ple of what the rest of the book is go­ing to be. That’s why writ­ing a book of short sto­ries is much more diffi­cult than writ­ing a nov­el. Every time you write a short sto­ry, you have to be­gin all over again.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 50, 1974)

    INTERVIEWER: “Can you tell me about your work habits? You must be enor­mously dis­ci­plined to turn out so much in such a rel­a­tively short time. Do you find writ­ing easy? Do you en­joy it?”

    VIDAL: “Oh, yes, of course I en­joy it. I would­n’t do it if I did­n’t. When­ever I get up in the morn­ing, I write for about three hours. I write nov­els in long­hand on yel­low le­gal pads, ex­actly like the First Crim­i­nal Nixon. For some rea­son I write plays and es­says on the type­writer. The first draft usu­ally comes rather fast. One odd­i­ty: I never reread a text un­til I have fin­ished the first draft. Oth­er­wise it’s too dis­cour­ag­ing. Al­so, when you have the whole thing in front of you for the first time, you’ve for­got­ten most of it and see it fresh. Rewrit­ing, how­ev­er, is a slow, grind­ing busi­ness. For me the main plea­sure of hav­ing money is be­ing able to afford as many com­pletely re­typed drafts as I like. When I was young and poor, I had to do my own typ­ing, so I sel­dom did more than two drafts. Now I go through four, five, six. The more the bet­ter, since my style is very much one of after­thought. My line to Dwight Mac­don­ald,”You have noth­ing to say, only to ad­d," re­ally re­ferred to me. Not un­til some­body did a par­ody of me did I re­al­ize how de­pen­dent I am on the par­en­thetic aside—the com­ment upon the com­ment, the ironic gloss upon the straight line, or the straight ren­der­ing of a comedic point. It is a style which must seem rather point­less to my con­tem­po­raries be­cause they see no need for this kind of elab­o­rate­ness. But, again, it’s the only thing I find in­ter­est­ing to do."

    “Hun­gover or not, I write every day for three hours after I get up un­til I’ve fin­ished what­ever I’m do­ing. Al­though some­times I take a break in the mid­dle of the book, some­times a break of sev­eral years. I be­gan Ju­lian—I don’t re­mem­ber—but I think some seven years passed be­tween the be­gin­ning of the book and when I picked it up again. The same thing oc­curred with Wash­ing­ton, D.C. On the other hand, Myra I wrote prac­ti­cally at one sit­ting—in a few weeks. It wrote it­self, as they say. But then it was much rewrit­ten.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 3, 1953)

    INTERVIEWER: “Well now, how do you work? Do you work at reg­u­lar hours?”

    GREENE: “I used to; now I set my­self a num­ber of words.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How many?”

    GREENE: “500, stepped up to 750 as the book gets on. I re-read the same day, again the next morn­ing and again and again un­til the pas­sage has got too far be­hind to mat­ter to the bit that I am writ­ing. Cor­rect in type, fi­nal cor­rec­tion in proof.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 124, 1991)

    INTERVIEWER: “What is your daily sched­ule when you work?”

    GRASS: “When I’m work­ing on the first ver­sion, I write be­tween five and seven pages a day. For the third ver­sion, three pages a day. It’s very slow.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You do this in the morn­ing or in the after­noon or at night?”

    GRASS: “Nev­er, never at night. I don’t be­lieve in writ­ing at night be­cause it comes too eas­i­ly. When I read it in the morn­ing it’s not good. I need day­light to be­gin. Be­tween nine and ten o’­clock I have a long break­fast with read­ing and mu­sic. After break­fast I work, and then take a break for coffee in the after­noon. I start again and fin­ish at seven o’­clock in the evening.”

  • , (The Art of Fic­tion No. 174, 2002)

    INTERVIEWER: “Let’s be­gin with a homely ques­tion: How do you spend your days?”

    GUY DAVENPORT: “Down­stairs, writ­ing and draw­ing; up­stairs, paint­ing, or read­ing Rex Stout, P.G. Wode­house, and Georges Simenon. Talk­ing with vis­i­tors and friends. In the back­yard there’s a stu­dio, de­signed and built by Keith Ply­male for an ar­chi­tec­ture sem­i­nar. Ce­ment floor, tin roof, nine win­dows, one at floor level for ob­serv­ing”sun­light on a wall" (a phrase from Tatlin! that Keith wanted to build into the struc­ture), a small square win­dow at the back, with a paint­ed-wood still life in it (jug and ap­ple), and a slen­der win­dow in front, with a shelf out­side, for cats to sit on (though no cat has). The neigh­bors call it my play­house."

    INTERVIEWER: “What habits do you have as a writer? Do you keep to a sched­ule?”

    DAVENPORT: “I like to be­lieve that I don’t think of my­self as a writer. I am an am­a­teur. Back when I was teach­ing I wrote when I could. Week­ends were good type­writer time. Now, it’s when­ever I feel there’s some­thing to be put on pa­per. I don’t care what time it is, though I al­ways write in the note­books at night.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Are the note­books cen­tral to your method?”

    DAVENPORT: “Yes, there is a kind of ges­ta­tion pe­ri­od, which I sup­pose is com­mon to all writ­ers. The thing is to get a . . . well, I was about to say”plot," but a lot of my sto­ries use the old Joycean epiphany."

    INTERVIEWER: “What’s the typ­i­cal progress of an idea, then, from be­ing some­thing you’ve jot­ted down in the note­book to find­ing a place in one of your sto­ries or es­says?”

    DAVENPORT: “Well, who knows? I sup­pose you wait un­til it’s ir­re­sistible, then start work­ing on it one way or an­oth­er. When that time comes, I move from long­hand to the type­writer.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you flip through the note­books to get sparks?”

    DAVENPORT: “Cer­tain­ly. They’re my work­books. I mine them.”

    INTERVIEWER: “So, they aren’t di­aries at all.”

    DAVENPORT: “No. I keep what I call a log­book, and it’s very use­ful. I log in mail, and this has saved my life many times. I would say I cor­re­spond with be­tween a hun­dred and two hun­dred peo­ple, and I learn an im­mense amount from let­ters. So, I note in­com­ing mail, in­com­ing books, out­go­ing, and very lit­tle else. You could not write my bi­og­ra­phy from it.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Have any of your sto­ries come out of some­thing you read in a let­ter?”

    DAVENPORT: “There are ex­am­ples of this hap­pen­ing.”The Lark" is a friend’s ex­pe­ri­ence of sex­ual awak­en­ing, re­counted in old age in a let­ter."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 162, 2000)

    Most morn­ings for the bet­ter part of the last fifty years, un­til his death in July at the age of eighty-one, Gustaw Her­ling rose in the shadow of Vesu­vius and went to his desk to con­tinue what had long since be­come one of the great on­go­ing jour­neys in con­tem­po­rary lit­er­a­ture. A hero in his na­tive Poland and a well-known if oc­ca­sion­ally con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure in his adop­tive Italy, Her­ling was for decades the ob­ject of quiet but in­tense ad­mi­ra­tion among read­ers and writ­ers through­out Eu­rope. Al­though a peren­nial can­di­date for the No­bel Prize, it was­n’t un­til the re­cent and widely ac­claimed re­pub­li­ca­tion of sev­eral of his books in the U.S. that he was brought to the at­ten­tion of a broader Amer­i­can read­er­ship.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 202, 2009):

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you wake up early to write?”

    JIN: “I get up at seven and work for an hour or two. My wife cooks break­fast, and I al­ways eat it and then go back to work. Usu­ally by late after­noon I will say I’ve done enough writ­ing. At night, I read and an­swer e-mails. I go to bed late at night—usu­ally at one or two, some­times three.”

    INTERVIEWER: “That’s not very much sleep.”

    JIN: “If I’m tired, I take a nap.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 191, 2007):

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your own writ­ing habits?”

    MATHEWS: “I used to get up and be at my desk at nine in the morn­ing. Now I’m lucky if I start at eleven. What with e-mail and the In­ter­net, I do most of my work in the after­noon. I write first in long­hand. I copy the work on my com­put­er, print it out, cor­rect it in long­hand, and so forth.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 182, 2004):

    INTERVIEWER: “How is your typ­i­cal work­day struc­tured?”

    MURAKAMI: “When I’m in writ­ing mode for a nov­el, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the after­noon, I run for ten kilo­me­ters or swim for fifteen hun­dred me­ters (or do both), then I read a bit and lis­ten to some mu­sic. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this rou­tine every day with­out vari­a­tion. The rep­e­ti­tion it­self be­comes the im­por­tant thing; it’s a form of mes­merism. I mes­mer­ize my­self to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such rep­e­ti­tion for so long—six months to a year—re­quires a good amount of men­tal and phys­i­cal strength. In that sense, writ­ing a long novel is like sur­vival train­ing. Phys­i­cal strength is as nec­es­sary as artis­tic sen­si­tiv­i­ty.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Is there also a sense of not want­ing to ex­plain your books, in the way a dream loses its power when it comes un­der analy­sis?”

    MURAKAMI: “The good thing about writ­ing books is that you can dream while you are awake. If it’s a real dream, you can­not con­trol it. When writ­ing the book, you are awake; you can choose the time, the length, every­thing. I write for four or five hours in the morn­ing and when the time comes, I stop. I can con­tinue the next day. If it’s a real dream, you can’t do that.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 74, 1983)

    INTERVIEWER: “Can you de­scribe your usual work­day?”

    BÖLL: “Mine? That’s been diffi­cult in the last few years be­cause I was ill for a long time and ac­tu­ally still am. Nor­mally I work morn­ings, from after break­fast un­til about half-past twelve, and then again in the after­noon, and in the evening as well, if I re­ally get go­ing. There are, un­for­tu­nate­ly, quite a few in­ter­rup­tion­s—not unim­por­tant ones, cor­re­spon­dence and the like—that make steady work diffi­cult.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 22, 1958):

    Mr. Green writes at night and in many long­hand drafts. In his mem­oir, Pack My Bag, he has de­scribed prose in this way:

    “Prose is not to be read aloud but to one­self alone at night, and it is not quick as po­etry but rather a gath­er­ing web of in­sin­u­a­tions which go fur­ther than names how­ever shared can ever go. Prose should be a long in­ti­macy be­tween strangers with no di­rect ap­peal to what both may have known. It should slowly ap­peal to feel­ings un­ex­pressed, it should in the end draw tears out of the stone …”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 28, 1962; see also his com­mand­ments):

    INTERVIEWER: “First of all, would you ex­plain how you go about the ac­tual busi­ness of writ­ing? Do you sharpen pen­cils like Hem­ing­way, or any­thing like that to get the mo­tor start­ed?”

    MILLER: “No, not gen­er­al­ly, no, noth­ing of that sort. I gen­er­ally go to work right after break­fast. I sit right down to the ma­chine. If I find I’m not able to write, I quit. But no, there are no prepara­tory stages as a rule.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Are there cer­tain times of day, cer­tain days when you work bet­ter than oth­ers?”

    MILLER: “I pre­fer the morn­ing now, and just for two or three hours. In the be­gin­ning I used to work after mid­night un­til dawn, but that was in the very be­gin­ning. Even after I got to Paris I found it was much bet­ter work­ing in the morn­ing. But then I used to work long hours. I’d work in the morn­ing, take a nap after lunch, get up and write again, some­times write un­til mid­night. In the last ten or fifteen years, I’ve found that it is­n’t nec­es­sary to work that much. It’s bad, in fact. You drain the reser­voir.”

  • Hi­lary Man­tel (Art of Fic­tion No. 226, 2015):

    …So I formed a cun­ning plan. I thought, I’ll write an­other nov­el. I’ll write a con­tem­po­rary nov­el. That was Every Day Is Moth­er’s Day. I started it in Africa. I fin­ished it in Saudi Ara­bia. At times I had very lit­tle sense of where I was go­ing with it or whether there would be any profit or suc­cess at the end of it. It was writ­ten in the teeth of every­thing. It was an act of de­fi­ance—I thought, I’m not go­ing to be beat­en. I got an agent, I got a pub­lish­er, then I wrote the se­quel. It was­n’t planned as two books. It was, for me, a way of get­ting a foot in the door. But once I had se­cured a con­tract, I just rolled up my sleeves and I set about Va­cant Pos­ses­sion in a way that I’ve never worked be­fore. I would write through the morn­ing, Ger­ald would come home midafter­noon, would have his sies­ta, and when he woke up, I would read him what I had writ­ten in the morn­ing. I’ve never writ­ten like that since.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 173, 2002):

    INTERVIEWER: “By that time you had de­vel­oped reg­u­lar writ­ing habits?”

    McEWAN: “I’d be at work by nine-thirty every morn­ing. I in­her­ited my fa­ther’s work ethic—no mat­ter what he’d been up to the night be­fore, he was al­ways out of bed by seven a.m. He never missed a day’s work in forty-eight years in the army. In the sev­en­ties I used to work in the bed­room of my flat at a lit­tle table. I worked in long­hand with a foun­tain pen. I’d type out a draft, mark up the type­script, type it out again. Once I paid a pro­fes­sional to type a fi­nal draft, but I felt I was miss­ing things I would have changed if I had done it my­self. In the mid-eight­ies I was a grate­ful con­vert to com­put­ers. Word pro­cess­ing is more in­ti­mate, more like think­ing it­self. In ret­ro­spect, the type­writer seems a gross me­chan­i­cal ob­struc­tion. I like the pro­vi­sional na­ture of un­printed ma­te­r­ial held in the com­put­er’s mem­o­ry—­like an un­spo­ken thought. I like the way sen­tences or pas­sages can be end­lessly re­worked, and the way this faith­ful ma­chine re­mem­bers all your lit­tle jot­tings and mes­sages to your­self. Un­til, of course, it sulks and crash­es.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What’s a good day’s out­put for you?”

    McEWAN: “I aim for about six hun­dred words a day and hope for at least a thou­sand when I’m on a rol­l…A writer whose morn­ing is go­ing well, whose sen­tences are form­ing well, is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a calm and pri­vate joy. This joy it­self then lib­er­ates a rich­ness of thought that can prompt new sur­pris­es. Writ­ers crave these mo­ments, these ses­sions. If I may quote the sec­ond page of Atone­ment, this is the pro­jec­t’s high­est point of ful­fill­ment. Noth­ing else—cheer­ful launch par­ty, packed read­ings, pos­i­tive re­views—will come near it for sat­is­fac­tion…­Like En­dur­ing Love, this was a novel that grew out of many months of sketches and doo­dling. One morn­ing I wrote six hun­dred words or so de­scrib­ing a young woman en­ter­ing a draw­ing room with some wild flow­ers in her hand, search­ing for a vase. She’s aware of a young man out­side gar­den­ing whom she wishes both to see and avoid. For rea­sons that I could­n’t ex­plain to my­self, I knew that I had at last started a nov­el.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 4, 1953/The Art of Fic­tion No. 4 (Con­tin­ued), 1979):

    He re­fuses to dis­cuss work in which he is cur­rently en­gaged. In the morn­ings he won’t be dis­turbed; his wife an­swers the phone for him. In the after­noons he aban­dons his type­writer for other ac­tiv­i­ties, all per­formed with enor­mous vig­or.

    INTERVIEWER: “…You wrote”The Girls in Their Sum­mer Dress­es" in one after­noon, I think you told me."

    SHAW: “Morn­ing.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Morn­ing. You left it on the kitchen table, and your wife, Mar­i­an, tossed it out the win­dow.”

    SHAW: “Well, that’s not quite how it hap­pened. We had one room up on the twen­ty-eighth floor of this ho­tel on Eighth Av­enue. We were wait­ing for the re­hearsals of The Gen­tle Peo­ple to start. I wrote”The Girls in Their Sum­mer Dress­es" one morn­ing while Mar­ian was ly­ing in bed and read­ing. And I knew I had some­thing good there, but I did­n’t want her to read it, know­ing that the re­ac­tion would be vi­o­lent, to say the least, be­cause it’s about a man who tells his wife that he’s go­ing to be un­faith­ful to her. So I turned it face­down, and I said, “Don’t read this yet. It’s not ready.” It was the only copy I had. Then I went out and took a walk, had a drink, and came back. She was rag­ing around the room. She said, “It’s a lucky thing you came back just now, be­cause I was go­ing to open the win­dow and throw it out.” Since then she’s be­come rec­on­ciled to it, and I think she reads it with plea­sure, too."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 42, 1968):

    Singer works at a small, clut­tered desk in the liv­ing room. He writes every day, but with­out spe­cial hours—in be­tween in­ter­views, vis­its, and phone calls. His name is still listed in the Man­hat­tan tele­phone di­rec­to­ry, and hardly a day goes by with­out his re­ceiv­ing sev­eral calls from strangers who have read some­thing he has writ­ten and want to talk to him about it. Un­til re­cent­ly, he would in­vite any­one who called for lunch, or at least coffee.

    INTERVIEWER: “Could you tell me some­thing about the way you work? Do you work every day, seven days a week?”

    SINGER: “Well, when I get up in the morn­ing, I al­ways have the de­sire to sit down to write. And most of the days I do write some­thing. But then I get tele­phone calls, and some­times I have to write an ar­ti­cle for the For­ward. And once in a while I have to write a re­view, and I am in­ter­viewed, and I am all the time in­ter­rupt­ed. Some­how I man­age to keep on writ­ing. I don’t have to run away. Some writ­ers say that they can only write if they go to a far is­land. They would go to the moon to write not to be dis­turbed. I think that be­ing dis­turbed is a part of hu­man life and some­times it’s use­ful to be dis­turbed be­cause you in­ter­rupt your writ­ing and while you rest, while you are busy with some­thing else, your per­spec­tive changes or the hori­zon widens. All I can say about my­self is that I have never re­ally writ­ten in peace, as some writ­ers say that they have. But what­ever I had to say I kept on say­ing no mat­ter what the dis­tur­bances were.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 130, 1992):

    Thoughts Be­fore an In­ter­view: Every morn­ing I tell my­self, To­day has to be pro­duc­tive—and then some­thing hap­pens that pre­vents me from writ­ing. To­day . . . what is there that I have to do to­day? Oh yes, they are sup­posed to come in­ter­view me. I am afraid my novel will not move one sin­gle step for­ward. Some­thing al­ways hap­pens. Each morn­ing I al­ready know I will be able to waste the whole day. There is al­ways some­thing to do: go to the bank, the post office, pay some bills . . . al­ways some bu­reau­cratic tan­gle I have to deal with. While I am out I also do er­rands such as the daily shop­ping: buy­ing bread, meat, or fruit. First thing, I buy news­pa­pers. Once one has bought them, one starts read­ing as soon as one is back home­—or at least look­ing at the head­lines to per­suade one­self that there is noth­ing worth read­ing. Every day I tell my­self that read­ing news­pa­pers is a waste of time, but then . . . I can­not do with­out them. They are like a drug. In short, only in the after­noon do I sit at my desk, which is al­ways sub­merged in let­ters that have been await­ing an­swers for I do not even know how long, and that is an­other ob­sta­cle to be over­come. Even­tu­ally I get down to writ­ing and then the real prob­lems be­gin. If I start some­thing from scratch, that is the most diffi­cult mo­ment, but even if it is some­thing I started the day be­fore, I al­ways reach an im­passe where a new ob­sta­cle needs to be over­come. And it is only in the late after­noon that I fi­nally be­gin to write sen­tences, cor­rect them, cover them with era­sures, fill them with in­ci­den­tal claus­es, and rewrite. At that very mo­ment the tele­phone or door­bell usu­ally rings and a friend, trans­la­tor, or in­ter­viewer ar­rives.

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you work every day or only on cer­tain days and at cer­tain hours?”

    CALVINO: “In the­ory I would like to work every day. But in the morn­ing I in­vent every pos­si­ble ex­cuse not to work: I have to go out, make some pur­chas­es, buy the news­pa­per. As a rule, I man­age to waste the morn­ing, so I end up sit­ting down to write in the after­noon. I’m a day­time writer, but since I waste the morn­ing I’ve be­come an after­noon writer. I could write at night, but when I do, I don’t sleep. So I try to avoid that.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 153, 1998):

    INTERVIEWER: “To come back to the pro­fes­sional side of things, how do you di­vide your time be­tween Tiranë and Paris? And your day, wher­ever you are?”

    KADARE: “I am more in Paris than in Tiranë be­cause I can work bet­ter here. There is too much pol­i­tics in Tiranë, and too many de­mands. I am asked to write a pref­ace here, an ar­ti­cle there . . . I don’t have an an­swer to every­thing. As for my day: I write two hours in the morn­ing, and I stop. I can never write more—my brain gets tired. I write in a café around the cor­ner, away from dis­trac­tions. The rest of my time is spent read­ing, see­ing friends, all the rest of my life.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What are the things that pre­vent you from work­ing? Hem­ing­way said the tele­phone was the big work-killer.”

    KADARE: “In Tiranë no one dared use the tele­phone ex­cept for the most an­o­dyne pur­poses be­cause the phones were tapped. But as I said, I only write two hours a day, and it is not diffi­cult to be iso­lated for that length of time.”

  • William Sty­ron, (The Art of Fic­tion No. 78, 1984)

    INTERVIEWER: “How many pages do you write in a day?”

    BALDWIN: “I write at night. After the day is over, and sup­per is over, I be­gin, and work un­til about three or four a.m.”

    INTERVIEWER: “That’s quite rare, is­n’t it, be­cause most peo­ple write when they’re fresh, in the morn­ing.”

    BALDWIN: “I start work­ing when every­one has gone to bed. I’ve had to do that ever since I was young—I had to wait un­til the kids were asleep. And then I was work­ing at var­i­ous jobs dur­ing the day. I’ve al­ways had to write at night. But now that I’m es­tab­lished I do it be­cause I’m alone at night.”

    INTERVIEWER: “But weren’t William Sty­ron and Richard Wright, say, im­por­tant to you in for­mu­lat­ing your view­points?…­Did you take a po­si­tion on his book about Nat Turn­er?”

    BALDWIN: “I did. My po­si­tion, though, is that I will not tell an­other writer what to write. If you don’t like their al­ter­na­tive, write yours. I ad­mired him for con­fronting it, and the re­sult. It brought in the whole enor­mity of the is­sue of his­tory ver­sus fic­tion, fic­tion ver­sus his­to­ry, and which is which . . . He writes out of rea­sons sim­i­lar to mine: about some­thing which hurt him and fright­ened him. When I was work­ing on An­other Coun­try and Bill was work­ing on Nat Turner, I stayed in his guest house for five months. His hours and mine are very differ­ent. I was go­ing to bed at dawn, Bill was just com­ing up to his study to go to work; his hours go­ing on as mine went off. We saw each other at sup­per­time.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 41, 1968)

    INTERVIEWER: “You typed out On the Road in three weeks, The Sub­ter­raneans in three days and nights. Do you still pro­duce at this fan­tas­tic rate? Can you say some­thing of the gen­e­sis of a work be­fore you sit down and be­gin that ter­rific typ­ing—how much of it is set in your mind, for ex­am­ple?”

    KEROUAC: “You think out what ac­tu­ally hap­pened, you tell friends long sto­ries about it, you mull it over in your mind, you con­nect it to­gether at leisure, then when the time comes to pay the rent again you force your­self to sit at the type­writer, or at the writ­ing note­book, and get it over with as fast as you can … and there’s no harm in that be­cause you’ve got the whole story lined up. Now how that’s done de­pends on what kind of steel trap you’ve got up in that lit­tle old head. This sounds boast­ful but a girl once told me I had a steel-trap brain, mean­ing I’d catch her with a state­ment she’d made an hour ago even though our talk had ram­bled a mil­lion light-years away from that point … you know what I mean, like a lawyer’s mind, say. All of it is in my mind, nat­u­ral­ly, ex­cept that lan­guage that is used at the time that it is used … And as for On the Road and The Sub­ter­raneans, no I can’t write that fast any­more … Writ­ing The Subs in three nights was re­ally a fan­tas­tic ath­letic feat as well as men­tal, you shoulda seen me after I was done …. I was pale as a sheet and had lost fifteen pounds and looked strange in the mir­ror. What I do now is write some­thing like an av­er­age of eight thou­sand words a sit­ting, in the mid­dle of the night, and an­other about a week lat­er, rest­ing and sigh­ing in be­tween. I re­ally hate to write. I get no fun out of it be­cause I can’t get up and say I’m work­ing, close my door, have coffee brought to me, and sit there camp­ing like a”man of let­ters" “do­ing his eight hour day of work” and thereby in­ci­den­tally fill­ing the print­ing world with a lot of dreary self­-im­posed cant and bom­bast, bom­bast be­ing Scot­tish for pil­low stuffing. Haven’t you heard a politi­cian use fifteen hun­dred words to say some­thing he could have said in ex­actly three words? So I get it out of the way so as not to bore my­self ei­ther….The work-p­re­servers are the soli­tudes of night, “when the whole wide world is fast asleep.”"

    INTERVIEWER: “What do you find the best time and place for writ­ing?”

    KEROUAC: “The desk in the room, near the bed, with a good light, mid­night till dawn, a drink when you get tired, prefer­ably at home, but if you have no home, make a home out of your ho­tel room or mo­tel room or pad: peace. [Picks up har­mon­ica and plays.] Boy, can I play!”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 22, 1958)

    INTERVIEWER: “Could you tell me some­thing about your own work habits?”

    JONES: “They’re pretty nor­mal, I guess. I get up ear­lier than most guys—­be­tween seven and eight—but only be­cause I like to go out in the after­noons while there’s still sun. After I get up it takes me an hour and a half of fid­dling around be­fore I can get up the courage and nerve to go to work. I smoke half a pack of cig­a­rettes, drink six or seven cups of coffee, read over what I wrote the day be­fore. Fi­nally there’s no fur­ther ex­cuse. I go to the type­writer. Four to six hours of it. Then I quit and we go out. Or stay home and read.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How much do you get done in a day?”

    JONES: “It all de­pends. It might be two type­script pages, or it might be even less. Or, if it’s a di­a­logue or a scene I had well fixed in my mind, I might get as much as ten or twelve. Usu­al­ly, though, it’s a lot less. Three pages maybe. And then I often have to go back over it all the next day be­cause I’m still dis­sat­is­fied. I guess I’ve got some neu­rotic com­pul­sion to make every­thing as per­fect as I can be­fore I go on.”

  • Fred­er­ick Sei­del (The Art of Po­etry No. 95, 2009)

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your work­ing hours now?”

    SEIDEL: “I start quite early in the morn­ing and work through­out the day with oc­ca­sional in­ter­rup­tions. And again at night, when I come back from wher­ever I’ve gone out to, I work. I walk around the city with the poem I’m work­ing on folded up in my pock­et. It’s a rab­bit’s foot. The po­em’s in my head. I don’t need the piece of pa­per.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 190, 2006):

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you keep reg­u­lar writ­ing hours?”

    MARÍAS: “No, I can’t.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How many hours a day do you write?”

    MARÍAS: “Not many—three, four.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Every day?”

    MARÍAS: :“When I can. I usu­ally write down in my date book when I be­gin a book, when I in­ter­rupt it, and when I re­sume. Every fifty pages I see how many days I worked and how many days elapsed. Some­times the work­ing days are steady—I write fifty pages in about thir­ty-five or forty-five days—but some­times one hun­dred and twenty days elapse be­fore I com­plete my fifty pages, which means I have only been able to sit down and re­ally work thir­ty-five days out of one hun­dred and twen­ty.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 80, 2000):

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have a writ­ing rou­tine? A par­tic­u­lar place it must be done? Do you only write in the sum­mer, or every day?”

    HILL: “Again, there’s been a rad­i­cal change. I’m writ­ing so much now that yes, I sup­pose I do write every day. I just have to to keep up with my­self. This is­n’t quite the same thing as hav­ing a rou­tine. I work at it as I must.”

    INTERVIEWER:“So the rou­tine an­nounces it­self, more or less?”

    HILL: “Yes. In my early days, I would often go for weeks, and some­times months, with­out be­ing able to set pen­cil to pa­per. And in the very early days, I fin­ished things in my head be­fore I set them down. I could do that be­cause my short­-term mem­ory was much bet­ter than it is now. And be­cause I was writ­ing so sparse­ly, so in­fre­quent­ly, one poem was­n’t crowd­ing out an­oth­er, I had time to con­cen­trate on the things that came. So very few drafts have sur­vived of early stuff. Now it’s all im­me­di­ate, scrib­bling phrases down, cross­ing them out, chang­ing them. They go straight down onto pa­per.”

  • (The Art of The­ater No. 12, 1997)

    INTERVIEWER: “What is your sched­ule like?”

    SHEPARD: “I have to be­gin early be­cause I take the kids to school, so usu­ally I’m awake by six. I come back to the house after­wards and work till lunch.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have any rit­u­als or de­vices to help you get start­ed?”

    SHEPARD: “No, not re­al­ly. I mean there’s the coffee and that bull­shit, but as for rit­u­als, no.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you write every day?”

    SHEPARD: “When some­thing kicks in, I de­vote every­thing to it and write con­stantly un­til it’s fin­ished. But to sit down every day and say, I’m go­ing to write, come hell or high wa­ter—no, I could never do that.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 215, 2011)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you keep to a strict writ­ing sched­ule?”

    EUGENIDES: “I do. I try to write every day. I start around ten in the morn­ing and write un­til din­ner­time, most days. Some­times it’s not pro­duc­tive, and there’s a lot of down­time. Some­times I fall asleep in my chair, but I feel that if I’m in the room all day, some­thing’s go­ing to get done. I treat it like a desk job. With The Mar­riage Plot, the last year or so, I started do­ing dou­ble ses­sions where I would work all day, have din­ner, and then go back and work at night. I did­n’t want to put my­self through that, but I had so much to do and a lot of things were com­ing to­geth­er, so I had to work long hours. I’d go to bed at mid­night and wake up at seven or eight and start again.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 46, 1972):

    INTERVIEWER: “What about your work­ing habits? Are you Protes­tant and dis­ci­plined, or Eu­ro­pean and dis­solute?”

    KOSINSKI: “I guess both. I still wake up around 8 A.M. ready for the day, and sleep again for four hours in the after­noon, which al­lows me to re­main men­tally and phys­i­cally ac­tive un­til the early dawn, when again I go to sleep. Be­ing part of the Protes­tant ethos for less than one-third of my life, I ac­quired only some Protes­tant habits, while main­tain­ing some of my for­mer ones. Among the ones I ac­quired is the be­lief that I ought to an­swer my mail—a be­lief not shared by many happy in­tel­lec­tu­als in Rome. In terms of my ac­tual writ­ing habits, I am an old mem­ber of the Russ­ian and Pol­ish in­tel­li­gentsi­a—nei­ther a pro­fes­sional in­tel­lec­tual nor a café-so­ci­ety he­do­nist. I love writ­ing more than any­thing else. Like the heart­beat, each novel I write is in­sep­a­ra­ble from my life. I write when I feel like it and wher­ever I feel like it, and I feel like it most of the time: day, night, and dur­ing twi­light. I write in a restau­rant, on a plane, be­tween ski­ing and horse­back rid­ing, when I take my night walks in Man­hat­tan, Paris, or in any other town. I wake up in the mid­dle of the night or the after­noon to make notes and never know when I’ll sit down at the type­writer.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 85, 1984)

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your daily work­ing habits like?”

    BALLARD: “Every day, five days a week. Long­hand now, it’s less tir­ing than a type­writer. When I’m writ­ing a novel or story I set my­self a tar­get of about seven hun­dred words a day, some­times a lit­tle more. I do a first draft in long­hand, then do a very care­ful long­hand re­vi­sion of the text, then type out the fi­nal man­u­script. I used to type first and re­vise in long­hand, but I find that mod­ern fiber-tip pens are less effort than a type­writer. Per­haps I ought to try a sev­en­teen­th-cen­tury quill. I rewrite a great deal, so the word proces­sor sounds like my dream. My neigh­bor is a BBC video­tape ed­i­tor and he offered to lend me his, but apart from the eye­-ach­ing glim­mer, I found that the edit­ing func­tions are ter­ri­bly la­bo­ri­ous. I’m told that al­ready one can see the differ­ence be­tween fic­tion com­posed on the word proces­sor and that on the type­writer. The word proces­sor lends it­self to a text that has great pol­ish and clar­ity on a sen­tence-by-sen­tence and para­graph lev­el, but has hay­wire over­all chap­ter-by-chap­ter con­struc­tion, be­cause it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to ri­fle through and do a quick scan of, say, twenty pages. Or so they say.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How many hours a day do you put in at the desk?”

    BALLARD: “Two hours in the late morn­ing, two in the early after­noon, fol­lowed by a walk along the river to think over the next day. Then at six, Scotch and so­da, and obliv­ion.”

    INTERVIEWER: “That sounds like the sched­ule of an effi­cient work­er.”

    BALLARD: “Well, con­cen­tra­tion has never been a prob­lem, and now there are few dis­trac­tions. I as­sume that it is not en­tirely co­in­ci­den­tal that, to the de­spair of my friends, I live in this re­mote back­wa­ter sev­en­teen miles from Lon­don, in a small town where I know al­most no one. How­ev­er, un­til five years ago I had three ado­les­cent chil­dren here, and not much more than ten years ago, at the time I was writ­ing Crash, I was still dri­ving them to school, col­lect­ing them, and get­ting to­tally in­volved in the hurly-burly of fam­ily life as a sin­gle par­ent. My wife died from gal­lop­ing pneu­mo­nia while we were in Spain. But even in those days I kept the same hours, though then I stopped drink­ing at about the time I now start. At the time I wrote Crys­tal World, and through the five years of Atroc­ity Ex­hi­bi­tion, I used to start the work­ing day once I re­turned from de­liv­er­ing the chil­dren to school, at 9:30 in the morn­ing, with a large Scotch. It sep­a­rated me from the do­mes­tic world, like a huge dose of Novo­caine in­jected into re­al­ity in the same way that a den­tist calms a frac­tious pa­tient so that he can get on with some fancy bridge­work.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 100, 2016):

    INTERVIEWER: “You have such a re­lent­less imag­i­na­tion, even after writ­ing so much, in so many forms, over the decades. What is your work rou­tine?”

    REED: “I get up early in the morn­ing. And I take a lot of notes. I get a lot of ideas when I’m swim­ming. I swim three times a week. Some psy­chics ask, Where do you talk to God? For me, the ideas come when I’m in the bath­tub or when I’m swim­ming. Wa­ter, it does some­thing. And I move through -d­iffer­ent gen­res—that’s how I avoid writer’s block. So I’ll write a poem or draw a car­toon or work on a nov­el. Or I’ll write an es­say. I get to reach a lot of peo­ple on Face­book.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 71, 1978):

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have any writ­ing rit­u­als?”

    DIDION: “The most im­por­tant is that I need an hour alone be­fore din­ner, with a drink, to go over what I’ve done that day. I can’t do it late in the after­noon be­cause I’m too close to it. Al­so, the drink helps. It re­moves me from the pages. So I spend this hour tak­ing things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by re­do­ing all of what I did the day be­fore, fol­low­ing these evening notes. When I’m re­ally work­ing I don’t like to go out or have any­body to din­ner, be­cause then I lose the hour. If I don’t have the hour, and start the next day with just some bad pages and nowhere to go, I’m in low spir­its. An­other thing I need to do, when I’m near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That’s one rea­son I go home to Sacra­mento to fin­ish things. Some­how the book does­n’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it. In Sacra­mento no­body cares if I ap­pear or not. I can just get up and start typ­ing.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 104, 1988):

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you keep to a spe­cific sched­ule when you’re work­ing?”

    HARRISON: “With this wom­an, I’ve had good luck start­ing very early in the morn­ing, which I’ve never been able to do be­fore. My op­ti­mum hours are be­tween two and four in the after­noon. I don’t know why and it ag­gra­vates me. It’s a cir­ca­dian rhythm I can’t avoid. And then be­tween eleven and one at night. I al­ways work a split shift.”

  • (The Art of The­ater No. 5, 1981):

    It was Williams’s sev­en­ti­eth birth­day, and he fol­lowed the rou­tine he has ad­hered to most of his adult life. He got up at dawn and went to his type­writer and worked. Then he swam in the hotel’s pool. He re­turned to his suite and glanced through a pile of mail, mostly birth­day greet­ings from friends. He opened sev­eral presents and a box con­tain­ing a lit­er­ary prize just pre­sented to him by Italy for The Ro­man Spring of Mrs. Stone. He found this some­what puz­zling be­cause, he ex­plained, when the novel and movie first ap­peared the Ital­ians were an­gered by his story of a Ro­man gigolo ro­manc­ing an older woman.

    WILLIAMS: …“Be­fore the suc­cess of Menagerie I’d reached the very, very bot­tom. I would have died with­out the mon­ey. I could­n’t have gone on any fur­ther, baby, with­out mon­ey, when sud­den­ly, prov­i­den­tially, The Glass Menagerie made it when I was thir­ty-four. I could­n’t have gone on with these hand-to-mouth jobs, these jobs for which I had no ap­ti­tude, like wait­ing on ta­bles, run­ning el­e­va­tors, and even be­ing a tele­type op­er­a­tor. None of this stuff was any­thing I could have held for long. I started writ­ing at twelve, as I said. By the time I was in my late teens I was writ­ing every day, I guess, even after I was in the shoe busi­ness for three years. I wrecked my health, what there was of it. I drank black coffee so much, so I could stay up nearly all night and write, that it ex­hausted me phys­i­cally and ner­vous­ly. So if I sud­denly had­n’t had this dis­pen­sa­tion from Prov­i­dence with Menagerie, I could­n’t have made it for an­other year, I don’t think.”


    “In Key West I get up just be­fore day­break, as a rule. I like be­ing com­pletely alone in the house in the kitchen when I have my coffee and ru­mi­nate on what I’m go­ing to work on. I usu­ally have two or three pieces of work go­ing at the same time, and then I de­cide which to work on that day.”

    “I go to my stu­dio. I usu­ally have some wine there. And then I care­fully go over what I wrote the day be­fore. You see, baby, after a glass or two of wine I’m in­clined to ex­trav­a­gance. I’m in­clined to ex­cesses be­cause I drink while I’m writ­ing, so I’ll blue pen­cil a lot the next day. Then I sit down, and I be­gin to write…I’ve heard that Nor­man Mailer has said that a play­wright only writes in short bursts of in­spi­ra­tion while a nov­el­ist has to write six or seven hours a day. Bull! Now Mr. Mailer is more in­volved in the novel form, and I’m more in­volved in the play form. In the play form I work steadily and hard. If a play grips me I’ll con­tinue to work on it un­til I reach a point where I can no longer de­cide what to do with it. Then I’ll dis­con­tinue work on it.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 86, 1985):

    Of his work­ing habits Barth has said that he rises at six in the morn­ing and puts an elec­tric per­co­la­tor in the kitchen so that dur­ing the course of sit­ting for six hours at his desk he has an ex­cuse for the ex­er­cise of walk­ing back and forth from his study to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. He speaks of mea­sur­ing his work not by the day (as Hem­ing­way did) but by the month and the year. “That way you don’t feel so ter­ri­ble if you put in three days straight with­out turn­ing up much of any­thing. You don’t feel blocked.”

    BARTH: …“Look­ing back, I don’t think I would have learned much more, and I don’t think I would have had the nerve to tackle some of the things I tack­led as a young writer if I had been to uni­ver­si­ty—I would have been beaten into 
­sub­mis­sion by my lec­tur­ers. But I think I would have been a lit­tle more re­laxed. After high school, in­stead of at­tend­ing uni­ver­sity I took a job as a clerk at Aer Lin­gus, the Irish air­line. I wanted to be free, and work­ing for an air­line al­lowed me to trav­el. I did­n’t so­cial­ize with lit­er­ary peo­ple. In­stead I would work every day and I would write every night. I’ve been do­ing that ever since. I’ve only very re­cently be­come what’s known as a ful­l-time writer. I was a work­ing jour­nal­ist for thir­ty-five years, as a copy ed­i­tor on the news­pa­pers and then as books ed­i­tor at The Irish Times. I can’t com­plain about that, be­cause a day job gives you free­dom.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 44, 1969)

    DOS PASSOS: “The the­ater did­n’t suit me re­al­ly. I can’t sit up all night. Every­thing in the the­ater is done after mid­night. I lived in Brook­lyn at the time, and we al­ways fin­ished so late that I had to walk back home across the Brook­lyn Bridge. I never got home be­fore three a.m. and be­ing some­one who’s never been able to sleep later than seven in the morn­ing, I just could­n’t keep up the sched­ule.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What is your ideal set of work­ing con­di­tions?”

    DOS PASSOS: “All you need is a room with­out any par­tic­u­lar in­ter­rup­tions. Some things I’ve done en­tirely in long­hand, but now I tend to start chap­ters in long­hand and then fin­ish them on the type­writer, and that be­comes such a mess that no­body can tran­scribe it ex­cept my wife. I find it eas­ier to get up early in the morn­ing, and I like to get through by one or two o’­clock. I don’t do very much in the after­noon. I like to get out of doors then if I can.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You get all of your work done be­fore you go swim­ming?”

    DOS PASSOS: “Yes. Down here that’s my reg­u­lar rou­tine.”

  • (The Art of The­ater No. 2, Part 2, 1999):

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have a rou­tine for writ­ing?”

    MILLER: “I wish I had a rou­tine for writ­ing. I get up in the morn­ing and I go out to my stu­dio and I write. And then I tear it up! That’s the rou­tine, re­al­ly. Then, oc­ca­sion­al­ly, some­thing sticks. And then I fol­low that. The only im­age I can think of is a man walk­ing around with an iron rod in his hand dur­ing a light­ning storm.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 91, 2005)

    INTERVIEWER: “Are your writ­ing habits the same to­day as they were when you were young?”

    GILBERT: “I trust the po­ems more.”

    INTERVIEWER: “When do you work best now?”

    GILBERT: “In the morn­ing. But for most of my life I wrote late at night. When you get old your brain does­n’t func­tion as well after noon.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you keep to a work sched­ule?”

    GILBERT: “No, I have an ap­prox­i­mate rhythm, but I don’t like the idea of any­thing cre­ative be­ing me­chan­i­cal. That’ll kill you. On the other hand, if I was not sat­is­fied with how much I’d writ­ten in a year, then I would set out to write a hun­dred po­ems in a hun­dred days. I force my­self to write po­ems even though I don’t ap­prove of it be­cause it does keep some­thing alive. So I guess I have a lit­tle bit of a pat­tern that I live by. For in­stance, the other day I woke up at one in the morn­ing and worked un­til four in the after­noon. I do that a lot. I can do that be­cause I don’t have to ac­com­mo­date any­body but me.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 171, 2002)

    INTERVIEWER: “When you do the writ­ing, what is the process? Do you al­ways start at the same time of day?”

    WIDEMAN: “It’s sea­son­al. In the sum­mer­time I do most of what I call the brute writ­ing, that is, putting words down on the page for the first time. Just try­ing to get down as many as I can. And reread­ing it the next day and go­ing on from there. That hap­pens, say, be­tween the months of June un­til about No­vem­ber. Then I come back and teach and re­vise and re­think and re­work. When I’m do­ing the brute work, I do it early in the morn­ing; that’s the best time for me to get the stuff down on the page. That’s been my rou­tine for years and years. I work on many things at once. I read a lot of books at the same time, I work on differ­ent projects and that changes the sched­ule and style some­what. But the pat­tern per­sists. Up early be­fore every­body else, be­fore I get con­nect­ed, be­fore I get bugged, be­fore I have oblig­a­tions. Get the writ­ing done first, then be the per­son I want to be in other ways after that.”

    INTERVIEWER: “And what of the me­chan­i­cal de­tails of the writ­ing? Do you use a com­put­er, for in­stance?”

    WIDEMAN: “I rewrite over and over again be­cause I don’t use a com­put­er. I use a Bic pen and a pen­cil. I sim­ply write—­fill a page and write be­tween lines and on top of lines, so my man­u­scripts be­come palimpses­ts. They be­come in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to any­body but me. That means I have to rewrite them. It’s very te­dious and slow. There are many, many lay­ers; many, many ed­its. And at times it seems a pain in the ass. But each one of those clar­i­fi­ca­tions that is scrib­bled is an­other ed­it. So in a funny way, it’s like I have de­vel­oped a sys­tem in which there are four or five si­mul­ta­ne­ous drafts avail­able to me, by read­ing be­tween lines and us­ing the ar­rows and the differ­ent print from the ink and the pen­cil. It’s like hav­ing trans­paren­cies. I can al­most model like you model clay, be­cause I have a whole se­ries of words that could be the right word. Is it dry, is it parched, is it sear? Maybe all of those words are there in one form or an­oth­er.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How many hours per day do you spend writ­ing dur­ing the months you’re get­ting down your first draft?”

    WIDEMAN: “My an­swer would be mean­ing­less. I work all the time. I work four or five hours in the morn­ing. When I’m re­ally go­ing, I may do that four or five days a week. It might be one day, two hours, an­other day, eight be­cause I’m go­ing good. But for me, rewrit­ing and differ­ent drafts go on end­less­ly. If I have a two-hun­dred-page book or two hun­dred pages of hand­writ­ten stuff, it might take six months to get it out of the in­com­pre­hen­si­ble stage into some­thing some­body could read.”

  • (The Art of The­ater No. 7, 1988):

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you dis­ap­pear from home to write?”

    STOPPARD: “I dis­ap­pear into my­self. Some­times I go away for a short pe­ri­od, say a week, to think and con­cen­trate, then I come back home to carry on.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Where do you work and when?”

    STOPPARD: “I have a very nice long room, which used to be the sta­ble. It has a desk and lots of pa­per, etc. But most of my plays are writ­ten on the kitchen ta­ble at night, when every­body has gone to bed and I feel com­pletely at peace. Dur­ing the day, some­how I don’t get much done; al­though I have a sec­re­tary who an­swers the phone, I al­ways want to know who it is, and I gen­er­ally get dis­tract­ed.”

  • as re­ported by (The Art of Fic­tion No. 92, 1986):

    INTERVIEWER: “Was he [S­in­clair Lewis] a model for you in any way?”

    HERSEY: He was past his im­por­tant work—this was a cou­ple of years after . But he was won­der­fully im­por­tant to me; I was able to see the life of a man to­tally given over to writ­ing. Even though he was not pro­duc­ing im­por­tant nov­els any­more, he was so gripped by what he was do­ing that it was very im­pres­sive to me. He would get up in the mid­dle of the night, cook up some coffee, and work for two or three hours and then go back to bed. He led an ir­reg­u­lar life, but a life that was pas­sion­ately de­voted to his work. I was ex­posed to some­one who lived for writ­ing, lived in his writ­ing, in a way. That sum­mer he be­came in­ter­ested in the­ater, and was writ­ing what turned out to be a very bad play about a myth­i­cal Balkan king­dom. He wanted to learn every­thing about the the­ater. There was a sum­mer-s­tock com­pany in Stock­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts, where we were, and every night he would have the casts over to his house. He was like a stu­dent try­ing to learn fun­da­men­tals; he would ask them how you get peo­ple on stage and off stage. His ut­ter whole­heart­ed­ness was an im­por­tant ex­am­ple for me.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 106, 1988)

    INTERVIEWER: “And you were head­ing a large fam­i­ly. How did you fit your writ­ing in be­tween work­ing as a bar­ris­ter and lead­ing a busy fam­ily life? When did you find the time to write?”

    MORTIMER: “It was very diffi­cult. I used to get up very early in the morn­ing, and when I be­came Queen’s Coun­sel, a crim­i­nal lawyer, it was much eas­ier be­cause I would do a big case, then have a gap, then do an­other big case. And by the end I was only do­ing about five cases a year.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 149, 1997)

    INTERVIEWER: “Did you find it easy? Did you have great con­fi­dence in your­self as a writer?”

    LE CARRÉ: “I have a great debt of grat­i­tude to the press for this. In those days Eng­lish news­pa­pers were much too big to read on the train, so in­stead of fight­ing with my col­leagues for the Times, I would write in lit­tle note­books. I lived a long way out of Lon­don. The line has since been elec­tri­fied, which is a great loss to lit­er­a­ture. In those days it was an hour and a half each way. To give the best of the day to your work is most im­por­tant. So if I could write for an hour and a half on the train, I was al­ready com­pletely jaded by the time I got to the office to start work. And then there was a resur­gence of tal­ent dur­ing the lunch hour. In the evening some­thing again came back to me. I was al­ways very care­ful to give my coun­try sec­ond-best.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Now that you no longer write on the train to Lon­don, what is your work­ing day like?”

    LE CARRÉ: “Well, I still don’t type. I write by hand, and my wife types every­thing up, end­less­ly, re­peat­ed­ly. I cor­rect by hand too. I am an ab­solute monk about my work. It’s like be­ing an ath­lete: you have to find out which are the best hours of the day. I’m a morn­ing per­son. I like to drink in the evening, go to sleep on a good idea and wake up with the idea solved or ad­vanced. I be­lieve in sleep. And I go straight to work, often very ear­ly. If a book’s get­ting to the end of its run, I’ll start at four-thirty or five o’­clock in the morn­ing and go through to lunchtime. In the after­noon I’ll take a walk, and then, over a scotch, take a look at what Jane’s typed out, and fid­dle with it a bit more. But I al­ways try to go to sleep be­fore I fin­ish work­ing, just a lit­tle bit be­fore. Then I know where I’ll go the next morn­ing, but I won’t quite know what I am go­ing to do when I go. And then in the morn­ing it seems to de­liver the an­swer.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 43, 1968)

    INTERVIEWER: “I’d like to ask a bit about your work habits if I may. What sort of sched­ule do you fol­low?”

    UPDIKE: “I write every week­day morn­ing. I try to vary what I am do­ing, and my verse, or po­et­ry, is a help here. Em­barked on a long pro­ject, I try to stay with it even on dull days. For every nov­el, how­ev­er, that I have pub­lished, there has been one un­fin­ished or scrapped. Some short sto­ries—I think off­hand of”Life­guard," “The Taste of Met­al,” “My Grand­moth­er’s Thim­ble”—are frag­ments sal­vaged and re­shaped. Most came right the first time—rode on their own melt­ing, as Frost said of his po­ems. If there is no melt­ing, if the story keeps stick­ing, bet­ter stop and look around. In the ex­e­cu­tion there has to be a “hap­pi­ness” that can’t be willed or fore­or­dained. It has to sing, click, some­thing. I try in­stantly to set in mo­tion a cer­tain for­ward tilt of sus­pense or cu­rios­i­ty, and at the end of the story or novel to rec­tify the tilt, to com­plete the mo­tion."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 177, 2003):

    INTERVIEWER: “And your sis­ter’s a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. You come from a fam­ily of vi­sual artists, and you trained as one in high school. Do the vi­sual arts in­flu­ence your writ­ing process?”

    LETHEM “My process is dull. It’s as plod­ding and pedan­tic as Abra­ham’s film, painted one frame at a time. I’m a tor­toise, wak­ing each day to plod out my page or two. I try never to miss a morn­ing, when I’m work­ing on a nov­el. There are no other rules, no word counts or pen­cil sharp­en­ings or can­dlelit pen­ta­grams on the floor. Grow­ing up with my fa­ther’s art-mak­ing in the house, the cre­ative act was de­mys­ti­fied, use­ful­ly. As a re­sult, I see writ­ing as an in­evitable and or­di­nary way to spend one’s hours.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 51, 1974):

    INTERVIEWER: “How long can you keep at it?”

    HELLER: “I or­di­nar­ily write three or four hand­writ­ten pages and then re­work them for two hours. I can work for four hours, or forty-five min­utes. It’s not a mat­ter of time. I set a re­al­is­tic ob­jec­tive: How can I inch along to the next para­graph? Inch­ing is what it is. It’s not: How can I han­dle the next chap­ter? How can I get to the next stage in a way that I like? I think about that as I walk the dog or walk the twenty min­utes from my apart­ment to the stu­dio where I work.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What about the nec­es­sary dis­ci­plines of writ­ing?”

    HELLER: “Well, I don’t have so­cial lun­cheons with peo­ple. By not hav­ing lunch with peo­ple it means that I do not have two mar­tin­is, which usu­ally means the after­noon is not shot, since all I can do after two mar­ti­nis is read the news­pa­per.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 72, 1978)

    INTERVIEWER: “What kind of work sched­ule do you fol­low?”

    OATES: “I haven’t any for­mal sched­ule, but I love to write in the morn­ing, be­fore break­fast. Some­times the writ­ing goes so smoothly that I don’t take a break for many hours—and con­se­quently have break­fast at two or three in the after­noon on good days. On school days, days that I teach, I usu­ally write for an hour or forty-five min­utes in the morn­ing, be­fore my first class. But I don’t have any for­mal sched­ule, and at the mo­ment I am feel­ing rather melan­choly, or de­railed, or sim­ply lost, be­cause I com­pleted a novel some weeks ago and haven’t be­gun an­other . . . ex­cept in scat­tered, stray notes.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 155, 1998)

    INTERVIEWER: “How do you work? Do you write every day?”

    SARAMAGO: “When I am oc­cu­pied with a work that re­quires con­ti­nu­ity, a nov­el, for ex­am­ple, I write every day. Of course, I am sub­jected to all kinds of in­ter­rup­tions at home and in­ter­rup­tions due to trav­el­ing, but other than that, I am very reg­u­lar. I am very dis­ci­plined. I do not force my­self to work a cer­tain num­ber of hours per day, but I do re­quire a cer­tain amount of writ­ten work per day, which usu­ally cor­re­sponds to two pages. This morn­ing I wrote two pages of a new nov­el, and to­mor­row I shall write an­other two. You might think two pages per day is not very much, but there are other things I must do—writ­ing other texts, re­spond­ing to let­ters; on the other hand, two pages per day adds up to al­most eight hun­dred per year. In the end, I am quite nor­mal. I don’t have odd habits. I don’t dra­ma­tize. Above all, I do not ro­man­ti­cize the act of writ­ing. I don’t talk about the an­guish I suffer in cre­at­ing. I do not have a fear of the blank page, writer’s block, all those things that we hear about writ­ers. I don’t have any of those prob­lems, but I do have prob­lems just like any other per­son do­ing any other type of work. Some­times things do not come out as I want them to, or they don’t come out at all. When things do not come out as well as I would have liked, I have to re­sign my­self to ac­cept­ing them as they are.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 53, 1975)

    DONLEAVY: “…The body is not made to sit for long stretches of hours. Your heart has to be stim­u­lated and you must get the blood through the sys­tem just to clean the sides of the blood ves­sels. At four o’­clock in the after­noon my ears will turn red from work.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Are the hours that you spend writ­ing plea­sur­able to you?”

    DONLEAVY: “I get waves of pleas­ant­ness now and again, but I think I have fi­nally de­cided they are over­all un­pleas­ant. It’s un­pleas­ant to have to sit down and work. It’s a hur­dle you have to get over in or­der to start the ma­chin­ery of the brain work­ing. It takes a cou­ple of hours each morn­ing. Then, as I reach a high point, at the mid­sec­tion of the after­noon, I force my­self for as long as I can. I some­times have to make my­self get up from the desk and do thirty sit-ups and thirty back ex­er­cises just to shift the blood around. If I go past four o’­clock I be­gin to no­tice that my guts start to get all pressed down, and it’s time to get up and move around. And at times when I can’t in­dulge the lux­ury of stop­ping, by late after­noon I’m kneel­ing at my desk. Ob­vi­ous­ly, stand­ing is an­other method of re­liev­ing this. Every writer, I think, has his.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have any de­vices to get you go­ing in the morn­ing?”

    DONLEAVY: “No, just my phys­i­cal set­ting. I try not to force my­self too much, and to take some leisure. Gen­er­al­ly, I eat my break­fast alone about eight o’­clock. From my bed­room I have to walk down a long hall to the main stair­case and then down­stairs walk the same length of hall back to col­lect my break­fast and then back again to my work room. I sit there and ac­tu­ally en­joy my­self. It’s a great time be­cause I over­look a south­ern walled or­chard and flower gar­dens and I gaze out the win­dow, or read the news­pa­per, or look at an ar­chi­tec­tural book or lis­ten to the ra­dio. I must say it’s mo­men­tar­ily very pleas­ant. But if I’m re­ally dri­ving my­self, bat­tling my way, I for­bid my­self to read the news­pa­per or turn on the ra­dio and I just sit there alone eat­ing my break­fast. But usu­ally I drive my­self so much all day that in the morn­ings I don’t make it too diffi­cult for my­self.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 165, 2000)

    INTERVIEWER: “How do you work? Are you dis­ci­plined? Do you keep reg­u­lar hours?”

    BARNES: “I’m dis­ci­plined over a long stretch. That is to say, I know when I start a novel that it will work best if I write it in eigh­teen months, or two or three years, de­pend­ing how com­pli­cated it is, and nowa­days I usu­ally hit that rough tar­get date. I’m dis­ci­plined by the plea­sure that the work gives me; I look for­ward to do­ing it. I also know that I work best at cer­tain hours, nor­mally be­tween ten in the morn­ing and one in the after­noon. Those are the hours when my men­tal ca­pac­ity is at its fullest. Other times of the day will be fine for re­vis­ing, or writ­ing jour­nal­ism, or pay­ing bills. I work seven days a week; I don’t think in terms of nor­mal office hours—or rather, nor­mal office hours for me in­clude the week­ends. Week­ends are a good work­ing time be­cause peo­ple think you’ve gone away and don’t dis­turb you. So is Christ­mas. Every­one’s out shop­ping and no one phones. I al­ways work on Christ­mas morn­ing—it’s a rit­u­al.”

  • J. H. Prynne (The Art of Po­etry No. 101, 2016)

    “I am not much of a morn­ing per­son,” Je­remy Prynne warned us, as we made arrange­ments for this in­ter­view. “My nat­ural habi­tat seems to be the hours of dark­ness, ad li­bi­tum. So I’ll be pretty use­less un­til about ten thirty or eleven a.m. at best: but at the other end of the day I never tire.” So it proved. For four days at the end of Jan­u­ary, we met after lunch in his rooms at , at the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge, and talked, with a break for din­ner, un­til we pleaded ex­haus­tion some­time after mid­night. At the con­clu­sion of each day’s in­ter­view, Prynne gra­ciously walked us out through the six­teen­th-cen­tury Gate of Ho­n­our be­fore re­turn­ing to his desk in the rooms he has kept since he was first ap­pointed as a fel­low, in 1962.

    PRYNNE: …“In the spring of 2011, I had one of these feel­ings that I some­times have, that maybe I’m about to write some­thing…I chose to go to Thai­land, be­cause I’d been to Thai­land once be­fore. I arranged and clocked into an hotel, a very mod­est, cheap ho­tel in Bangkok, with the sole pur­pose of writ­ing what­ever this com­po­si­tion was go­ing to be. And right up to the last minute I had no idea whether it would be any­thing at al­l…This hotel, by the way, had an al­l-night restau­rant, which meant that at four o’­clock in the morn­ing, I could go down and have ice cream and coffee and re­fresh my spir­its and re­turn to my writ­ing desk and write an­other slab of stuff. I wrote fever­ish­ly, un­in­ter­rupt­edly through­out the whole three­-week pe­ri­od. Some­thing I’d never done in my life be­fore. For ex­am­ple, I never gave it a ti­tle. I had no idea what its sub­ject mat­ter was go­ing to be. I had no idea about its range of ma­te­r­i­al. I had no idea about its prosodic for­mal­ism. I had no idea how long it was go­ing to be, if it was go­ing to be ter­minable or in­ter­minable. I would en­gage in writ­ing ses­sions that last­ed, say, four or five hours, and then I’d be ex­hausted and I’d break off. Some­times I’d sleep. Some­times, if it was day­time, I’d have a lit­tle walk in the out­side air to clear my thoughts. Then I’d go down to the restau­rant and help my­self to coffee and ice cream, which was my sta­ple nu­tri­tional sup­port. Then I’d go back up­stairs again.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 29, 1963):

    INTERVIEWER: “But the new novel has been in the writ­ing since 1942. The regime for writ­ing this must have been a good deal differ­ent.”

    PORTER: “Oh, it was. I went up and sat nearly three years in the coun­try, and while I was writ­ing it I worked every day, any­where from three to five hours. Oh, it’s true I used to do an aw­ful lot of just sit­ting there think­ing what comes next, be­cause this is a great big un­wieldy book with an enor­mous cast of char­ac­ter­s—it’s four hun­dred of my man­u­script pages, and I can get four hun­dred and fifty words on a page. But all that time in Con­necti­cut, I kept my­self free for work: no tele­phone, no vis­i­tors—oh, I re­ally lived like a her­mit, every­thing but be­ing fed through a grate! But it is, as Yeats said, a”soli­tary seden­tary trade." And I did a lot of gar­den­ing, and cooked my own food, and lis­tened to mu­sic, and of course I would read. I was re­ally very hap­py. I can live a soli­tary life for months at a time, and it does me good, be­cause I’m work­ing. I just get up bright and ear­ly—­some­times at five o’­clock­—have my black coffee, and go to work."

    INTERVIEWER: “You work best in the morn­ing, then?”

    PORTER: “I work when­ever I’m let. In the days when I was taken up with every­thing else, I used to do a day’s work, or house­work, or what­ever I was do­ing, and then work at night. I worked when I could. But I pre­fer to get up very early in the morn­ing and work. I don’t want to speak to any­body or see any­body. Per­fect si­lence. I work un­til the vein is out. There’s some­thing about the way you feel, you know when the well is dry, that you’ll have to wait till to­mor­row and it’ll be full up again.”

    INTERVIEWER: “The im­por­tant thing, then, is to avoid any breaks or dis­trac­tions while you’re writ­ing?”

    PORTER: “To keep at a boil­ing point. So that I can get up in the morn­ing with my mind still work­ing where it was yes­ter­day. Then I can stop in the mid­dle of a para­graph and fin­ish it the next day.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 195, 2007)

    INTERVIEWER: “What kind of writ­ing sched­ule do you keep?”

    OE: “Once I start writ­ing a nov­el, I write every day un­til it’s fin­ished. Usu­ally I wake at seven a.m. and work un­til about eleven. I don’t eat break­fast. I just drink a glass of wa­ter. I think that is per­fect for writ­ing.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 136, 1994)

    He lives in a spa­cious barn that was built in the thir­ties from a Sears Roe­buck cat­a­log. It is dec­o­rated in bright Day-Glo col­ors. The stairs as­cend­ing to his loft-s­tudy are cov­ered in streaks of neon green and pink, re­call­ing the psy­che­delic de­signs made fa­mous by Ke­sey’s bus, Furthur. In­spired by these vi­sual rem­nants of the six­ties, Ke­sey works late into the night, ob­served, as he points out, by a par­lia­ment of owls.

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 33, 1983)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have rit­u­als?”

    ASHBERY: “Well, one of them is to use this very old, circa 1930 I would say, Royal type­writer I men­tioned. I hate to think what will hap­pen when it fi­nally gives out, though you can still find them some­times in those used office fur­ni­ture stores on West 23rd Street, which are them­selves an en­dan­gered species. And then I pro­cras­ti­nate like every­body else, though surely more than most. On days when I want to write I will usu­ally waste the morn­ing and go for an after­noon walk to Green­wich Vil­lage. (I live nearby in Chelsea, which is a pleas­ant place to walk from though maybe not to.) Some­times this takes too long and my pre­ferred late after­noon mo­ment will pass. I can’t re­ally work at night. Nor in the morn­ing, very much, when I have more ideas but am less crit­i­cal of them, it seems. I never can use the time I waste do­ing this for some other pur­pose like an­swer­ing let­ters. It’s no good for any­thing but wast­ing. I’ve never tried Schiller’s rot­ten ap­ples, but I do drink tea while I write, and that is about the only time I do drink tea. On the whole, I be­lieve I have fewer hang-ups and rit­u­als than I used to. I feel blocked much less often, though it still hap­pens. It’s im­por­tant to try to write when you are in the wrong mood or the weather is wrong. Even if you don’t suc­ceed you’ll be de­vel­op­ing a mus­cle that may do it later on. And I think writ­ing does get eas­ier as you get old­er. It’s a ques­tion of prac­tice and also of re­al­iz­ing you don’t have the oceans of time to waste you had when you were young.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 59, 1975):

    AMIS: “Yes. I don’t get up very ear­ly. I linger over break­fast read­ing the pa­pers, telling my­self hyp­o­crit­i­cally that I’ve got to keep up with what’s go­ing on, but re­ally staving off the dread­ful time when I have to go to the type­writer. That’s prob­a­bly about ten-thir­ty, still in pa­ja­mas and dress­ing gown. And the agree­ment I have with my­self is that I can stop when­ever I like and go and shave and shower and so on. In prac­tice, it’s not till about one or one-fifteen that I do that—I usu­ally try and time it with some mu­sic on the ra­dio. Then I emerge, and nico­tine and al­co­hol are pro­duced. I work on un­til about two or two-fifteen, have lunch, then if there’s ur­gency about, I have to write in the after­noon, which I re­ally hate do­ing—I re­ally dis­like after­noons, what­ev­er’s hap­pen­ing. But then the agree­ment is that it does­n’t mat­ter how lit­tle gets done in the after­noon. And later on, with luck, a cup of tea turns up, and then it’s only a ques­tion of drink­ing more cups of tea un­til the bar opens at six o’­clock and one can get into sec­ond gear. I go on un­til about eight-thirty and I al­ways hate stop­ping. It’s not a ques­tion of be­ing car­ried away by one’s cre­ative affla­tus, but say­ing,”Oh dear, next time I do this I shall be feel­ing tense again.""

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 21, 1976)

    INTERVIEWER: “Did you write at night after you worked your day as an ed­i­tor?”

    WHEELOCK: “Yes. I had to, or felt that I had to. I could­n’t re­sist the de­sire to make po­ems, so I made them at night, I made them on week­ends. But as an ed­i­tor, there’s no limit to the work. So after I be­came se­nior ed­i­tor, for many years I did­n’t pub­lish a book and I hardly ever wrote a po­em. Yet those twenty years of edit­ing stand as a di­vide be­tween my lesser work, and my best. Be­fore I be­came an ed­i­tor, I just wrote when­ever I got a chance, at night and on va­ca­tions. I learned early to do my work in my head. For many years I had a va­ca­tion of only two weeks; I would work dur­ing that time, walk­ing along the beaches of Bonac and com­pos­ing po­ems in my head and all the time re­vis­ing them, too, in my head. I would­n’t write down any of them. When I got back to the city, I would write them down when I had the chance. I know my po­ems by heart. All the var­i­ous re­vi­sions of them. You work so hard over them, you know, that you never can for­get them. I used to give read­ings from time to time—I can’t do this now—but while I would al­ways have the book there in case I lost my way through ner­vous­ness, I rarely had to use it. At night, when I can’t sleep, I can say po­ems over end­less­ly. Not mine, nec­es­sar­i­ly, but any po­ems that come to mind. It’s a great re­source. Yet most po­ets to­day are vi­su­al. Mar­i­anne Moore told me that she did­n’t know any of her po­ems by heart. Robert Frost knew most of his. But some of the best po­ets could­n’t re­cite any one of their po­ems.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 138, 1994):

    I found that writ­ing took a bit of ad­just­ing—essen­tially to be able to use lit­tle scratches of time to do it. Lots of writ­ers have to have whole days or nights to get ready to write; they like to be by a fire, with ab­solute qui­et, with their slip­pers on and a pipe or some­thing, and then they’re ready to go. They can’t be­lieve you can use five min­utes here, ten min­utes there, fifteen min­utes at an­other time. Yet it’s only a ques­tion of train­ing to learn that trick. If they had to do it that way, they’d be able to—the real writ­ers, that is. I can pick up in the mid­dle of a sen­tence and then go on. I wrote at night; some­times I wrote at the office and then prac­ticed law at home. My wife and I never went away on week­ends. I would­n’t rec­om­mend that any­one else try this method, but it worked for me. And it did for Trol­lope. I don’t mean to com­pare my­self to Trol­lope, but it was said that he made a habit of writ­ing from nine to noon, and if he fin­ished a novel at a quar­ter to twelve, he’d start an­oth­er. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, he put that all into his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, which killed his rep­u­ta­tion for decades be­cause peo­ple wanted to think of writ­ing as suffer­ing.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 172, 2002):

    INTERVIEWER: “How do you bal­ance your writ­ing with your work as a lawyer?”

    BEGLEY: “I don’t bal­ance it. My work as a lawyer and my work as a nov­el­ist co­ex­ist. I prac­tice law dur­ing the week, and do my writ­ing on week­ends and hol­i­days if I am not in­ter­rupted by office work. Nat­u­ral­ly, I have had to give up tak­ing naps, go­ing to the movies even when there is a film I very much want to see, and, much more painful, read­ing as much as I would like.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 170, 2001):

    Each work finds its own time. For many years I wrote at night. Then I be­came scared of writ­ing at night, prob­a­bly on ac­count of the ghosts that you call to mind when you are writ­ing, mostly when deal­ing with the sub­ject of tor­ture and other dark po­lit­i­cal is­sues. I’ve re­turned to the night shift just re­cent­ly, and am re­dis­cov­er­ing the plea­sure of to­tal si­lence. But I still en­joy jump­ing out of bed and onto the com­put­er—from dream to word, with no time to re­pent.

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 36, 1986)

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your nor­mal work­ing hours?”

    SHAPIRO: “I don’t have nor­mal work­ing hours. Al­though since I’ve been writ­ing my au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, I’ve been work­ing about three or four hours a day. Usu­ally in the late morn­ing or early after­noons.”

    INTERVIEWER: “At the type­writer?”

    SHAPIRO: “I write prose on the type­writer. I don’t like to work in the evening or after, partly be­cause when I use the type­writer, I think I’m keep­ing peo­ple awake up­stairs.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 94, 2008):

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you main­tain a daily writ­ing sched­ule?”

    RYAN: “I used to be much more dis­ci­plined. For twen­ty-five years, I’d get up, make break­fast for Carol and my­self, pack her some lunch, get her off to school, and then have the house to my­self. I’d go back to bed, and I’d read a lit­tle bit of some­thing great, take out my yel­low tablet, and do some writ­ing….Al­ways in bed. Draft after draft. Many times I’d still be in my pa­ja­mas at noon or one. I’ve al­ways liked the uni­form of the po­et. I’ve gone through some nice pa­ja­mas. This was in the old days. My dis­ci­pline is in­te­rior now.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How long does it take you to write a po­em?”

    RYAN: “Who can an­swer that? An artist friend of mine once gave me a great pen­cil sketch of a sink. She said it only took about half an hour to draw. But it took years for every­thing to com­bine into that half hour. But prac­ti­cally speak­ing, I usu­ally spend one very in­tense morn­ing writ­ing a po­em. For me a poem is­n’t a knit­ting project I keep in my work­bas­ket and add a few more purls to every cou­ple days.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 114, 1989):

    INTERVIEWER: “Tell me about your sched­ule as a writer. Do you write every day?”

    PUIG: “I adore rou­tine. I can­not work away from it. It has to be the same thing every day. It takes a long time for me to wake up, so in the morn­ing I write let­ters, re­vise trans­la­tion­s—things that don’t de­mand too much. At noon, I go to the beach and swim for twenty min­utes. I come back, eat, and take a nap. With­out that nap there is no pos­si­bil­ity of cre­ation. From four to eight I re­ally work. Then I have din­ner and that’s it. I can­not work after eat­ing. I stop and see some­thing on the video ma­chine. I hate to in­ter­rupt this for week­ends. Then it’s very hard to go back to work.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 66, 1977)

    …“I was en­chanted by the . I hear mu­sic when I am writ­ing, and I worked from nine to five, for what was to be eigh­teen years of breath­less writ­ing. I never stopped. I was never bored. If I was bored, I would have stopped. I re­al­ized some­where along the line, ear­ly, that it would take a long time. I wanted it to be a book of books, a song of songs. I knew for sure that noth­ing else in life was go­ing to in­ter­fere: I would not eas­ily mar­ry, I would not eas­ily trav­el. I wanted to write this book—and I don’t re­gret it.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How do you get started in the morn­ing?”

    YOUNG: “I al­ways leave off the day be­fore, as Thomas Mann ad­vised,”When the go­ing is good . . . ," when you know ex­actly where you are, and you are in a mo­ment of ex­u­ber­ance; you stop. When I hook on the next morn­ing, if the go­ing was good, I just go. I feel it emo­tion­al­ly, al­most in the blood, the pulse, the ex­cite­ment. I al­ways hear in­ner mu­sic when I write; I hear strange mu­sic. I have all my life, which is very odd, be­cause I am not at all mu­si­cal."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 70, 1978)

    I used to work in the evenings when the chil­dren were small, but now I work in the morn­ing. I can’t write the whole day long. I have a room where I go be­cause I can’t work at home­—the tele­phone and other dis­trac­tions. I start work about quar­ter to ten, work through till lunchtime. Some­times I work in the after­noon. Dur­ing the school hol­i­days I don’t get very much done. I’ve only been able to put in the longer hours since the chil­dren have be­come more ac­com­mo­dat­ing. Even then I feel a bit mean. I al­ways have my head in some­body else’s book or my own.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 198, 2008)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you keep to a sched­ule?”

    ROBINSON: “I re­ally am in­ca­pable of dis­ci­pline. I write when some­thing makes a strong claim on me. When I don’t feel like writ­ing, I ab­solutely don’t feel like writ­ing. I tried that work ethic thing a cou­ple of times—I can’t say I ex­hausted its pos­si­bil­i­ties—but if there’s not some­thing on my mind that I re­ally want to write about, I tend to write some­thing that I hate. And that de­presses me. I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want to live through the time it takes for it to go up the chim­ney. Maybe it’s a ques­tion of dis­ci­pline, maybe tem­pera­ment, who knows? I wish I could have made my­self do more. I would­n’t mind hav­ing writ­ten fifteen books.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 132, 1993)

    When I’m not dis­tracted by other things, I arise at five a.m., am at my desk by five-thir­ty, and work un­til about nine. Then I run and do other ex­er­cis­es—row­ing, gym­nas­tics, weight­s—­for about two hours. It used to be longer, but I’m now forty-five and I can’t run twelve miles every day. Then I read the pa­pers and do the mail, which can take hours, take a nap if pos­si­ble, and do a lit­tle work in the late after­noon be­fore the day dis­solves into din­ner, putting the chil­dren to bed, read­ing, lights out. When I have a dead­line, I just work all night and all day, like an ar­chi­tect on .

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 120, 1990)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you write by hand, on the type­writer, or do you al­ter­nate?”

    VARGAS LLOSA: “First, I write by hand. I al­ways work in the morn­ing, and in the early hours of the day, I al­ways write by hand. Those are the most cre­ative hours. I never work more than two hours like this—my hand gets cramped. Then I start typ­ing what I’ve writ­ten, mak­ing changes as I go along; this is per­haps the first stage of rewrit­ing. But I al­ways leave a few lines un­typed so that the next day, I can start by typ­ing the end of what I’d writ­ten the day be­fore. Start­ing up the type­writer cre­ates a cer­tain dy­nam­ic—it’s like a war­m-up ex­er­cise.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Hem­ing­way used that same tech­nique of al­ways leav­ing a sen­tence half-writ­ten so he could pick up the thread the next day . . .”

    VARGAS LLOSA: “Yes, he thought he should never write out all he had in mind so that he could start up more eas­ily the next day. The hard­est part, it al­ways seems to me, is start­ing. In the morn­ing, mak­ing con­tact again, the anx­i­ety of it . . . But if you have some­thing me­chan­i­cal to do, the work has al­ready be­gun. The ma­chine starts to work. Any­way, I have a very rig­or­ous work sched­ule. Every morn­ing un­til two in the after­noon, I stay in my office. These hours are sa­cred to me. That does­n’t mean I’m al­ways writ­ing; some­times I’m re­vis­ing or tak­ing notes. But I re­main sys­tem­at­i­cally at work. There are, of course, the good days for cre­ation and the bad ones. But I work every day be­cause even if I don’t have any new ideas, I can spend the time mak­ing cor­rec­tions, re­vis­ing, tak­ing notes, et cetera . . . Some­times I de­cide to rewrite a fin­ished piece, if only to change the punc­tu­a­tion. Mon­day through Sat­ur­day, I work on the novel in pro­gress, and I de­vote Sun­day morn­ings to jour­nal­is­tic work—ar­ti­cles and es­says. I try to keep this kind of work within the al­lot­ted time of Sun­day so that it does­n’t in­fringe on the cre­ative work of the rest of the week. Some­times I lis­ten to clas­si­cal mu­sic when I take notes, as long as there’s no singing. It’s some­thing I started do­ing when I lived in a very noisy house. In the morn­ings, I work alone, no­body comes up to my office. I don’t even take phone calls. If I did, my life would be a liv­ing hell. You can­not imag­ine how many phone calls and vis­i­tors I get. Every­one knows this house. My ad­dress un­for­tu­nately fell into the pub­lic do­main.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 151, 1998)

    INTERVIEWER: “What’s a good day of writ­ing? How many hours, how many pages?”

    AMIS :“Every­one as­sumes I’m a sys­tem­atic and nose-to-the-grind­stone kind of per­son. But to me it seems like a part-time job, re­al­ly, in that writ­ing from eleven to one con­tin­u­ously is a very good day’s work. Then you can read and play ten­nis or snook­er. Two hours. I think most writ­ers would be very happy with two hours of con­cen­trated work. To­wards the end of a book, as you get more con­fi­dent, and also de­cid­edly more hys­ter­i­cal about get­ting this thing away from you, then you can do six or seven hours. But that means you are work­ing on hys­ter­i­cal en­er­gy. I want to clean my desk again (not that it ever is clean); I want this five years’ worth of pre­oc­cu­pa­tion off my desk. Be­cause I started writ­ing when I was rel­a­tively young, every novel I’ve writ­ten con­tains every­thing I know, so that by the time I’m fin­ished I’m com­pletely out of gas. I’m a mo­ron when I fin­ish a nov­el. It’s all in there and there’s noth­ing left in here.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You write a fair amount of jour­nal­ism.”

    AMIS: “Jour­nal­ism, par­tic­u­larly book re­view­ing, brings with it an­other mag­ni­tude of diffi­cul­ty. Fic­tion writ­ing is ba­si­cally what I want to do when I get up in the morn­ing. If I haven’t done any all day, then I feel dis­sat­is­fied. If I wake up know­ing that I have some jour­nal­ism to write, then it’s with a heavy tread that I go to the bath­room—with­out rel­ish, for many and ob­vi­ous rea­sons. You’re no longer in com­plete con­trol.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How often do you write?”

    AMIS: “Every week­day. I have an office where I work. I leave the house and I’m ab­sent for the av­er­age work­ing day. I drive my pow­er­ful Audi three quar­ters of a mile across Lon­don to my flat. And there, un­less I’ve got some­thing else I have to do, I will sit down and write fic­tion for as long as I can. As I said ear­lier, it never feels re­motely like a full day’s work, al­though it can be. A lot of the time seems to be spent mak­ing coffee or trolling around, or throw­ing darts, or play­ing pin­ball, or pick­ing your nose, trim­ming your fin­ger­nails, or star­ing at the ceil­ing. You know that for­eign cor­re­spon­den­t’s ruse; in the days when you had your pro­fes­sion on the pass­port, you put writer; and then when you were in some trou­ble spot, in or­der to con­ceal your iden­tity you sim­ply changed the r in writer to an a and be­came a waiter. I al­ways thought there was a great truth there. Writ­ing is wait­ing, for me cer­tain­ly. It would­n’t bother me a bit if I did­n’t write one word in the morn­ing. I’d just think, you know, not yet. The job seems to be one of mak­ing your­self re­cep­tive to what­ev­er’s on the rise that day. I was quite sur­prised to read how much dread Fa­ther felt as he ap­proached the type­writer in the morn­ing.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 27, 1962)

    INTERVIEWER: “Does it mat­ter to you at all where you write?”

    McCARTHY: “Oh, a nice peace­ful place with some good light.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you work reg­u­lar­ly, every morn­ing, say?”

    McCARTHY: “Nor­mal­ly; right now I haven’t been. Nor­mally I work from about nine to two, and some­times much longer—if it’s go­ing well, some­times from nine to sev­en.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Type­writer?”

    McCARTHY: “Type­writer, yes. This al­ways has to get into a Paris Re­view in­ter­view! I very rarely go out to lunch.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 116, 1990)

    INTERVIEWER: “I want to talk about the writ­ing process, that is, you as a writer at work. What is the most pro­duc­tive time of day for you?”

    SETTLE: “Morn­ing. By the time I am deep into a book, it is very ear­ly. I once worked late in the after­noon, and then I re­al­ized that I was miss­ing most of the hu­man race, so I kept set­ting my work time back un­til now it is a joke—the sun and I get up at the same time. I go straight up­stairs to my work­room; if I don’t, if I stop at all, I’m lost. There are all those vastly im­por­tant things to do, like the laun­dry! So I go there, and I med­i­tate, and I wait. Wait­ing for the voices is for me the most im­por­tant part.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Tell me about wait­ing for the voic­es.”

    SETTLE: “How can I tell about si­lence? I think that that pe­riod of be­ing able to wait un­til the sound and vi­sion of a book forms un­con­sciously like a dream, and then is al­lowed to reach your con­scious mind so that you can hear it, see it, and tell about it, is the sin­gle mo­ment that sep­a­rates the fic­tion writer from all the oth­ers who de­pend on craft, real mem­ory and in­tel­li­gence… When I’m fi­nally go­ing I write about a thou­sand words in an hour. Then I’m to­tally wiped out, and I gar­den or fuss around to re­cov­er.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What is the max­i­mum num­ber of hours you can write in a day? Fic­tion, I mean.”

    SETTLE: “Just about that hour un­til the end, and then I move into a hotel, inn, what­ev­er. Wake up, write, go to sleep, wake up, write, a twen­ty-four hour sched­ule. The novel tends to be so pow­er­ful by then for me that it takes me with it. I do it so that what en­ergy I have by the end can all go onto the page. I learned long ago, read­ing Thomas Hardy, that the end of a book can be ru­ined by let­ting the writer’s fa­tigue creep into it.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 32, 1983)

    INTERVIEWER: “Every­one wants to know about a writer’s work habits . . .”

    SARTON: “I do all my work be­fore eleven in the morn­ing. That’s why I get up so ear­ly. Around five.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Have you pretty much stuck to the same kind of dis­ci­pline over the years?”

    SARTON: “Yes, I have. That I got from my fa­ther. I think the great thing he gave me was an ex­am­ple of what steady work, dis­ci­plined work, can fi­nally pro­duce. In not wait­ing for”the mo­men­t," you know, but say­ing: “I’m go­ing to write every day for two or three hours.” The trou­ble, for me, is the let­ters. They in­ter­rupt, and I give much too much en­ergy to that. It’s an in­sol­u­ble prob­lem."

    INTERVIEWER: “Would it be help­ful, say, if you were stuck in your work, to switch over to the let­ters?”

    SARTON: “I some­times start the day with the let­ters. Just to get the oil into the ma­chine.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have other ways of get­ting oil into the ma­chine?”

    SARTON: “Mu­sic. I play records, mostly eigh­teen­th-cen­tury mu­sic. I find that the Ro­man­tic­s—Beethoven—­don’t work for me. I love them to lis­ten to, but not to work with, along­side of, whereas Mozart, Bach, . . . Haydn, I love. I feel the tremen­dous mas­cu­line joy of Haydn. That gets me go­ing.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 160, 1999)

    INTERVIEWER: “What is a typ­i­cal day? Do you or­ga­nize your day around writ­ing or do you not need a sched­ule?”

    GALLANT: “I write every day ex­cept when I am trav­el­ing—I gave up try­ing even to keep a travel jour­nal years ago; it al­ways sounds ar­ti­fi­cial. When I’m here, chez moi, I write every day as a mat­ter of course. Most days in the morn­ing but some days any­time, after­noon or evening. It de­pends on what I’m writ­ing and the state of the thing. It is not a bur­den. It is the way I live.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Has it ever been im­pos­si­ble to write? Have you never not had some­thing in mind to write?”

    GALLANT: “I can’t imag­ine not hav­ing some­thing in mind.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have any habits that help you write?”

    GALLANT: “Read­ing some po­etry early in the morn­ing is a habit—I read it be­fore I start to work. When­ever peo­ple say, No­body reads po­etry any­more, I think, Well, I do.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 42, 1991)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have a sched­ule for writ­ing?”

    PAZ: “I’ve never been able to main­tain a fixed sched­ule. For years, I wrote in my few free hours. I was quite poor and from an early age had to hold down sev­eral jobs to eke out a liv­ing. I was a mi­nor em­ployee in the Na­tional Archive; I worked in a bank; I was a jour­nal­ist; I fi­nally found a com­fort­able but busy post in the diplo­matic ser­vice, but none of those jobs had any real effect on my work as a po­et.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you have to be in any spe­cific place in or­der to write?”

    PAZ: “A nov­el­ist needs his type­writer, but you can write po­etry any time, any­where. Some­times I men­tally com­pose a poem on a bus or walk­ing down the street. The rhythm of walk­ing helps me fix the vers­es. Then when I get home, I write it all down. For a long time when I was younger, I wrote at night. It’s qui­eter, more tran­quil. But writ­ing at night also mag­ni­fies the writer’s soli­tude. Nowa­days I write dur­ing the late morn­ing and into the after­noon. It’s a plea­sure to fin­ish a page when night falls.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 119, 1990)

    INTERVIEWER: “You once told me that you write ly­ing on a made-up bed with a bot­tle of sher­ry, a dic­tio­nary, Ro­get’s The­saurus, yel­low pads, an ash­tray, and a Bible…And is the bot­tle of sherry for the end of the day or to fuel the imag­i­na­tion?”

    ANGELOU: “I might have it at six-fifteen a.m. just as soon as I get in, but usu­ally it’s about eleven o’­clock when I’ll have a glass of sher­ry.”

    INTERVIEWER: “When you are re­freshed by the Bible and the sher­ry, how do you start a day’s work?”

    ANGELOU: “I have kept a ho­tel room in every town I’ve ever lived in. I rent a ho­tel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thir­ty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this el­bow is ab­solutely en­crusted at the end, just so rough with cal­lous­es. I never al­low the ho­tel peo­ple to change the bed, be­cause I never sleep there. I stay un­til twelve-thirty or one-thirty in the after­noon, and then I go home and try to breathe; I look at the work around five; I have an or­derly din­ner—prop­er, qui­et, lovely din­ner; and then I go back to work the next morn­ing. Some­times in ho­tels I’ll go into the room and there’ll be a note on the floor which says, Dear Miss An­gelou, let us change the sheets. We think they are moldy. But I only al­low them to come in and empty waste­bas­kets. I in­sist that all things are taken off the walls.”

    …“I write in the morn­ing and then go home about mid­day and take a show­er, be­cause writ­ing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a dou­ble ablu­tion. Then I go out and shop—I’m a se­ri­ous cook—and pre­tend to be nor­mal. I play sane—­Good morn­ing! Fine, thank you. And you? And I go home. I pre­pare din­ner for my­self and if I have house­guests, I do the can­dles and the pretty mu­sic and all that. Then after all the dishes are moved away I read what I wrote that morn­ing. And more often than not if I’ve done nine pages I may be able to save two and a half or three. That’s the cru­elest time you know, to re­ally ad­mit that it does­n’t work. And to blue pen­cil it. When I fin­ish maybe fifty pages and read them—­fifty ac­cept­able pages—it’s not too bad. I’ve had the same ed­i­tor since 1967. Many times he has said to me over the years or asked me, Why would you use a semi­colon in­stead of a colon? And many times over the years I have said to him things like: I will never speak to you again. For­ev­er. Good­bye. That is it. Thank you very much. And I leave. Then I read the piece and I think of his sug­ges­tions. I send him a telegram that says, OK, so you’re right. So what? Don’t ever men­tion this to me again. If you do, I will never speak to you again. About two years ago I was vis­it­ing him and his wife in the Hamp­tons. I was at the end of a din­ing room ta­ble with a sit-down din­ner of about four­teen peo­ple. Way at the end I said to some­one, I sent him telegrams over the years. From the other end of the ta­ble he said, And I’ve kept every one! Brute! But the edit­ing, one’s own edit­ing, be­fore the ed­i­tor sees it, is the most im­por­tant.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 14, 1971)

    Con­ver­sa­tions for the in­ter­view were held in short ses­sions. In the morn­ing—after Neruda had his break­fast in his room—we would meet in the li­brary, which is a new wing of the house. I would wait while he an­swered his mail, com­posed po­ems for his new book, or cor­rected the gal­leys of a new Chilean edi­tion of Twenty Love Po­ems. When com­pos­ing po­et­ry, he writes with green ink in an or­di­nary com­po­si­tion book. He can write a fairly long poem in a very short time, after which he makes only a few cor­rec­tions. The po­ems are then typed by his sec­re­tary and close friend of more than fifty years, Homero Arce.

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your work­ing hours?”

    NERUDA: “I don’t have a sched­ule, but by pref­er­ence I write in the morn­ing. Which is to say that if you weren’t here mak­ing me waste my time (and wast­ing your own), I would be writ­ing. I don’t read many things dur­ing the day. I would rather write all day, but fre­quently the full­ness of a thought, of an ex­pres­sion, of some­thing that comes out of my­self in a tu­mul­tuous way—let’s la­bel it with an an­ti­quated term,”in­spi­ra­tion“—leaves me sat­is­fied, or ex­haust­ed, or calmed, or emp­ty. That is, I can’t go on. Apart from that, I like liv­ing too much to be seated all day at a desk. I like to put my­self in the go­ings-on of life, of my house, of pol­i­tics, and of na­ture. I am for­ever com­ing and go­ing. But I write in­tensely when­ever I can and wher­ever I am. It does­n’t bother me that there may be a lot of peo­ple around.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You cut your­self off to­tally from what sur­rounds you?”

    NERUDA: “I cut my­self off, and if every­thing is sud­denly qui­et, then that is dis­turb­ing to me.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 77, 1983)

    INTERVIEWER: “What con­di­tions do you find to be most con­ducive to writ­ing?”

    GORDIMER: “Well, nowhere very spe­cial, no great, splen­did desk and cork-lined room. There have been times in my life, my God, when I was a young di­vorced woman with a small child liv­ing in a small apart­ment with thin walls when other peo­ple’s ra­dios would drive me ab­solutely mad. And that’s still the thing that both­ers me tremen­dous­ly—that kind of noise. I don’t mind peo­ple’s voic­es. But Muzak or the con­stant clack­-clack of a ra­dio or tele­vi­sion com­ing through the door . . . well, I live in a sub­ur­ban house where I have a small room where I work. I have a door with di­rect ac­cess to the gar­den—a great lux­ury for me—so that I can get in and out with­out any­body both­er­ing me or know­ing where I am. Be­fore I be­gin to work I pull out the phone and it stays out un­til I’m ready to plug it in again. If peo­ple re­ally want you, they’ll find you some other time. And it’s as sim­ple as that, re­al­ly.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How long do you usu­ally work every day? Or do you work every day?”

    GORDIMER: “When I’m work­ing on a book I work every day. I work about four hours non­stop, and then I’ll be very tired and noth­ing comes any­more, and then I will do other things. I can’t un­der­stand writ­ers who feel they should­n’t have to do any of the or­di­nary things of life, be­cause I think that this is nec­es­sary; one has got to keep in touch with that. The soli­tude of writ­ing is also quite fright­en­ing. It’s quite close some­times to mad­ness, one just dis­ap­pears for a day and loses touch. The or­di­nary ac­tion of tak­ing a dress down to the dry clean­er’s or spray­ing some plants in­fected with aphids is a very sane and good thing to do. It brings one back, so to speak. It also brings the world back. I have formed the habit, over the last two books I’ve writ­ten, of spend­ing half an hour or so read­ing over what I’d writ­ten dur­ing the day just be­fore I go to bed at night. Then, of course, you get tempted to fix it up, fuss with it, at night. But I find that’s good. But if I’ve been with friends or gone out some­where, then I won’t do that. The fact is that I lead a rather soli­tary life when I’m writ­ing.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Is there a time of day that’s best?”

    GORDIMER: “I work in the morn­ing. That’s best for me.”

    INTERVIEWER: “There’s no spe­cific rou­tine that gets you from the bed­room or the liv­ing room into the writ­ing room, bridg­ing that ter­ri­fy­ing gap be­tween not writ­ing and writ­ing?”

    GORDIMER: “No—that’s the ad­van­tage if you’re free to choose the time you’re go­ing to write. That’s the ad­van­tage of writ­ing in the morn­ing. Be­cause then one gets up and in one’s sub­con­scious mind one knows: I am go­ing to write. What­ever small thing you have to do, such as talk­ing to other peo­ple at break­fast, it’s only done with one part of you, so to speak; just done on the sur­face. The per­son with whom I live, my hus­band, un­der­stands this and has for a very long time. And he knows that to say to me at break­fast,”What shall we do about so-and-so?" or, “Would you read this let­ter?”—he knows that is­n’t the time to ask. I get ir­ri­ta­ble, and ir­ri­tat­ed; I don’t want to be asked to do things then. And I don’t want to phone an or­der to the gro­cer at that time. I just want to be left alone to eat my break­fast. Ide­al­ly, I like to walk around a bit out­side, which you can do, of course, with a gar­den. But I often think that even that be­comes a kind of pro­cras­ti­na­tion be­cause it’s so easy then to see a weed that one has to stop and pull up and then one sees some ants and won­ders, Where are they go­ing? So the best thing to do is to go into the room and close the door and sit down."

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 87, 2004)

    MULDOON: “When I was nine­teen or twenty I’d al­ready had lots of po­ems broad­cast on the BBC, and when an ad ap­peared in the lo­cal pa­per look­ing for ra­dio pro­duc­ers I thought I would ap­ply. At the in­ter­view—I’m quite con­fi­dent this is what got me the job—I came in, and about thirty sec­onds later the tea trol­ley came in. It was parked right be­side me so, be­ing a credit to my mother for once in my life, I said, Well, can I pour you some tea? So I poured them all tea. Which, of course, when you get right down to it is re­ally what a ra­dio pro­ducer is. A tea pour­er. I worked quite hard for a cou­ple of years and then I sort of got fed up with it all. But they took me in at the BBC. I kept a Dy­lan Thomas quote over my desk for thir­teen years:”In olden days po­ets ran away to sea. Nowa­days they run away to the BBC.""

    INTERVIEWER: “You were writ­ing po­ems over your lunch breaks.”

    MULDOON: “For many years. And that’s still how I write. The lunch breaks have got longer. I think it’s fair to say that I’m dis­ci­plined. I say that be­cause I work al­most every day. Does that equal dis­ci­pline? I’m not sure. But I’m in the habit of writ­ing. It’s what I do. I sup­pose I could be clean­ing win­dows, and that could be a dis­ci­pline, win­dow clean­ing.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 115, 1990)

    For the past twenty years Sar­raute has gone every morn­ing to write at the same neigh­bor­hood café in Paris. The fol­low­ing in­ter­view took place at her home in the six­teenth ar­rondisse­ment, near the Musée d’Art Mod­erne.

    INTERVIEWER: “You have writ­ten all your books, from the first to the lat­est in the same café, where you work every day. Why not at home?”

    SARRAUTE: “At first be­cause the house was full of chil­dren; my hus­band was a lawyer and re­ceived his clients here, so I could­n’t work. Go­ing to a café is like trav­el­ing—you get out of your own en­vi­ron­ment and its dis­trac­tions. Writ­ing is diffi­cult; it is like jump­ing into the void. One tries to avoid it by any mean­s—look­ing for a lost piece of pa­per, mak­ing a cup of tea, any­thing. In a café you jump in. No­body dis­turbs me there and I don’t hear the con­ver­sa­tions. I had the same set-up in the coun­try, un­til one day they in­stalled a juke­box in the café where I worked, and that does stop you from think­ing. So I arranged a cow­shed across the court­yard, and every morn­ing I go there and work.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 129, 1992)

    INTERVIEWER: “Turn­ing once more to your writ­ing: do you work ac­cord­ing to a reg­u­lar sched­ule?”

    MAHFOUZ: “I have al­ways been com­pelled to. From eight till two I was at work. From four un­til seven I wrote. Then from seven un­til ten I read. This was my sched­ule every day ex­cept Fri­day. I have never had time to do as I please. But I stopped writ­ing about three years ago.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 24, 1979)

    INTERVIEWER: “If I may re­turn to your own writ­ing, per­haps you could say some­thing about the way you ap­proach your work. Do you have any sort of writ­ing rou­tine?”

    LEVI: “I write when I have the leisure to. Up un­til last Christ­mas it’s been when I did­n’t have a lot of unan­swered let­ters. Do you re­mem­ber Low­ell speaks some­where about a”ma­lig­nant surf of unan­swered let­ter­s?" I know what he means. Or after do­ing some job, when I felt I re­ally de­served a few days to my­self. And fre­quently I write po­etry when I think, Now I have leisure; now I have peace; now I can do some schol­arly thing. I sit down at my desk and it is­n’t a schol­arly thing at all; I write po­etry for a few days. But I sel­dom write more than a poem a fort­night. Some­times, three in three days. Very oc­ca­sion­ally two in a day. A poem can take two or three days to fin­ish, usu­ally two at the most be­cause I can’t stand the strain, can’t hold it to­geth­er. Though some­times I go back to an old poem and fin­ish it, when I thought I was go­ing to leave it un­fin­ished for­ev­er. Sud­denly one feels re­laxed and glee­ful, and does any­thing."

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 30, 1982)

    INTERVIEWER: “What is your daily rou­tine?”

    LARKIN: “My life is as sim­ple as I can make it. Work all day, cook, eat, wash up, tele­phone, hack writ­ing, drink, tele­vi­sion in the evenings. I al­most never go out. I sup­pose every­one tries to ig­nore the pass­ing of time: some peo­ple by do­ing a lot, be­ing in Cal­i­for­nia one year and Japan the next; or there’s my way—­mak­ing every day and every year ex­actly the same. Prob­a­bly nei­ther works.”

    INTERVIEWER: “You did­n’t men­tion a sched­ule for writ­ing . . .”

    LARKIN: “Yes, I was afraid you’d ask about writ­ing. Any­thing I say about writ­ing po­ems is bound to be ret­ro­spec­tive, be­cause in fact I’ve writ­ten very lit­tle since mov­ing into this house, or since High Win­dows, or since 1974, whichever way you like to put it. But when I did write them, well, it was in the evenings, after work, after wash­ing up (I’m sor­ry: you would call this”do­ing the dishes“). It was a rou­tine like any oth­er. And re­ally it worked very well: I don’t think you can write a poem for more than two hours. After that you’re go­ing round in cir­cles, and it’s much bet­ter to leave it for twen­ty-four hours, by which time your sub­con­scious or what­ever has solved the block and you’re ready to go on. The best writ­ing con­di­tions I ever had were in Belfast, when I was work­ing at the Uni­ver­sity there. An­other top-floor flat, by the way. I wrote be­tween eight and ten in the evenings, then went to the Uni­ver­sity bar till eleven, then played cards or talked with friends till one or two. The first part of the evening had the sec­ond part to look for­ward to, and I could en­joy the sec­ond part with a clear con­science be­cause I’d done my two hours. I can’t seem to or­ga­nize that now.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 32, 1964):

    MAILER: “They vary with each book. I wrote The Naked and the Dead on the type­writer. I used to write four days a week: Mon­days, Tues­days, Thurs­days, and Fri­days.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Defi­nite hours?”

    MAILER: “Yes, very defi­nite hours. I’d get up about eight or eight-thirty and I’d be at work by ten. And I’d work till twelve-thir­ty; then I’d have lunch. I’d get back to work about two-thirty or three, and work for an­other two hours. In the after­noon I usu­ally needed a can of beer to prime me. But I’d write for five hours a day. And I wrote a great deal. The av­er­age I tried to keep was seven type­writ­ten pages a day, twen­ty-eight pages a week. The first draft took seven months, the sec­ond draft—which re­ally was only half a draft—­took four months. The part about the pla­toon went well from the be­gin­ning, but the Lieu­tenant and the Gen­eral in the first draft were stock char­ac­ters. If it had been pub­lished at that point, the book would have been con­sid­ered an in­ter­est­ing war novel with some good sce­nes, no more. The sec­ond draft was the bonus. Cum­mings and Hearn were done in the sec­ond draft. If you look at the book you can see that the style shifts, that the parts about Cum­mings and Hearn are writ­ten in a some­what more de­vel­oped vein. Less force­ful but more ar­tic­u­lat­ed. And you can see some­thing of the turn my later writ­ing would take in the scenes be­tween Cum­mings and Hearn.”

    Mailer also refers to writ­ing in the morn­ing in his sec­ond TPR in­ter­view in 2007.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 187, 2005)

    “Ten years ago I found a flat over­look­ing the Bosporus with a view of the old city. It has, per­haps, one of the best views of Is­tan­bul. It is a twen­ty-five-minute walk from where I live. It is full of books and my desk looks out onto the view. Every day I spend, on av­er­age, some ten hours there.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Ten hours a day?”

    PAMUK: “Yes, I’m a hard work­er. I en­joy it. Peo­ple say I’m am­bi­tious, and maybe there’s truth in that too. But I’m in love with what I do. I en­joy sit­ting at my desk like a child play­ing with his toys. It’s work, es­sen­tial­ly, but it’s fun and games al­so.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Orhan, your name­sake and the nar­ra­tor of Snow, de­scribes him­self as a clerk who sits down at the same time every day. Do you have the same dis­ci­pline for writ­ing?”

    PAMUK: “I was un­der­lin­ing the cler­i­cal na­ture of the nov­el­ist as op­posed to that of the po­et, who has an im­mensely pres­ti­gious tra­di­tion in Turkey.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 205, 2010)

    I try to be very dili­gent about writ­ing every morn­ing. On an ideal day, and there aren’t many of those, I would get up­stairs by nine and work un­til lunch on new ma­te­ri­al, then spend the after­noon re­vis­ing it, or do­ing other lit­er­ary work: re­views, in­tro­duc­tions, and so on. Gen­er­ally I pro­duce a very raw, highly as­so­cia­tive, diffi­cult-for-any­body-else-to-in­ter­pret ver­sion in the morn­ing, which I then break down, ed­it, and try to make read­able in the after­noon. But my work life has been ir­reg­u­lar.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 142, 1995)

    Our house is built on the side of a steep slope: the ter­race and the bal­cony there­fore jut out, pro­vid­ing two long, low, shel­tered rooms. In one, which is lined with book­shelves, I do work that re­quires con­tin­ual ref­er­ence: in the oth­er, which I try to keep clear, I make my at­tempts at purely cre­ative writ­ing. There is also a small stone house in the moun­tain vine­yard to which I can re­tire when there is too much noise in the vil­lage. I write or sit at my desk with pa­per be­fore me just after break­fast and work or pon­der un­til lunch. Un­less writ­ing is flow­ing very well, the after­noon is usu­ally free—­gar­den, moun­tain vine­yard, la­goon, or see­ing friends. Then after tea I go on un­til about din­ner­time.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 181, 2004)

    Well, now that I’m nearly eighty-one it takes me longer to get up the stairs in the morn­ing. I used to go to work at eight; now I get up there at around nine-thir­ty. If I can’t work that day I just sit and think about things and scrawl. I do every­thing by hand on yel­low le­gal pads, and then I trans­fer and broaden and deepen on the type­writer. And I put down notes. I start keep­ing a note­book as soon as I’m writ­ing a book. The way peo­ple talk to one an­other will be some­thing I scrawl down…So I work for about three or four hours. I used to work five hours. I can’t work all day long be­cause I get very tired in the after­noon.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 141, 1995)

    When I first started writ­ing I got up early and wrote from six to eight, as I had to go to work. The habit has stuck and I still get up early and write in the morn­ing. When I’m writ­ing a book, I get up be­fore sev­en, go down to the kitchen and make tea, lis­ten to the news on the ra­dio, and have a bath, then I set­tle down to work. I find that after a few hours I can’t go on and I stop around twelve. The rest of the day is given to all other mat­ters.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 241, 2018)

    INTERVIEWER: “What was your writ­ing life like in those early years, when your chil­dren were still young? Did you treat it like a day job?”

    LIVELY: “Well, I would­n’t have hoped to write dur­ing the school hol­i­days. It would’ve been strictly dur­ing term, and that would have meant get­ting to the desk as soon as I pos­si­bly could once they’d gone off to school, but it was very much what I knew I was go­ing to do for­ev­er. I had no idea how suc­cess­ful it would be, but was pub­lished, and then it was short­-listed for the Booker Prize, which was en­cour­ag­ing.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What did your writ­ing day used to look like?”

    LIVELY: “I’d come down and have break­fast, then be at my desk by about half past nine. The­o­ret­i­cal­ly, I would stay there all day, till about five o’­clock, with a break for lunch. That would­n’t mean writ­ing all the time. It never does. Hours might have been spent look­ing out of the win­dow. I never worked in the evening un­less there was some dead­line that I ab­solutely had to make. I’ve never been an evening work­er. I had to jug­gle my time back then, and ob­vi­ous­ly, if you’ve got chil­dren, there are al­ways go­ing to be in­ter­rup­tions. Jack al­ways in­ter­rupt­ed, too. He never saw writ­ing as a sa­cred ac­tiv­i­ty.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 76, 1997)

    INTERVIEWER: “Is your adult writ­ing life more rou­tine than your child­hood culi­nary life was?”

    PINSKY: “It’s one of my pe­cu­liar­i­ties that I hate to con­cede hav­ing any rou­tines at all. I panic at ques­tions like, When do you get up in the morn­ing? or, What do you have for break­fast? I write with a felt-tip or foun­tain pen, and I write with a com­put­er. Some­times I write in the morn­ing, some­times in the after­noon, some­times late at night. Some­times my hand­writ­ing is rather neat, some­times slop­py. Often, the char­ac­ters are very small, but not al­ways. Hav­ing been a poor stu­dent in high school, I am al­ways amazed that I can get any­thing done, and I al­most have to sneak up on my­self to do it, to feel I’m play­ing hooky:”It’s be­tween times—I’m not sup­posed to write now.""

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 99, 1987)

    INTERVIEWER: “What is your work­ing sched­ule?”

    TAYLOR: “When I’m teach­ing I don’t work much on my man­u­scripts. I keep them open on my desk, look at them every morn­ing, but I don’t press my­self. But that’s just Sep­tem­ber to Christ­mas. After Christ­mas it’s differ­ent. I de­vote my­self en­tirely to my writ­ing. I tell my­self that my morn­ings are my writ­ing time, no mat­ter where I am. After an early break­fast I go to my study. Now I may not re­ally write. Often my mind wan­ders off, I do other things. It may be eleven be­fore I re­ally get go­ing. I’ll be there day­dream­ing, and then sud­denly the thing just starts com­ing. Then I go on un­til I eat lunch at two or so. But I have got to the point now where I can write pretty well any­where at any time. Writ­ing is al­most like ladies’ knit­ting—I al­ways have it with me.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 60, 1975)

    INTERVIEWER: “What is your work­ing sched­ule these days?”

    WODEHOUSE: “I still start the day off at sev­en-thir­ty. I do my daily dozen ex­er­cis­es, have break­fast, and then go into my study. When I am be­tween books, as I am now, I sit in an arm­chair and think and make notes. Be­fore I start a book I’ve usu­ally got four hun­dred pages of notes. Most of them are al­most in­co­her­ent. But there’s al­ways a mo­ment when you feel you’ve got a novel start­ed. You can more or less see how it’s go­ing to work out. After that it’s just a ques­tion of de­tail…If I’ve got a plot for a novel worked out and I can re­ally get go­ing on it, I work all the time. I work in the morn­ing, and then I prob­a­bly go for a walk or some­thing, and then I have an­other go at the nov­el. I find that from four to seven is a par­tic­u­larly good time for work­ing. I never work after din­ner. It’s the plots that I find so hard to work out. It takes such a long time to work one out. I like to think of some scene, it does­n’t mat­ter how crazy, and work back­ward and for­ward from it un­til even­tu­ally it be­comes quite plau­si­ble and fits neatly into the sto­ry.”

    INTERVIEWER: “How many words do you usu­ally turn out on a good day?”

    WODEHOUSE: “Well, I’ve slowed up a good deal now. I used to write about two thou­sand words. Now I sup­pose I do about one thou­sand.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you work seven days a week?”

    WODEHOUSE: “Oh, yes, rather. Al­ways.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 84, 1984)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you work best at any par­tic­u­lar time of the day?”

    ROTH: “I work all day, morn­ing and after­noon, just about every day. If I sit there like that for two or three years, at the end I have a book.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you think other writ­ers work such long hours?”

    ROTH: “I don’t ask writ­ers about their work habits. I re­ally don’t care. Joyce Carol Oates says some­where that when writ­ers ask each other what time they start work­ing and when they fin­ish and how much time they take for lunch, they’re ac­tu­ally try­ing to find out”Is he as crazy as I am?" I don’t need that ques­tion an­swered."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 203, 2010)

    INTERVIEWER: “What time of day do you do most of your writ­ing?”

    BRADBURY: “I write all the time. I get up every morn­ing not know­ing what I’m go­ing to do. I usu­ally have a per­cep­tion around dawn when I wake up. I have what I call the the­ater of morn­ing in­side my head, all these voices talk­ing to me. When they come up with a good metaphor, then I jump out of bed and trap them be­fore they’re gone. That’s the whole se­cret: to do things that ex­cite you. Al­so, I al­ways have taken naps. That way, I have two morn­ings!”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 76, 1983)

    INTERVIEWER: “What are your writ­ing habits like? Are you al­ways work­ing on a sto­ry?”

    CARVER: “When I’m writ­ing, I write every day. It’s lovely when that’s hap­pen­ing. One day dove­tail­ing into the next. Some­times I don’t even know what day of the week it is. The”pad­dle-wheel of days," John Ash­bery has called it. When I’m not writ­ing, like now, when I’m tied up with teach­ing du­ties as I have been the last while, it’s as if I’ve never writ­ten a word or had any de­sire to write. I fall into bad habits. I stay up too late and sleep in too long. But it’s okay. I’ve learned to be pa­tient and to bide my time. I had to learn that a long time ago. Pa­tience. If I be­lieved in signs, I sup­pose my sign would be the sign of the tur­tle. I write in fits and starts. But when I’m writ­ing, I put in a lot of hours at the desk, ten or twelve or fifteen hours at a stretch, day after day. I love that, when that’s hap­pen­ing. Much of this work time, un­der­stand, is given over to re­vis­ing and rewrit­ing. There’s not much that I like bet­ter than to take a story that I’ve had around the house for a while and work it over again. It’s the same with the po­ems I write. I’m in no hurry to send some­thing off just after I write it, and I some­times keep it around the house for months do­ing this or that to it, tak­ing this out and putting that in. It does­n’t take that long to do the first draft of the sto­ry, that usu­ally hap­pens in one sit­ting, but it does take a while to do the var­i­ous ver­sions of the sto­ry. I’ve done as many as twenty or thirty drafts of a sto­ry. Never less than ten or twelve drafts. It’s in­struc­tive, and heart­en­ing both, to look at the early drafts of great writ­ers. I’m think­ing of the pho­tographs of gal­leys be­long­ing to Tol­stoy, to name one writer who loved to re­vise. I mean, I don’t know if he loved it or not, but he did a great deal of it. He was al­ways re­vis­ing, right down to the time of page proofs. He went through and rewrote War and Peace eight times and was still mak­ing cor­rec­tions in the gal­leys. Things like this should hearten every writer whose first drafts are dread­ful, like mine are."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 127, 1991)

    “For some rea­son or other I was born an avid ob­server and wit­ness. Both my par­ents were tremen­dous watch­ers of the world. I can re­mem­ber from my child­hood that one of the things my mother loved most was just to drive down­town, park, and sit in the car watch­ing peo­ple walk by. Eu­ro­peans and Mid­dle East­ern­ers do that in their pi­az­zas and souks. Of course, if we try it now in Bryant Park or Cen­tral Park, we’re dead by sun­down. But I love to watch the world, and that vi­sual ex­pe­ri­ence be­comes, in a way I could­n’t be­gin to chart or de­scribe, the knowl­edge I pos­sess; that knowl­edge pro­duces what­ever it is that I write. From the very be­gin­ning of my se­ri­ous adult work, when I was a se­nior in col­lege, my writ­ing has emerged by a process over which I have al­most no more con­scious con­trol than over the growth of my fin­ger­nails. The best I can do is to live as if I were train­ing for the Olympics. I try to keep my mind, which is an or­gan of some­thing called my body, in the best pos­si­ble phys­i­cal shape; if I do that, I find that it does my work for me. I think artists of al­most all sorts would say that—from great ath­letes and dancers to po­ets and com­posers. There’s a huge amount of dis­ci­pline and train­ing and spe­cific tech­nique that can be learned; but ul­ti­mately it’s a mat­ter of ar­riv­ing each morn­ing at the desk and find­ing that the cis­tern filled up in the night—or that it did­n’t, which is mostly my fault…I wish I had a lit­tle bit less of a one-track mind; but the cre­at­ing, un­con­scious por­tion of my mind works best and most re­li­ably when it’s al­lowed to do one thing. I’ve men­tioned this end­lessly in in­ter­views and to stu­dents, but a nov­el­ist friend of mine said one of my fa­vorite things: The un­con­scious is like chil­dren and dogs. It loves rou­tine and hates sur­pris­es. If you’ll think about that, there are prob­a­bly no ex­cep­tions. If you get your whole mind to where it’s sup­posed to be at nine o’­clock to­mor­row morn­ing—or you name the hour—what­ever the chore is, your chances are far bet­ter for do­ing the chore if you feed your mind when it ex­pects to be fed and then let it do what you’ve told it to. The mind, after all, re­sides in a phys­i­cal or­gan—the brain, whose needs are known.”

    INTERVIEWER: “The un­con­scious is a great re­source, I think, for all se­ri­ous writ­ers. Quite clearly in your writ­ing about your own writ­ing you’ve made it clear that you rely upon that dream­ing pool.”

    PRICE: “I think it’s so ab­solutely amaz­ing—that I go to sleep at night and what­ev­er’s needed in the morn­ing is there. I don’t say this in rapt self­-love, but I do as­sume that al­most all the work I’ve writ­ten has been of in­ter­est and use to a few more hu­man be­ings than my­self, so I as­sume that I’m not psy­chot­ic.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Or that we are!”

    PRICE: “Alas, a great many of our hu­man broth­ers pro­duce nar­ra­tive that is ab­solutely sealed from you and me. We presently call them schiz­o­phrenic; and there are prob­a­bly a dozen within three blocks of here as I speak, if not more. You and I, when we un­bur­den our un­con­scious at break­fast, or in what­ever we make in the course of a day, tend to pro­duce some­thing that ac­tu­ally com­mu­ni­cates with an­other mem­ber of the species Homo sapi­ens; so we’re not stuck with that aw­ful but preva­lent curse,”the sound of one hand clap­ping." Some­one whom we call mad in our cul­ture is stuck with the sound of one hand clap­ping, and I’m grate­ful that my un­con­scious has­n’t stuck me with that, though a time or two it’s backed me up a mute, black al­ley!"

    …“Some­times I’ll say, I’m go­ing to be­gin it full time on my fa­ther’s birth­day, or, I’m go­ing to be­gin it on the an­niver­sary of so-and-so. That might be six weeks ahead or three weeks ahead, and I pack in the com­plex car­bo­hy­drates and be­gin the phys­i­cal and men­tal train­ing. And then that morn­ing I cut the rib­bons and go in and start it—the ac­tual nov­el, no more plans or guess­es. In re­cent years I’ve writ­ten at the rate of some­where be­tween three to ten pages a day; and that will con­sti­tute a first draft—writ­ten six days a week, more or less all day and some­times at night. Then I’ll com­pletely run the first draft back through my fin­gers on the key­board. Then I’ll print it out. Then I start re­vis­ing by hand on pa­per. After x num­ber of those cy­cles, I feel that it’s fin­ished; it falls off the tree, and I ship it away.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 175, 2002)

    INTERVIEWER: “De­scribe the apart­ment in Long Is­land.”

    POWERS: “It was a fan­tas­tic kind of monk’s cell. It had an ex­tremely low ceil­ing that I could­n’t stand up­right in. I’m six-foot-four, so stand­ing up in any kind of low-ceil­ing room be­comes a real or­deal. I wrote on a bed with a note­book com­puter rest­ing on my chest. I would get up at the crack of dawn and have an un­bro­ken day. I was av­er­ag­ing maybe thir­teen hun­dred words a day. Which is dou­ble what I usu­ally do.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Where do you write now?”

    POWERS: “In the co­coon of my bed. My dream has al­ways been to sus­pend my­self in space when I write, and ly­ing hor­i­zon­tal in bed is the clos­est to do­ing that. You’re at the still point of the turn­ing world. The only thing that I am touch­ing is a cord­less, one-pound key­board. The sense of um­bil­i­cal con­nec­tion to the world is min­i­mal. I’m free to make my­self a re­cip­i­ent of all this re­mem­bered ag­i­ta­tion—to”rec­ol­lect in tran­quil­i­ty," to use Wordsworth’s phrase. Since the com­puter is on the other side of the other side of the room, I don’t feel as if I’m teth­ered to it; the ma­chine is a dis­tant, non-in­tru­sive re­cip­i­ent of the words that I’m think­ing across the room. Later I go and col­lect them and note where they’ve stuck."

    INTERVIEWER: “When do you write?”

    POWERS: “Pretty much from sunup to sun­down. The day will start with a pe­riod of last-day re­vi­sion at the sen­tence lev­el, which for me func­tions sim­ply to bring me from zero to six­ty-five and back into the full reg­is­ter of the piece, where I was when I left off the night be­fore. That may be forty-five min­utes to an hour. At which point I hit my cruis­ing speed, and I can do that for a long pe­riod of time with­out many breaks. I bring squir­reled-away food to the bed and pretty much work through what­ever pe­riod of sus­te­nance I give my­self. I’ll con­tinue to do that till late after­noon. The pe­riod from seven in the morn­ing till five in the evening will be in­ter­mixed with read­ing when the oc­ca­sion calls for it. But as the day goes on, that ra­tio be­tween stop­ping to read for re­search and re­sum­ing writ­ing will shift in fa­vor of read­ing. I’ll read from five or six till ten or eleven at night. And that’s a nice way to prime the pump for the next day.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 144, 1996):

    It’s im­por­tant to me to have a place to work out­side of where I live. So I have al­ways found my­self an office. I go off to work as if I had a clock to punch; at the end of the day I come home as if I had just got­ten off the com­muter train. I need to im­pose a struc­ture on my­self. Oth­er­wise I can go three or four days with­out look­ing at a piece of pa­per. I try to keep it as close to a nine-to-five job as I’m able, prob­a­bly closer to ten to four. I spend the first hour read­ing the Daily News, an­swer­ing phone calls, lin­ing up pa­per clips, do­ing any­thing but work­ing. To­ward the end of the end of the morn­ing, I re­al­ize I have no choice but to fi­nally get to work. Some­times I’ll be trans­ported by the work; some­times it just won’t come. The most painful part of the day is get­ting to the mo­ment when I see I have no choice but to do it.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 217, 2012)

    In the morn­ing I try not to have much to do with the pub­lish­ing house. I pre­fer to sim­ply write, to work on my books. Then, around three thir­ty, I go to Adel­phi and I stay there un­til sev­en. Well, in truth, that is how things should be, but they are dis­rupted prac­ti­cally every day. Every morn­ing I am called, I have to call, there are e-mails com­ing, so I never feel to­tally sep­a­rated from the pub­lish­ing house. Thank­fully I have such bright col­lab­o­ra­tors, peo­ple with whom I get on very well, and we don’t have those end­less meet­ings that are the tor­ture of pub­lish­ing life. So I can’t com­plain. I am very happy it works this way. For a house that pub­lishes by now eighty to ninety new ti­tles a year, it is in­dis­pens­able. On Fri­day, be­fore you came, we had one of those rit­u­als called a “sales con­fer­ence,” and I had to talk about twen­ty-eight books, giv­ing each roughly three min­utes, so that our eighty sales­peo­ple would go off and speak for thirty sec­onds to the book­sellers about each of the same books. It is rather har­row­ing.

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 68, 1994)

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you work every day?”

    SNODGRASS: “I try to, but I don’t ac­tu­ally do it. I try to get up ear­ly. When you get old you quit sleep­ing, or at least when I got old I quit sleep­ing. I wake up often at five or six in the morn­ing, so I fig­ure, OK, the first thing every morn­ing I will go to my desk and put in at least an hour or two. And I do. Some­times.”

  • (The Art of Po­etry No. 1, 1959)

    INTERVIEWER: “There’s a good deal of in­ter­est now in the process of writ­ing. I won­der if you could talk more about your ac­tual habits in writ­ing verse. I’ve heard you com­posed on the type­writer.”

    ELIOT: “Partly on the type­writer. A great deal of my new play, The El­der States­man, was pro­duced in pen­cil and pa­per, very rough­ly. Then I typed it my­self first be­fore my wife got to work on it. In typ­ing my­self I make al­ter­ations, very con­sid­er­able ones. But whether I write or type, com­po­si­tion of any length, a play for ex­am­ple, means for me reg­u­lar hours, say ten to one. I found that three hours a day is about all I can do of ac­tual com­pos­ing. I could do pol­ish­ing per­haps lat­er. I some­times found at first that I wanted to go on longer, but when I looked at the stuff the next day, what I’d done after the three hours were up was never sat­is­fac­to­ry. It’s much bet­ter to stop and think about some­thing else quite differ­ent.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Did you ever write any of your non­dra­matic po­ems on sched­ule? Per­haps the Four Quar­tets?”

    ELIOT: “Only”oc­ca­sion­al" verse. The Quar­tets were not on sched­ule. Of course the first one was writ­ten in ’35, but the three which were writ­ten dur­ing the war were more in fits and starts. In 1939 if there had­n’t been a war I would prob­a­bly have tried to write an­other play. And I think it’s a very good thing I did­n’t have the op­por­tu­ni­ty. From my per­sonal point of view, the one good thing the war did was to pre­vent me from writ­ing an­other play too soon. I saw some of the things that were wrong with Fam­ily Re­union, but I think it was much bet­ter that any pos­si­ble play was blocked for five years or so to get up a head of steam. The form of the Quar­tets fit­ted in very nicely to the con­di­tions un­der which I was writ­ing, or could write at all. I could write them in sec­tions and I did­n’t have to have quite the same con­ti­nu­ity; it did­n’t mat­ter if a day or two elapsed when I did not write, as they fre­quently did, while I did war job­s."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 90, 1985)

    Al­though the Stones have lived in many parts of the coun­try, and for four years in Lon­don, changes of lo­cale have rarely al­tered the writer’s rou­tine: “I get up very ear­ly, drink a pot of tea, and go for as long as I can.” Stone says he stops only when he has left him­self a clear start­ing point for the fol­low­ing day. For weeks on end he will take few days off if his work is go­ing well. “My imag­i­na­tion will still be func­tion­ing,” he says with a laugh, “twelve hours after my brain is dead.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 152, 1998):

    INTERVIEWER: “How do you man­age the day-to-day stuff of writ­ing?”

    BANKS: “It has changed over the years, much as my life’s cir­cum­stances have changed. When I was younger and had young kids, I wrote from ten at night till two in the morn­ing and then got up in the morn­ing and got the kids ready for school and went off to my teach­ing job. Now that I am in my mid­dle fifties, hap­pily I have a lot more time but un­for­tu­nately I have a lot less en­er­gy. In the morn­ings I go down the hill to my cab­in—an old, ren­o­vated sug­ar­house that I’ve used as a stu­dio for the last eight years—and crank it up and work un­til I start to get stu­pid or at least start to feel stu­pid. Ac­tu­al­ly, I feel stu­pid rather quickly but usu­ally it’s per­fectly ob­vi­ous that I am stu­pid after about four to five hours.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Four or five hours is quite a bit of writ­ing.”

    BANKS: “But when you are work­ing well it goes by so fast. You look up and, my God, it’s one o’­clock and I’m hun­gry.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you try to keep on a reg­u­lar sched­ule?”

    BANKS: “I try. I am able most of the time to work seven days a week, al­though now and then I take a day or two off for a short hol­i­day or to come into the city on busi­ness. But gen­er­ally I work every day and then hold the after­noons free for every­thing from hik­ing in the moun­tains, to do­ing laun­dry, to an­swer­ing let­ters, to edit­ing, to pay­ing bills.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 186, 2005):

    INTERVIEWER: “Can you talk about your pro­ce­dure when you sit down at the desk?”

    RUSHDIE: “If you read the press you might get the im­pres­sion that all I ever do is go to par­ties. Ac­tu­al­ly, what I do for hours, every day of my life, is sit in a room by my­self. When I stop for the day I al­ways try to have some no­tion of where I want to pick up. If I’ve done that, then it’s a lit­tle eas­ier to start be­cause I know the first sen­tence or phrase. At least I know where in my head to go and look for it. Early on, it’s very slow and there are a lot of false starts. I’ll write a para­graph, and then the next day I’ll think, Nah, I don’t like that at all, or, I don’t know where it be­longs, but it does­n’t be­long here. Quite often it will take me months to get un­der­way. When I was younger, I would write with a lot more ease than I do now, but what I wrote would re­quire a great deal more rewrit­ing. Now I write much more slowly and I re­vise a lot as I go. I find that when I’ve got a bit done, it seems to re­quire less re­vi­sion than it used to. So it’s changed. I’m just look­ing for some­thing that gives me a lit­tle rush, and if I can get that, get a few hun­dred words down, then that’s got me through the day.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you get up in the morn­ing and start writ­ing first thing?”

    RUSHDIE:“Yes, ab­solute­ly. I don’t have any strange, oc­cult prac­tices. I just get up, go down­stairs, and write. I’ve learned that I need to give it the first en­ergy of the day, so be­fore I read the news­pa­per, be­fore I open the mail, be­fore I phone any­one, often be­fore I have a show­er, I sit in my pa­ja­mas at the desk. I do not let my­self get up un­til I’ve done some­thing that I think qual­i­fies as work­ing. If I go out to din­ner with friends, when I come home I go back to the desk be­fore go­ing to bed and read through what I did that day. When I wake up in the morn­ing, the first thing I do is to read through what I did the day be­fore. No mat­ter how well you think you’ve done on a given day, there will al­ways be some­thing that is un­der­imag­ined, some lit­tle thing that you need to add or sub­trac­t—and I must say, thank God for lap­tops, be­cause it makes it a lot eas­i­er. This process of crit­i­cally reread­ing what I did the day be­fore is a way of get­ting back in­side the skin of the book. But some­times I know ex­actly what I want to do and I sit down and start on it. So there’s no rule.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 210, 2011):

    INTERVIEWER: “What was your daily rou­tine like in those days?”

    DELANY: “At six-thirty or seven I’d get up, scram­ble Mar­i­lyn some eggs—she was eigh­teen, I was nine­teen; we’d been mar­ried that Au­gust—­make toast and coffee. She’d go out to work, and I’d start writ­ing. I’d work all day, with a cou­ple of breaks for ex­tracur­ric­u­lar sex in the lo­cal men’s rooms and a stop at the su­per­mar­ket for din­ner mak­ings. Right be­fore five, I’d start cook­ing again. In gen­er­al, I be­lieve I work a lot harder to­day than I did then. To­day I’m a five-o’­clock­-in-the-morn­ing ris­er. Al­though I do stare at the wall a lot.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Stare at the wall?”

    DELANY: “I think of my­self as a very lazy writer, though other peo­ple see it differ­ent­ly. My daugh­ter, who re­cently grad­u­ated from med­ical school, once told me, ‘Dad, I’ve never known any­one who works as hard as you. You’re up at four, five o’­clock in the morn­ing, you work all day, then you col­lapse. At nine o’­clock, you’re in bed, then you’re up the next morn­ing at four to start all over again.’”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 185, 2005):

    INTERVIEWER: “The long in­ter­val be­tween The Tran­sit of Venus and The Great Fire prompts a few nut­s-and-bolts ques­tions. First, do you write every day?”

    HAZZARD: “If only I could write every day. I look back to the far-off time when I did so, mostly early morn­ing and then late in the day. I do write in my head every day–I’m tempted to say all the time. One does in­stinc­tively re­serve a part of one­self as the writ­ing self, vis­it­ing it se­cretly while do­ing and say­ing all the daily things. I envy writ­ers who feel com­pelled to write–John Up­dike, for in­stance–who are over­flow­ing into re­views and ar­ti­cles and lec­tures. I have rarely felt that way–only when I was first writ­ing, one short story after an­oth­er, even though I had my bu­reau­cratic job then, still ful­l-time. Mostly I have to goad my­self to it. And these days I’m be­set by so many in­ter­rup­tions and by a sense of oblig­a­tion. And there are the pre­cious plea­sures. It is hard to do. Yet one is never happy un­less one is do­ing it.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 158, 1999):

    There’s no bet­ter feel­ing in the world than to lay your head on the pil­low at night look­ing for­ward to get­ting up in the morn­ing and re­turn­ing to that desk. That’s real hap­pi­ness.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 161, 2000):

    Of course, if you’re very, very luck­y—and I have been luck­y—the first stir­rings of the next story come. With a nov­el, you’re locked-in, com­mit­ted, and you sure do know what you’re go­ing to be do­ing to­mor­row morn­ing…After I fin­ished East Is East in 1990, I felt ex­hil­a­rat­ed. I was up in the moun­tains, and I had an en­tire day to think about things—the kind of day you have when you’re a child, where there is noth­ing to do but won­der and en­joy. At nine o’­clock in the morn­ing I was sit­ting in the woods read­ing a book. I napped, hiked, fished, felt the sun warm on my face. Next day I was so bored I started a new sto­ry…I re­ally think it would be diffi­cult to write were I to know that no one would ever read it. I sup­pose I would any­way—as a writer, you must do it . . . you re­ally have no choice. Like every­one, I was dealt my share of prob­lems, but I also burn with a pure gem­like flame, if I can quote Pa­ter out of con­text. My flame, though, is more like a retro-rocket that launches me out of bed each morn­ing rigid with the ne­ces­sity of get­ting my hands round the throat of the world and ap­ply­ing a lit­tle per­sua­sive pres­sure.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 159, 1999):

    INTERVIEWER: “How do you or­ga­nize your work?”

    BEN JELLOUN: “I leave home every morn­ing and come here. I work all day, and go home to spend the evening with my fam­i­ly, my wife, and my four chil­dren.”

  • , as de­scribed by (The Art of Fic­tion No. 183, 2004):

    I be­gan this whole writ­ing en­ter­prise with the idea that you go to work in the morn­ing like a banker, then the work gets done. John Cheever used to tell how when he was a young man, liv­ing in New York with his wife, Mary, he’d put on his suit and hat every morn­ing and get in the el­e­va­tor with the other mar­ried men in his apart­ment build­ing. These guys would all get out in the lobby but Cheev­er’d keep go­ing down into the base­ment, where the su­per had let him set up a card table. It was so hot down there he had to strip to his un­der­wear. So he’d sit in his box­ers and write all morn­ing, and at lunchtime he’d put his suit back on and take the el­e­va­tor up with the other hus­band­s—­men used to come home for lunch in those days—and then he’d go back to the base­ment in his suit and strip down for the after­noon’s work. This was an im­por­tant idea for me—that an artist was some­one who worked, not some spe­cial be­ing ex­empt from the claims of or­di­nary life.

  • To­bias Wolff (The Art of Fic­tion No. 183, 2004)

    INTERVIEWER: “So do you go to work every day like Cheev­er?”

    WOLFF: “Gen­er­ally I do.”

    INTERVIEWER: “Do you write in the house?”

    WOLFF: “No, I have a study in the base­ment of the uni­ver­sity li­brary. They offered me a nice place to work with a view of the Stan­ford hills, and I turned it down for this dump in the stacks be­cause I’m so eas­ily dis­tract­ed. All I need is a win­dow to not write. The only books I keep with me are a dic­tio­nary and some other ref­er­ence books. If I have a good novel in the room with me, I’ll end up read­ing that. Writ­ing’s hard. You’ll take any out, if you can. I work best away from the house be­cause I’m too tempted to check for calls and my mail and deal with trades­men and run an er­rand, go out for lunch.”

    INTERVIEWER: “What’s your writ­ing day like?”

    WOLFF: “Bor­ing, if you’re not me. I take a walk or go for a swim, then go to work, eat, take a walk, write, come home. I never go to movies about writ­ers be­cause writ­ers lead very bor­ing lives if they’re ac­tu­ally work­ing. When I was a kid and saw these pic­tures of Hem­ing­way on sa­fari or fish­ing in Ida­ho, or Fitzger­ald in Paris, I thought, What an ex­cit­ing life writ­ers must lead. What I did­n’t know is that’s what they do when they’re not writ­ing. What’s ex­cit­ing is find­ing a word that’s been dodg­ing you for days, or de­cid­ing to cut some­thing you’ve spent weeks on. The ex­cite­men­t’s in the writ­ing. It does­n’t offer much in the way of dra­ma, I’m afraid. Rou­tine be­comes in­valu­able to writ­ers, and that’s why once they hit their stride, their bi­ogra­phies make very poor ma­te­r­i­al.”

    “Think about the way other peo­ple work—lawyers, for ex­am­ple. They get up from their desk, they walk into the door­way of the office next door, and say, Hey, do you re­mem­ber that Warthog v. Warthog case from two years ago? and they talk about it, and that’s work. They go out, meet clients and take de­po­si­tions, they have meet­ings where they dis­cuss strate­gies for pur­su­ing a par­tic­u­lar case—it’s a very so­cial pro­fes­sion. I won­der how much of their time is ac­tu­ally spent dead alone, pro­duc­ing hard soli­tary thought for hours a day. That’s what writ­ing is and in that way it’s very hard work and it ab­solutely re­quires all the con­di­tions that make one a bore: You have to be alone a lot, you have to be rather seden­tary, you have to be a crea­ture of rou­tine, you have to fetishize your soli­tude, and you have to be­come very, very selfish about your time.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 89, 1985):

    INTERVIEWER: “Work­ing here at the ranch must make your writ­ing habits a lot differ­ent than those of most writ­ers. What kind of rou­tine do you have?”

    McGUANE: “Let me give you what my dream day would be, if I could stick to it. It would be to get up ear­ly, get all the horses and cat­tle fed so that would­n’t be hang­ing over our heads, eat a bowl of ce­real and make some coffee, and then go to some re­ally com­fort­able place and just read for three or four hours. Most of my morn­ing read­ing for the past ten years has been some form of re­me­dial read­ing, my per­sonal list of things I feel I should have read, all those books that make me feel less than pre­pared when I sit down as a writer. For ex­am­ple, this last year dur­ing the win­ter—a sea­son when I have lots of time to read here—I read the King James Old Tes­ta­ment. I’d never read it. I’ve known for thirty years that I was sup­posed to have read it, but I never did. All this type of read­ing is a steady scrub­bing away of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of guilt, of the fear of pulling my punches when I sit down to write be­cause I feel in­ad­e­quate in my ed­u­ca­tion. I think you should ex­pect a writer to be a true man of lit­er­a­ture—he should know what the hell he’s talk­ing about, he should be a pro­fes­sion­al. So this kind of prepa­ra­tion is one thing I’m try­ing to get cov­ered, know­ing, of course, it’s a life­time pro­ject. Any­way, after I read I spend three or four hours in the after­noon writ­ing, and then I go back work­ing on the horses un­til din­ner­time comes, eat din­ner, and then spend the evening read­ing things I just want to read un­til it’s time to go to sleep. Of course, lots of things go wrong with that sched­ule. Part of it de­pends on the sea­son, and there’s days you’ve promised to do things with the chil­dren, or days you’d rather go fish­ing or hunt­ing, or days when there’s a prob­lem with a horse and it takes four hours to get it straight­ened out. But that’s the pat­tern I strive for.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 123, 1991):

    INTERVIEWER: “It would­n’t be a Paris Re­view in­ter­view un­less we asked you about your work habits.”

    WOLFE: “To tell you the truth, I al­ways find that a fas­ci­nat­ing part of the Paris Re­view in­ter­views. That’s the kind of thing writ­ers al­ways want to know: What are other writ­ers do­ing? I use a type­writer. My wife gave me a word proces­sor two Christ­mases ago that still stares at me ac­cus­ingly from a desk in my office. One day I am go­ing to be com­pelled to learn how to use it. But for the time be­ing, I use a type­writer. I set my­self a quo­ta—ten pages a day, triple-spaced, which means about eigh­teen hun­dred words. If I can fin­ish that in three hours, then I’m through for the day. I just close up the lunch box and go home­—that’s the way I think of it any­way. If it takes me twelve hours, that’s too bad, I’ve got to do it. To me, the idea”I’m go­ing to work for six hours" is of no use. I can waste time as hand­ily at the desk as I can win­dow-shop­ping, which is one of my fa­vorite di­ver­sions. So I try to be very me­thod­i­cal and force my­self to stick to that sched­ule."

    INTERVIEWER: “Is there any mnemonic de­vice to get you go­ing?”

    WOLFE: “I al­ways have a clock in front of me. Some­times, if things are go­ing bad­ly, I will force my­self to write a page in a half an hour. I find that can be done. I find that what I write when I force my­self is gen­er­ally just as good as what I write when I’m feel­ing in­spired. It’s mainly a mat­ter of forc­ing your­self to write. There’s a mar­velous es­say that Sin­clair Lewis wrote on how to write. He said most writ­ers don’t un­der­stand that the process be­gins by ac­tu­ally sit­ting down.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 40, 1967):

    Nabokov arises early in the morn­ing and works. He does his writ­ing on fil­ing cards, which are grad­u­ally copied, ex­pand­ed, and re­arranged un­til they be­come his nov­els. Dur­ing the warm sea­son in Mon­treux he likes to take the sun and swim at a pool in a gar­den near the ho­tel. His ap­pear­ance at six­ty-eight is heavy, slow, and pow­er­ful. He is eas­ily turned to both amuse­ment and an­noy­ance, but prefers the for­mer. His wife, an un­equiv­o­cally de­voted col­lab­o­ra­tor, is vig­i­lant over him, writ­ing his let­ters, tak­ing care of busi­ness, oc­ca­sion­ally even in­ter­rupt­ing him when she feels he is say­ing the wrong thing. She is an ex­cep­tion­ally good-look­ing, trim, and sober-eyed woman. The Nabokovs still go off on fre­quent but­ter­fly­-hunt­ing trips, though the dis­tances they travel are lim­ited by the fact that they dis­like fly­ing.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 118, 1990)

    In per­son, what first im­presses many peo­ple is Steg­n­er’s ap­pear­ance. Even at the age of eighty-one he looks ex­cep­tion­ally youth­ful and hand­some. He wears his clothes well, whether an old bathrobe or a work­shirt and jeans. He rises ear­ly—­some­times too early for a house­guest from Ida­ho—break­fasts, then re­treats be­fore first light to the man­ual type­writer in­side the study ad­join­ing the Steg­ner home. Both the house and the study over­look the woods and mead­ows of the Los Al­tos Hills. On cool morn­ings, Steg­ner lights a low fire in the stove and then writes un­til lunch.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 146, 1996):

    BUCKLEY: “When I sit down to start writ­ing every day in Switzer­land, which is usu­ally about a quar­ter to five to about sev­en-fifteen—two and a half hours—it’s in­con­ceiv­able to me that I would write less than fifteen hun­dred words dur­ing that time. That’s much slower than Trol­lope, even though I have faster tools. So, al­though I write fast, I’m not a phe­nom­e­nally fast writer.”

    “Speech­writ­ers get told by the pres­i­dent that he’s go­ing to de­clare war the next day and to please draft an ap­pro­pri­ate speech. And they do it. Or Tom Wick­er—I’ve seen him write ten thou­sand words fol­low­ing one day’s trial pro­ceed­ings, and all that stuff will ap­pear in The New York Times. Now it’s not bel­letrism, but it’s good jour­nal­is­tic crafts­man­ship.”

    INTERVIEWER: “There’s no au­to­matic merit in be­ing fast or slow. What­ever works, works. Georges Simenon, who was a phe­nom­e­non of pro­duc­tion, al­ways got him­self in shape to write each nov­el. I hate to men­tion this in your pres­ence, but he usu­ally wrote his nov­els in seven or eight days. He had a phys­i­cal be­fore­hand, I think per­haps par­tic­u­larly for blood pres­sure, and then went into a kind of trance and wrote the nov­el, and then was or­dered by his doc­tor to go off and take a va­ca­tion.”

    BUCKLEY: “I’ll go you one bet­ter. Rotzan Is­ag­n­er, who does not go to sleep un­til he has fin­ished the book.”12

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 12, 1956):

    INTERVIEWER: “Then what would be the best en­vi­ron­ment for a writer?”

    FAULKNER: “Art is not con­cerned with en­vi­ron­ment ei­ther; it does­n’t care where it is. If you mean me, the best job that was ever offered to me was to be­come a land­lord in a broth­el. In my opin­ion it’s the per­fect mi­lieu for an artist to work in. It gives him per­fect eco­nomic free­dom; he’s free of fear and hunger; he has a roof over his head and noth­ing what­ever to do ex­cept keep a few sim­ple ac­counts and to go once every month and pay off the lo­cal po­lice. The place is quiet dur­ing the morn­ing hours, which is the best time of the day to work. There’s enough so­cial life in the evening, if he wishes to par­tic­i­pate, to keep him from be­ing bored; it gives him a cer­tain stand­ing in his so­ci­ety; he has noth­ing to do be­cause the madam keeps the books; all the in­mates of the house are fe­males and would de­fer to him and call him”sir." All the boot­leg­gers in the neigh­bor­hood would call him “sir.” And he could call the po­lice by their first names."

    INTERVIEWER: “Can you say how you started as a writer?”

    FAULKNER: “I was liv­ing in New Or­leans, do­ing what­ever kind of work was nec­es­sary to earn a lit­tle money now and then. I met . We would walk about the city in the after­noon and talk to peo­ple. In the evenings we would meet again and sit over a bot­tle or two while he talked and I lis­tened. In the forenoon I would never see him. He was se­clud­ed, work­ing. The next day we would re­peat. I de­cided that if that was the life of a writer, then be­com­ing a writer was the thing for me. So I be­gan to write my first book. At once I found that writ­ing was fun. I even for­got that I had­n’t seen Mr. An­der­son for three weeks un­til he walked in my door, the first time he ever came to see me, and said,”What’s wrong? Are you mad at me?" I told him I was writ­ing a book. He said, “My God,” and walked out. When I fin­ished the book—it was —I met Mrs. An­der­son on the street. She asked how the book was go­ing, and I said I’d fin­ished it. She said, “Sher­wood says that he will make a trade with you. If he does­n’t have to read your man­u­script he will tell his pub­lisher to ac­cept it.” I said, “Done,” and that’s how I be­came a writer."

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 65, 1977)

    INTERVIEWER: “What is a work­ing day like for you?”

    GASS: “Well, we usu­ally get break­fast and the kids off to school by nine o’­clock, and I start to work soon after. It’s es­sen­tial that I be in the midst of some­thing, so I try to quit work with new ma­te­r­ial that now needs re­vi­sion in the type­writer. In the morn­ing I can start right off work­ing on those re­vi­sions and hope that by the end of the day the process of re­vis­ing will have sent me for­ward into some new ma­te­r­i­al. If I get in­ter­rupted while I am, in a sense, at the end of some­thing—a sen­tence, a para­graph, a scene—then I’m li­able to have trou­ble get­ting back into things. At Yaddo I worked all morn­ing, all after­noon, a great part of the evening, every day. At home I usu­ally work in the morn­ing and for a cou­ple of hours in the after­noon. Lately I have been get­ting some work done in the evening, but that’s be­cause I have not been teach­ing at all. I haven’t been talk­ing about grad­ing pa­pers, prepar­ing lec­tures, that sort of thing. The real writ­ing process is sim­ply sit­ting there and typ­ing the same old lines over and over and over and over and sheet after sheet after sheet gets filled with the same shit. And then I dis­card or aban­don ma­te­r­ial for weeks, months, dur­ing which time I start some­thing new. Usu­ally I have a great many projects go­ing at the same time—in the sense that a start of some sort has been made. I get very tense work­ing, so I often have to get up and wan­der around the house. It is very bad on my stom­ach. I have to be mad to be work­ing well any­way, and then I am mad about the way things are go­ing on the page in ad­di­tion. My ul­cer flour­ishes and I have to chew lots of pills. When my work is go­ing well, I am usu­ally sort of sick.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 36, 1965)

    I get up about nine o’­clock and or­der break­fast; I hate to go out for break­fast. I work usu­ally un­til about two o’­clock or two-thir­ty, when I like to have a sand­wich and a glass of milk, which takes about ten min­utes. I’ll work through un­til six or seven o’­clock. Then if I’m see­ing peo­ple or go­ing out, I’ll go out, have a few drinks, come back, and maybe do a lit­tle read­ing and go to bed. I go to bed pretty ear­ly. I don’t make my­self work. It’s just the thing I want to do. To be com­pletely alone in a room, to know that there’ll be no in­ter­rup­tions and I’ve got eight hours is just ex­actly what I wan­t—yeah, just par­adise.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 71, 1982)

    MAXWELL: “If you have any rea­son in the world for want­ing to know, I’ll tell you . . . I like to work in my bathrobe and pa­ja­mas, after break­fast, un­til I sud­denly per­ceive, from what’s on the page in the type­writer, that I’ve lost my judg­ment. And then I stop. It’s usu­ally about twelve thir­ty. But I hate get­ting dressed. The clean­ing woman (who may not ap­prove of it, though she’s never said), my fam­i­ly, the el­e­va­tor men, the de­liv­ery boy from Grist­edes—all of them are used to see­ing me in this un­kempt con­di­tion. What it means to me is prob­a­bly sym­bol­ic—you can have me after I’ve got my trousers on, but not be­fore. When I re­tired from The New Yorker they offered me an office, which was very gen­er­ous of them be­cause they’re shy on space, but I thought,”What would I do with an office at The New Yorker? I would have to put my trousers on and ride the sub­way down­town to my type­writer. No good.""

    INTERVIEWER: “Maybe once you got there you could strip down.”

    MAXWELL: “I don’t think it would work. It is­n’t the same as go­ing straight from the break­fast table.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 125, 1991)

    I am a crea­ture of habit. As soon as I was able to es­tab­lish my writ­ing habit­s—which are to start work in the morn­ing and write un­til hun­gry, then again in the after­noon un­til tired—I stuck to this rou­tine most of the days of the week. Once I had learned to com­pose as I wrote—to make cor­rec­tions as I went along with a crayon or mark­ing pen­cil—I would av­er­age eight to twelve pages a morn­ing. In time I learned that ran­dom break­s—walk­ing around, hav­ing a smoke, sav­ing the house from wood­peck­er­s—were cre­atively help­ful. They jogged the mind from its rut, re­solved im­pass­es, opened up un­fore­seen vis­tas. Since all of my books are closely re­lat­ed, thirty or forty pages into a new book, I would be­gin to have glimpses of where it was go­ing, and what would fol­low. Cer­e­mony in Lone Tree grew like a branch from a pas­sage in The World in the At­tic, The Field of Vi­sion from War Games, and so on. The dis­ad­van­tage of these links is that I was never en­cour­aged to stop and take stock, or to con­sider what the pub­lic was read­ing. For bet­ter or for worse, I was on a time sched­ule I had in­vent­ed, do­ing work I had as­signed to my­self. Re­cy­cling was part of the next step for­ward, or back­ward. The loop back be­fore the step for­ward be­gan with God’s Coun­try and My Peo­ple, a book of reap­praisal be­fore Fire Ser­mon and A Life. The mul­ti­voiced fic­tion of the fifties gave way to a rel­a­tively sim­ple nar­ra­tion—the in­dul­gently prodi­gal writer re­turn­ing to be­gin­nings.

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 108, 1989)

    INTERVIEWER: “When do you get up?”

    TREVOR: “Well, I used to get up at four o’­clock and do most of my work—e­spe­cially in the sum­mer—­be­tween half-past four and break­fast time. But I stopped do­ing that some time ago—it had be­come just straight­for­ward pun­ish­ment. I now start work at about twenty min­utes to eight and work un­til about twelve, and I might do a lit­tle more later in the day.”

  • (The Art of Fic­tion No. 5, 1954)

    INTERVIEWER: “How many pages do you turn out each day?”

    STYRON: “When I’m writ­ing steadi­ly—that is, when I’m in­volved in a project that I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in, one of those rare pieces that has a fore­see­able end—I av­er­age two-and-a-half or three pages a day, long­hand on yel­low sheets. I spend about five hours at it, of which very lit­tle is spent ac­tu­ally writ­ing. I try to get a feel­ing of what’s go­ing on in the story be­fore I put it down on pa­per, but ac­tu­ally most of this break­ing-in pe­riod is one long, fan­tas­tic day­dream, in which I think about any­thing but the work at hand. I can’t turn out slews of stuff each day. I wish I could. I seem to have some neu­rotic need to per­fect each para­graph—each sen­tence, even—as I go along.”

    INTERVIEWER: “And what time of the day do you find best for work­ing?”

    STYRON: “The after­noon. I like to stay up late at night and get drunk and sleep late. I wish I could break the habit but I can’t. The after­noon is the only time I have left and I try to use it to the best ad­van­tage, with a hang­over.”


  • Writ­ing Rou­tines
  • Daily Rit­u­als: How Artists Work, Cur­rey 2013
  • http­s://www.brain­pick­ings.org/2012/11/20/­dai­ly-rou­ti­nes-writ­ers/
  • The Mir­a­cle Morn­ing for Writ­ers: How to Build a Writ­ing Rit­ual That In­creases Your Im­pact and Your In­come, El­rod; http://­jamescle­ar.­com/­dai­ly-rou­ti­nes-writ­ers
  • http://www.s­late.­com/ar­ti­cles/art­s/­cul­ture­box/fea­tures/2013/­dai­ly_ritu­al­s/­dai­ly_ritu­al­s_is_wak­ing_up_ear­ly_the_se­cret_­to_artis­tic_­suc­cess.html
  • http­s://www.a­ma­zon.­com/Od­d-Type­-Writ­er­s-Ob­ses­sive-Tech­niques/d­p/0399159940/
  • When: The Sci­en­tific Se­crets of Per­fect Tim­ing, Pink
  • http­s://­word­counter.net/blog/2017/12/04/103207_the-dai­ly-word-counts-of-19-fa­mous-writ­er­s.html http­s://www.writ­er­swrite.­co.za­/the-dai­ly-word-counts-of-39-fa­mous-au­thors-1/
  • How to Write a Lot: A Prac­ti­cal Guide to Pro­duc­tive Aca­d­e­mic Writ­ing, Sil­via 2007

  1. An “abridged ver­sion” was re­pub­lished in 1981; it is fo­cused en­tirely on draft­ing/out­li­nes, with no hints of hav­ing asked about time of day, and is prob­a­bly not use­ful for my pur­pose.↩︎

  2. Hem­ing­way de­nies this in his 1958 Paris Re­view in­ter­view: "I don’t think I ever owned twenty pen­cils at one time. Wear­ing down seven num­ber-two pen­cils is a good day’s work."↩︎

  3. Cor­re­spon­dence v4, to Gertrude Ten­nant (De­cem­ber 25, 1876)↩︎

  4. We should note that con­sid­er­able doubt has been cast on both ego de­ple­tion and de­ci­sion fa­tigue as part of the Re­pro­ducibil­ity Cri­sis.↩︎

  5. The finds length of in­cu­ba­tion to be a mod­er­a­tor (longer=­bet­ter) but all in­cu­ba­tion pe­ri­ods are less than 2–3h and more often a few min­utes, and sleep was not used in any meta-an­a­lyzed stud­ies, so the in­cu­ba­tion effect lit­er­a­ture ap­pears to be un­help­ful on whether & how sleep might cause any ben­e­fits here.↩︎

  6. Hav­ing been in­volved with modafinil for a long time, I can say that in the anec­dotes I have read or talk­ing to peo­ple or in my , I have seen many peo­ple praise it for non­fic­tion writ­ing or pro­gram­ming, but I am not sure I have ever seen some­one de­scribe try­ing to write fic­tion on it (with one ex­cep­tion), and a not in­fre­quent com­plaint is that peo­ple feel less “cre­ative” on it.↩︎

  7. With the strik­ing ex­cep­tions of Balza­c’s love of coffee and writ­ers like or , who, how­ev­er, in a case of the “ex­cep­tion prov­ing the rule”, tended to write ‘semi­-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal’ fic­tion, and heav­ily in­dulged in am­phet­a­mines for sleep de­pri­va­tion to the point of , as­sisted by wide avail­abil­ity at the time due to asthma treat­ment and diet pre­scrip­tions, see Ras­mussen 2008, On Speed.↩︎

  8. Pro­por­tion/bi­no­mial test of re­sponses split by chrono­type:

    prop.test(matrix(c(196,193,467,633), nrow=2))
    #   2-sample test for equality of proportions with continuity correction
    # data:  matrix(c(196, 193, 467, 633), nrow = 2)
    # X-squared = 7.0006564, df = 1, p-value = 0.008147983
    # alternative hypothesis: two.sided
    # 95% confidence interval:
    #  0.01545214897 0.10848738773
    # sample estimates:
    #       prop 1       prop 2
    # 0.2956259427 0.2336561743
    df <- as.data.frame(matrix(c(196,193,467,633), nrow=2))
    df$V3 <- df$V1+df$V2
    df$Morning <- c(TRUE, FALSE)
    brm(V1 | trials(V3) ~ Morning, family=binomial(), data=df, chains=32)
    # ...Population-Level Effects:
    #             Estimate Est.Error l-95% CI u-95% CI Eff.Sample Rhat
    # Intercept      -1.19      0.08    -1.35    -1.03      28662 1.00
    # MorningTRUE     0.32      0.12     0.09     0.55      26242 1.00
  9. Let­ter to Ed­ward Gar­nett, 1898-03-29.↩︎

  10. The ‘hour of the wolf’ ap­pears to re­fer to be­fore dawn, pos­si­bly orig­i­nat­ing as ‘folk­lore’ in the In­g­mar Bergman film . So Mayes means 8AM1PM and 5AM8AM re­spec­tive­ly.↩︎

  11. One in­ter­view with a poet was bro­ken on the web­site and I could­n’t down­load it.↩︎

  12. I have been un­able to any au­thor named “Rotzan Is­ag­ner” or any sim­i­lar name; did TPR mis­-tran­scribe it?↩︎