7 Daily Writing Habits From Great Writers

Some of the greatest writers only wrote standing.*

Some, like Truman Capote and Mark Twain, wrote laying down in bed.

Capote told an interviewer, “I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy,” and Twain’s report is only slightly different:

“Just try it in bed sometime,” he told the New York Times in 1902. “I sit up with a pipe in my mouth and a board on my knees, and I scribble away. Thinking is easy work, and there isn’t much labor in moving your fingers sufficiently to get the words down.”

I’m always looking for a working habit that makes me motivated, organized, accountable, faster, more prolific — you get the picture.

My favorite method of discovering new writing habits is to read biographies of great writers.

Here’s a few of my favorite writing habits, I hope they help you!

Writing Habits From the Greats

First, keep this in mind.

Some writers like to write a number of words or pages every day, while others feel lucky to squeak out a few phrases.

Some people write for hours while others organize their thoughts meticulously on index cards before they even touch the keyboard.

There’s no “perfect fit” when it comes to writing habits, so test and adopt the one that works best for you (and let me know in the comments!).

1. Truman Capote. The author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood  claimed to be a “totally horizontal author.” He would write to the bed or lie down on a sofa, with a cigarette and a coffee. For the first few hours, the tea led to the coffee then the sherry to martini. He wrote his first and second drafts in pencil. Then still in bed, he took them back to the typewriter sitting in balance on his knees.

2. Philip Roth. One of the greatest living American writers, Roth writes standing and thinks walking. He claimed to walk a half mile for each page written. That’s around 8 or 9 football fields per page.

3. Vladimir Nabokov. The author of Lolita and Ada or ardor: Family history wrote standing, and he wrote everything on cards. That allowed him to write non-sequential scenes, and above all to reorganize his plans as he wished. His novel Ada or the ardor took more than 2000 cards.

4. Stephen King. In his book Writing: Memoirs of a job, Stephen King says he writes 10 pages a day, every day, even on public holidays. This mountain of daily writing has led to incredible results: King is one of the most prolific writers of our time.

5. Ernest Hemingway. On the humbler side of the coin, Hemingway wrote 500 words a day. He worked early in the morning to avoid the heat and write in peace and quiet. Here’s an interesting fact: Some people attribute the quote “write drunk, edit sober” to Hemingway. While he was an alcoholic, Hemingway said he never wrote intoxicated.

6. James Joyce. In the pantheon of the great writers of the last century, Joyce occupies an important place. And while the most prolific writers set a limit of words or pages, Joyce boasted of taking his time with every sentence.

A famous anecdote also runs on this subject. One day, Joyce crosses one of his friends in the street. He asks if he has had a good day of writing. And Joyce said yes very joyfully. That day he had written three sentences!

7. Joyce Carol Oates. This extremely prolific writer’s work can be read in her bibliography and she’s won many awards including the National Book Award.

She writes by hand, and prefers to write in the morning before breakfast. Joyce Carol Oates teaches writing, and on course days she says writing a good hour before leaving for her first teaching hour. On other days, when the writing goes well, she can work for hours without interruption and doesn’t eat breakfast until 2 or 3 pm.

So there you have it.

Those are some unique writing habits that have worked well for some of the greatest authors in the world.

The important thing is to find and adopt the writing habits that suit you best.

If you feel your motivation decline, try switching it up with a new habit from the list above!

Hope you have a great day, I’ll see you in the next one (:

-Josh

 

*(Kierkegaard, Charles DickensWinston Churchill, Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, Hemingway).

Bonus writing habit: Dan Brown, author of The Davinci Code, writes after hanging upside down for awhile. He calls it inversion therapy (and apparently, he’s not the only one).

Find Your Writing Voice by Mimicking the Masters

Everyone writes with a style related to their personality. It’s their unique sound, their voice.

Finding your writer’s voice is easier than you might think.

First, read the works of great writers to find a personality similar to yours.

Identifying which family of writers you can relate with is a great way to find your voice.

Every book grows from another book, and genius is when a new mind absorbs, transforms, and finally restores in an entirely original form, the inspiration of another.

Consider Mark Twain, who never stopped inspiring authors as great as Ernest Hemingway (and many others of course).

Carpenters, painters, sculptors, dancers and other artists, they all start by imitating the craftsmen they admire. So do the same!

Every author has a teacher or two (or several), people they look up to because they admire their unique style of writing.

It is by mimicking your favorite authors that you teach yourself to write.

Choosing Your Writing Teachers

Sometimes I meet people who aspire to write for a living but read very little.

That’s too bad because nothing will ever replace the experience that you acquire by reading, because it’s by reading that you get the opportunity to observe the craft of the master, and take their techniques and make them your own.

Imitate your favorite authors. 

I didn’t say plagiarize.

No, the strategy I advise is much easier:

  1. Use them as an ideal example of how to write well.
  2. Imitate them to understand them.
  3. Detach yourself from their writing and create your own style.

If you already know your writing teachers, choose from their works and continue in the same tone and with the same style.

To make sure your style is similar to that of your favorite author, ask a friend to read your text and the teacher’s, to try to tell them apart.

If your friend can’t tell the difference between the two, you’ve just taken a monumental step in your path of writing greatness.

Me personally, I like George Orwell, Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, and many others…

These were my valuable, dearly loved writing teachers, and some of them still are.

Who are yours? Have you ever tried to imitate them?

To your keyboards!

I’ll see you in the next one (:

-Josh

Steve Jobs’ Success: 3 Personal Stories & Business Advice From Steve Jobs

This video took awhile to make, but I think it’s well worth it — this advice could have saved me from years of business failure, and I hope it’ll do exactly that for you.

I don’t think I know anybody who doesn’t want to know the secrets to Steve Jobs’ success.

I rarely – scratch that – I NEVER advise to be like everybody else, but this may be the only exception, because IF I had listened to this speech and taken his stories and entrepreneurial advice to heart, I would’ve been successful MANY years sooner.

In fact, my first 3 years as an entrepreneur were a big, stinky fail of a mess because of lack of this advice.

Anyway, enjoy the Steve Jobs’ stories and advice!

-Josh (Write Right Rite)

Sleeping 3 Hours a Day: Polyphasic Sleep

By Josh Rueff on June 10, 2013

“Sleeping is a waste of time.”

-Leonardo da Vinci

Time is perhaps the most valuable thing a person can possess.

On what seems to be (but isn’t) an unrelated note – one of the most controversial and oft debated subjects is that of sleep. Especially polyphasic sleep.

Do we get enough sleep? Should we nap? Can we sleep less?

In today’s society a subculture of polyphasic sleepers is on the rise, claiming that 4, 3, and even 2 hours of sleep per night is enough. The prevailing theory is that REM sleep is the only sleep that seems to be of any importance, and you only get 3 hours of REM in an 8 hour block of sleep. When you train your body to sleep in fragments, your brain adapts, jumping right in to REM sleep instead of wasting 5 hours before and after.

As legend has it (and it may not be much more than that) Leonardo da Vinci slept only 2-3 hours per night, which is almost absurdly believable when you take into account the vast number of inventions, paintings, theories, and contributions to science the man is credited for.

Benjamin Franklin is another supposed proponent of the habit of polyphasic sleep, which may be a myth derived from his autobiography where he advises a sleep schedule of no more than 5 hours a night, and his habit of taking naps during the day. Not much, but also not polyphasic.

Tesla claimed to only sleep 2 hours a night, leading many to believe he was a polyphasic sleeper as well, since this is the only way a person can survive off of that little sleep. The fact that he admitted to napping occasionally to “recharge” gives further credit to the theory.

Thomas Edison called sleep “a heritage from our cave days.”

Polyphasic sleep is a schedule where you take a series of scheduled power naps throughout the day ranging from 15 to 30 minutes each. Some polyphasic sleep schedules allow for a core sleep block of 1 1/2 hours to 5 1/2 hours, followed by a series of power naps. The overall goal of course, is to gain more time, which is valid enough, and though the practice seems to go against nature, it turns out that most animals are actually polyphasic sleepers. So us humans, with our luxurious 7 to 10 hours of monophasic sleep happen to be the weird ones.

Sleep Schedules in Nature:

1. Giraffe: 2 hours per 24 hour day, fragmented.

2. Deer: 3 hours, fragmented.

3. Elephant: 4 hours, fragmented.

4. Lion: 20 hours, fragmented… Wait a minute – 20 hours???

Yes indeed. Well no actually, they don’t just sleep 20 hours, but they either sleep or rest for that long every day.

So why do lions get to rest so long when the other animals only sleep a tiny fraction of the night?

I don’t have a blatantly scientific answer for that, but my best guess? They can. They’re at the top of the food chain just like us, and just like us, they sleep more than they need to. It’s a luxury they’ve earned.

So how much time should we sleep?

It depends on what you want! If you love to sleep, those extra 3 or 4 hours sleeping in on a lazy Saturday may be your favorite thing in the world, and that’s okay! If you’re more like me, you may have a Christmas list of the things you want to do, and polyphasic sleep is the perfect answer – with an additional 30 (or more) hours a week, you pretty much stretch one week into two! That’s a capital (ist) dream.

This was too good for me to pass up, so I’ve recently begun my journey into the dark (veeery dark at times – you start to feel like a vampire being up at all hours of the night when everyone else is snoozing their life away) art of polyphasic sleep. I’m not going to lie, I feel like a superhuman, even though technically I’m doing the baby version of polyphasic sleep – the Everyman 3. Who knows, maybe I’ll start the notorious Uberman schedule of 6 20-minute naps every 4 hours, but I doubt it. This is all about what benefits me best, not how much I can deprive myself. Although 42 hours of extra time every week would be nice.

I have to say, even though this post is about sleeping less, I love the example the lion gives: If you’re able to conquer the world around you, you can choose whatever schedule that fits you best.

Josh

2014’s Top 7 Blogs for Freelance Writers

By Josh Rueff on Sep 16, 2014

If you’re a freelance writer, you need two things. Money and quality information to help you “get dat money.” Here’s my top 7 blogs for freelance writers, for the glorious year of 2014.

And the winners are …

 

Career Addict

This isn’t just a grand buffet of professional, lifestyle, and career advice — if you’re a freelance writer, it’s a great place to be featured. It’s only just started and it’s already soaring high on Google, which means heavy exposure for you — media attention that’ll keep getting stronger after its official launch. This is a two birds opportunity — featured articles complete with bio and byline, and a decent pay rate to boot. Get paid for marketing myself? Yes please.

A freelance writer review for career addict

 

Make a Living Writing

Carol Tice is amazing, there’s no two ways about it. Whether you’re just starting or you’ve been in the game for some time, you’ll find all the advice you need here. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be getting paid what I am now without the no-holds-barred honesty she shares with her crew. Although I haven’t tried to write there yet (silly me), she pays a solid rate for good guest bloggers last I checked.
makealivingwriting

 

Copyblogger

copybloggers review for freelance writers

This well-established site and blog is a glinting, shiny goldmine for freelance writers. The pay is great, especially if you’re just starting, but it’s the connections that matter most. When you write for Copyblogger, you find yourself writing for a wide variety of clients, and if you play your cards right, who knows, you may find yourself featured on one of the most influential content marketing sites in the digital ecosphere. Great freelance writer information, outstanding resources, and a crowd of opportunities to take advantage of.

 

Terrible Minds

Chuck Wendig is filthy, filthy man. And a ridiculously good writer. I don’t care if you were raised puritan and got your mouth rinsed with soap every time you cussed — if you’re a freelance writer, visit this blog. And one of his latest books, The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience is beyond brilliant. I haven’t even gotten halfway through it and I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

Chuck Wendig Terribleminds review

 

Men with Pens

James Chartrand’s blog is overflowing with freelance writer tips, tricks and information about copywriting, and there’s plenty for non-fiction writers as well. She (yes, she) is what I would call a genius if it didn’t sound so boring. Maybe a wizard, YES — she’s a copy and web design wizard. Without the beard and level 9 staff of the magus of course. I would kill to guest blog there, but due to overwhelming popularity and a surplus of clamoring freelance writers, they’ve shut down shop in the guest blogging arena.

men with pens

 

Kristen Lamb’s Blog

She’s what I call a real writer. Sounds boring, but in a sea of wannabes and self-professed blogging gurus, it’s refreshing to find real writing somewhere other than a Hemingway, Orwell, or Fitzgerald novel. Kristen Lamb has a unique blog (the only wordpress blog I frequent actually) and writing style every freelance writer should glean from.

Screenshot 2013-12-22 10.11.18

 

Writer Unboxed

Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton are the great minds behind Writer Unboxed. This is an outstanding asset for fiction writers, and if you know my take on freelance writing, you’ll know why I appreciate a healthy dose of fiction writing know how (stories sell and everyone’s selling something, including you).

Writer unboxed