We all have images of what our favorite authors did while writing the books we love. Some envision an author with disheveled hair hunched over his manual typewriter in a room with stacks and stacks of papers and books surrounding him, a stale sandwich on a plate, a cup filled with cold coffee and a cat napping in the small ray of sunshine that breaks through the tightly drawn curtains. Others see their author writing on a pad of long, yellow stationary on a bench on a train as they head to or come from work each day. The tips of their fingers stained black from the ink pen and a spot of mustard on their jacket collar from the beef sandwich they hastily ate at lunch while feverishly penning their work. Whatever you imagine, authors do strange things, even weird things, freaky things to writer. I thought at HFA we would enjoy a glimpse into the strange and wonderful world of our beloved authors. And in doing so, for those of you who write, perhaps this will make you feel at ease with some of the weird things you do.
T.S. Eliot, hiding away at Charing Cross Road had his face tinted green with powder to look cadaverous while writing. (T.S. Eliot: A Modern Life)
Vladimir Nabokov, Index cards — the man loved them. Most of his novels were written on handy 3 x 5 inch cards, which would be paper-clipped and stored in slim boxes. (Flavorwire)
Ben Franklin started his days with an air bath—half an hour each day in his birthday suit in front of an open window—to read, write, and get his mental juices flowing. I’m sorry Ben, but you won’t find me in my birthday suit wave at my neighbors. That doesn’t get my mental juices going but it does get the neighborhood gossip going and the paddy wagon comin’!
French novelist Honore de Balzac. This historical writer consumed as many as 50 cups of coffee every day, barely sleeping at all while composing his magnum opus, La Comedie Humaine. I’m not surprised at the lack of sleep…imagine if energy drinks were available…scary thought!
What do George Orwell, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Winston Churchill, and Marcel Proust have in common? They all found writing horizontally helpful in the writing process. Yes! you read it here. Lying in bed can be productive!
But if lying down isn’t quite enough inspiration for you, try what James Joyce did. Joyce wrote in a white coat, lying on his stomach with a large blue pencil. In fact most of Finnegans Wake was composed with crayon pieces on cardboard! Look! We can use our box of 24 crayola crayons again, and there are no lines we have to keep inside!
If lying in bed is not so appealing what about taking a bath? I personally love a bubble bath with soft candlelight. It is said that Agatha Christie munched on apples while in the bathtub when plotting out the murder scenes for her novels. (A snack and a bubble bath… I think Agatha has something going there, don’t you?)
John Steinbeck had to have 12 perfectly sharpened pencils on his desk. (Steinbeck wrote his drafts in pencil.) I am lucky to find one sharp pencil or even a pen in my house. My children love to draw and these are great tools for their trade.
In order to complete his manuscript for February 1831, Victor Hugo armed with a entire bottle of ink placed himself under house arrest for months. It is even recorded that to prevent himself from escaping before completing his work he locked away his clothes and was left with only a large gray shawl to wear. For many months this was his outfit and he managed to finish his novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, weeks before the deadline.
My dear HFA reader and writer. I hope this Freaky Friday blog post brings a smile to your lips and a bounce in your step. You see, I take great solace in the fact that so many of our great authors did unusual, freakish things to write their profound works for us. This means whatever strange thing you or I may do in the process of our passions, we are among friends.
Why don’t you share with all of us what unusual thing you do to prepare for writing, while your writing or to bring about inspiration for writing? C’mon, let’s hear from you all!
Until Next time….Be Freaky!