What is Your Writing Routine?


Picture of a crystal on top of a dictionary page on a foreign language

What is your writing routine? What does it look like when you sit to write? Any special rituals?

I am so glad you asked. It’s really pretty great. I sit at my computer, and I check Facebook for, like, ten minutes. Okay, haha, twenty minutes. And then I write. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I do research. Once, I bribed myself with M&Ms to get through my edits.

Julia Alvarez keeps a bowl of water on her desk when she writes. Can you tell us about your own writing routine?

Yeah, huh. I’ve been getting this question a lot. I mean, I just… I sit there. And I write. I don’t even listen to music. I mean… Wait, don’t look sad. I’m sorry. Listen, you don’t actually believe that about the water, do you? Next to her computer? Come on! Sorry, wait, I’ll try again. I, um, I’m there at my desk. And I have—wait, this is interesting! I have some postcards on my desk! Of places I like!

Hemingway wrote standing up and claimed to be done by noon and drunk by three. How about your writing routine?

I understand that you want a window into my brain, I get that, or maybe you want some special trick, like something I do before I start writing every day, and if you do that thing too, all your problems will be solved. As if I know what I’m doing. I just… I don’t know what to tell you. A movie of me writing would look like a person sitting at a desk and writing. It’s like, What’s your email routine? You just sit there and answer email, right? Listen, I don’t mean to be cranky, because I’m flattered that you care. I just feel like I’m disappointing you.

Victor Hugo wrote in the nude. Please tell us about your writing routine. Any quirks? Ticks?

Sure. Sure. Here you go. I write on a manual typewriter that was rescued from the Andrea Doria. Is this what you want to hear? The reason I don’t use a computer is my writing routine is quite messy. And I mean that literally. You know how some people meditate under waterfalls? I dump glasses of wine over my head when I’m stuck. Sometimes I pour chocolate sauce on my hands and lick it off. I find this deeply inspiring.

The ancient Greek writer Demosthenes used to shave one side of his head. Can you let us in on your writing routine?

Wait, seriously? How the hell would that be useful? Okay, no, wait, don’t leave! I’ll tell you. First, I light a candle. Because it’s totally safe to have fire on my desk. And then I meditate on my Vision Board for half an hour, no more, no less. I practice Tantric Writing, which involves the pressing of each key for at least seven minutes, with alternate-nostril breathing.

What about your writing routine? Maya Angelou used to check into a hotel with a legal pad and a bible.

First thing I do each time, I invite my characters into the room. I summon them, one by one, name by name. Henry MacLain, I say, I invite you in. Dwayne’s mother the therapist who appears only in one scene, I invite you in. And then I listen to my characters. They perch all over my desk, my chair, my lap, and they tell me things. They whisper their secrets. And I don’t write; I transcribe.

Dan Brown hangs upside down like a bat when he’s stuck. What are your own special rituals and routines?

Right. So when I’m stuck, yes, I absolutely do that, the hanging upside down thing you just said. Sometimes I go over to Dan Brown’s mansion and hang upside down with him. It’s a surprisingly tasteful mansion, considering. Then his butler, Dustin, brings us goat’s blood to drink. Just little shot glasses of it, mind you. Not enough to kill the goat. Then I give each of my characters a numerology reading, and we head to the beach for more inspiration. By “we,” I mean, me, my characters, Dan Brown, and the goat.

If I looked in your window when you were writing, what would I see?

You’d see me calling the police, haha, just kidding, no, I, um, you’d see me playing the harmonica. Yes, the harmonica. I have one of those frame things to hold it in place, the ones that look like headgear, and you know how some people can play the piano and harmonica at the same time? I do that, but with typing.

James Joyce wrote in crayon on cardboard. What’s your own awesome hilarious quirky writer thing?

Look, I’m going to level with you: Sometimes there’s booze involved. Sometimes there’s porn. Sometimes there’s the Viewing of the Ex’s Vacation Photos on Instagram. Sometimes there’s sobbing about failure. OKAY?

Agatha Christie ate apples in the bathtub. Tell us about your own writing routine, and maybe we’ll love you!

Yeah, here’s what I do: 99% of my workday, I sit there writing. But then for the last five minutes, I put on my old Girl Scout sash and do backbends to the greatest hits of Andrew Lloyd Webber. For real. I didn’t used to, but then I realized I needed a better answer to this question.


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