# 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

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.

# Causes

“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 (Kurzban’s oppor­tu­nity cost model).
• 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 LaBerge finds that 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.

# Directions

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!)

# Research

• 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 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.

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 ($80). Response rates turned out to be lower and imbal­anced towards non­fic­tion respons­es, so I dou­bled the sam­ple with addi­tional sur­veys, com­bined with coupons. The final n = 2103 with n = 462 (22%) use­ful writer responses (CSV). Break­down: • Fic­tion: • “Fic­tion; after­noon–evening”: 76 • “Fic­tion; morn­ing”: 95 (55%) • Non­fic­tion: • “Non­fic­tion; after­noon–evening”: 87 • “Non­fic­tion; morn­ing”: 204 (70%) The result was the oppo­site of pre­dict­ed, with non­fic­tion writ­ers more likely to respond with morn­ing pref­er­ence (P≅1): df <- data.frame(Morning=c(95,204), Fiction=c(TRUE,FALSE), N=c(171,291)) df # Morning Fiction N # 1 95 TRUE 171 # 2 204 FALSE 291 prop.test(df$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 library(brms) 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 # Anecdotes ## Table 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 ## Examples 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… 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!” 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.” • 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. • 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. • (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.) • 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. • 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. • 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. • 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.) • 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.” • 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." • 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 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.” • 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.” • 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. • 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.” • 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." • 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.” • 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.” • 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.” • 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.” • 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.” 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.

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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."

• 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.”

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.”

• 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.”

• 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."

• 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.”

• 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!”

• 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.”

• 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.”

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.

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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."

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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 \$12, 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!”

• 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.”

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.

• 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.”

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.

• 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”
• “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.”

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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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!”

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.”

• 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.”

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.”

• 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.”

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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.)

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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."

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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!

• 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.

• 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.

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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

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.”

• 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.

• 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.

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

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

NYRB:

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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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!

• 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.

• 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.

• 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!

• 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.

• [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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.”).

• 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.

• 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!

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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!

• 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:

• 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
• Cyn­thia Ozick
• Czes­law Milosz
• Dany Lafer­rière
• David Gross­man
• David Igna­tow
• David Mamet
• David McCul­lough
• David Mitchell
• Deb­o­rah Eisen­berg
• Den­nis Cooper
• Derek Mahon
• Derek Wal­cott
• Don­ald Barthelme
• Don­ald Hall
• Don DeLillo
• Doris Less­ing
• Dorothy Parker
• E. B. White
• Edmund White
• Edna O’Brien
• Edward Albee
• Edward P. Jones
• Eileen Myles
• E. L. Doc­torow
• Elena Fer­rante
• Elena Poni­a­towska
• Elias Khoury
• Elie Wiesel
• Eliz­a­beth Bishop
• Eliz­a­beth Hard­wick
• Eliz­a­beth Spencer
• E. M. Forster
• Emmanuel Car­rère
• Ernest Hem­ing­way
• Ersk­ine Cald­well
• Eudora Welty
• Eugene Ionesco
• Eve­lyn Waugh
• Ezra Pound
• Francine du Plessix Gray
• Françoise Sagan
• François Mau­riac
• Frank Bidart
• Frank O’Con­nor
• Fred­er­ick Sei­del
• Fred­er­ick Wise­man
• Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez
• Gar­ri­son Keil­lor
• Gary Sny­der
• Gay Talese
• Geoff Dyer
• Geoffrey Hill
• 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
• Harold Pin­ter
• 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
• 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
• Jane Smi­ley
• 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
• John McPhee
• John Mor­timer
• John Simon
• John Stein­beck
• John Updike
• Jonathan Franzen
• Jonathan Lethem
• Jorge Luis Borges
• Jorge Sem­prún
• Jorie Gra­ham
• Josef Skvorecky
• Joseph Brod­sky
• Joseph Heller
• José Sara­m­ago
• Joyce Carol Oates
• Joyce Cary
• Joy Williams
• J. P. Don­leavy
• Julian Barnes
• Julio Cortázar
• Karl Shapiro
• Kather­ine Anne Porter
• Kay Ryan
• Kazuo Ishig­uro
• Ken Kesey
• Ken­z­aburo Oe
• Kings­ley Amis
• Kurt Von­negut
• Lás­zló Krasz­na­horkai
• Lawrence Dur­rell
• Lawrence Fer­linghetti
• Leon Edel
• Les Mur­ray
• Lewis Lapham
• Lil­lian Hell­man
• Lor­rie Moore
• Louis Auch­in­closs
• Louis Beg­ley
• Louise Erdrich
• Louis-Fer­di­nand Céline
• Luc Sante
• Luisa Valen­zuela
• Lydia Davis
• Mal­colm Cow­ley
• Manuel Puig
• Mar­garet Atwood
• Mar­garet Drab­ble
• Mar­guerite Young
• Mar­guerite Yource­nar
• Mar­i­anne Moore
• Mar­i­lynne Robin­son
• Mario Var­gas Llosa
• Mark Hel­prin
• Mark Leyner
• Mark Strand
• Mar­tin Amis
• Mary Karr
• Mary Lee Set­tle
• Mary McCarthy
• Matthew Weiner
• Mavis Gal­lant
• Max Frisch
• Max­ine Groff­sky
• Maya Angelou
• May Sar­ton
• Michael Frayn
• Michael Haneke
• Michael Hol­royd
• Michel Houelle­becq
• Milan Kun­dera
• Naguib Mah­fouz
• Nathalie Sar­raute
• Ned Rorem
• Neil Simon
• Nel­son Algren
• Nichol­son Baker
• Nor­man Mailer
• Nor­man Rush
• Octavio Paz
• Orhan Pamuk
• Pablo Neruda
• Pat Barker
• Patrick O’Brian
• Paula Fox
• Paul Auster
• Paul Bowles
• Paul Mul­doon
• P. D. James
• Pene­lope Lively
• Per­ci­val Everett
• Peter Carey
• Peter Cole
• Peter Levi
• Peter Matthiessen
• Peter Tay­lor
• P. G. Wode­house
• Philip Larkin
• Philip Levine
• Philip Roth
• P. L. Tra­vers
• Primo Levi
• Ralph Elli­son
• Ray­mond Carver
• R. Crumb
• Rebecca West
• Reynolds Price
• Richard Ford
• Richard Holmes
• Richard Howard
• Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhon­sky
• Richard Pow­ers
• Richard Price
• Richard Wilbur
• Rick Moody
• Robert Bly
• Robert Caro
• Robert Cree­ley
• Robert Fagles
• Robert Fitzger­ald
• Robert Frost
• Robert Giroux
• Robert Got­tlieb
• Robert Graves
• Robert Low­ell
• Roberto Calasso
• Robert Penn War­ren
• Robert Pin­sky
• Robert­son Davies
• Robert Stone
• Rosa­mond Lehmann
• Rus­sell Banks
• Salman Rushdie
• Sam Lip­syte
• Sam Shep­ard
• Samuel R. Delany
• Saul Bel­low
• Sea­mus Heaney
• Shelby Foote
• Shirley Haz­zard
• Simone de Beau­voir
• S. J. Perel­man
• Stacy Schiff
• Stan­ley Elkin
• Stan­ley Kunitz
• Stephen King
• Stephen Sond­heim
• Stephen Spender
• Susan Howe
• Susan Son­tag
• Tahar Ben Jel­loun
• T. Cor­aghes­san Boyle
• Ted Hughes
• Ten­nessee Williams
• Terry South­ern
• 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
• V. S. Naipaul
• V. S. Pritch­ett
• Walker Percy
• Wal­lace Shawn
• Wal­lace Steg­ner
• Wal­ter Mosley
• W. D. Snod­grass
• Wendy Wasser­stein
• W. H. Auden
• William Car­los Williams
• William Faulkner
• William F. Buck­ley Jr.
• William Gass
• William Gib­son
• 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.

• 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?”

• 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.”

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.”

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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."

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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."

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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?)

• 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.”

• 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.”

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.”

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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!”

• 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.”

• 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!”

• 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."

• 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."

• 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.”

• 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.”

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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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 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.

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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 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.

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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."

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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?”

• 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?”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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."

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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."

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• 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.”

• …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.

• 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.”

• 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."

• 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.”

• 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 alrea