Saturday, March 09, 2019


By Vicki Delany

Image result for women writing painting
Vicki Writing (not exactly as shown)
Next Saturday (March 16) I’ll be at Murderous March, a conference put on by The Upper Hudson Chapter of Sisters in Crime, In Albany, NY.  (For information and registration, click here)

I have been asked to say a few words. I thought I might talk about my writing routine. As I write three books a year, people are interested in how I can manage to do that.

One thing I’ve found over the years, is that no one approaches writing, or anything else, the same as anyone else. We all have our individual way of doing things, and the trick is to find what suits you.
But, here’s a bit of what I plan to say in Albany:

I was once asked if I had any rituals to spark my writing creativity.  Rituals? Pshaw! I don’t need no stinking rituals, thought I.

When I thought again, I realized that I did.  I get up every morning, seven days a week.  I go to my main computer in my office, and read e-mails, read the papers online, spend a bit of time on Facebook or Twitter. 

Then it’s time to start to write.  I walk into the dining room and stand at my Netbook computer which is on the half-wall between the kitchen and the dining room and boot it up.  As I pass through the kitchen, I put one egg on to boil.

I always write, standing up, on the Netbook.  I read over everything I did the previous day, doing a light edit as I go.  I then take my egg into the study and eat it while checking email. 

Then back to the small computer for several writing hours.

Who knew I was so regimented! Not me, until I stopped to think about it.  The problem, you see, is I don’t like writing, particularly not first drafts. So the egg is my reward. If I get started, I can have a treat.  I can be bribed by one medium-boiled egg.

Turns out I am not alone in needing this little routine to get me started.  I am reading a fascinating book titled Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. Currey describes the daily routines of hundreds of artists, not just writers but composers and artists too.

Philip Roth said, “Writing isn’t hard work, it’s a nightmare,” as he describes his schedule. Ten to six every day with an hour break for lunch and to read the newspaper.

William Styron said, “Let’s face it, writing it hell.” His routine: sleep until noon, read and think in bed for an hour. Lunch at 1:30, afternoon errands and mail.  And only then “ease into work mode” By 4:00 he would be ready to go to his study and write for four hours.

Before beginning his creative day, Beethoven counted out 60 coffee beans every morning to make his coffee.  

One fellow (whose name I forget) liked working in the morning so much, he had two mornings.  He got up at three to write for a couple of hours, then went back to bed and got up at a reasonable time for another morning of writing. 

Hemmingway was also a morning guy. (And a stand-up writing guy). No matter how much he’d had to drink the night before, Hemmingway was up and starting work at 5:30.

By contrast, Thomas Wolfe began his writing day at midnight, and would write until dawn. Then have a drink and go to bed.  According to the book, he also masturbated extensively while writing.

Gertrude Stein confessed that she could never write for more than half-an-hour a day. “All day and every day, she said, you are waiting around to write that half hour a day.”

Jean Paul Sarte kept to a strict schedule.  He also figured his creative mind needed fuel. A lot of fuel. 
According to his biographer, “his diet over a period of twenty-four hours included two packs of cigarettes and several pipes stuffed with black tobacco, more than a quart of alcohol – wine, beer, vodka, whisky, and so on – two hundred milligrams of amphetamines, fifteen grams of aspirin, several grams of barbiturates, plus coffee, tea, rich meals.”

Makes one medium-boiled egg look mighty tame.

Time to tell me your little secret. What’s your writing ritual?

Book news: SOMETHING READ SOMETHING DEAD, the fifth Lighthouse Library mystery by me as Eva Gates, will be released on Wednesday. 

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