The Daily Routines of 10 Famous Writers: From Toni Morrison to Kazuo Ishiguro

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NOVEMBER, 2017

Samuel Osho

It could be hard to have the bird of inspiration perch daily in your garden of letters. When do you search for the lyrical whispers of ingenuity and originality? Is it in the darkest hours of the night or when dawn is dancing in the shadow of the rising Sun? As a writer, do you think there is a specific time of the day when you can easily arrest muse for a cerebral exchange of ideas? In this busy and noisy world, you need a daily plan that supports your writing style if you want to get outstanding results.
Writing a book can be a daunting task but we have a litany of highly successful writers that have defied the odds. These distinguished authors are on a writing spree – churning out their creativity in blockbuster novels, poetry collections, and screenplays. They found the magical touch of brilliance, they met the deadlines and the world distinctively celebrates their unique voices with applause.
In my strong admiration for brilliant authors that have earned literary medals, I searched for their daily routines and writing plans to scoop their “secrets.” Perhaps, if there is a new style that I can implement in order to get excellent results. What are the famous and celebrated writers doing that you should also start today? It’s time to find the energy and passion that will kick the half-baked and unfinished works in you to the bookshelves.
Let’s learn from Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, Booker Prize clinchers and bestselling authors who have shared the beauty of letters with the world through their works.

The Daily Routines of the 10 Famous Writers

Photo Credit: Princeton University

1. Toni Morrison

At 86, Toni Morrison released her latest work, The Origin of Others, in 2017. The American author has won a huge chunk of notable literary awards, from the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 to Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. She is popularly known for The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved. In 2015, shortly after the release of God Help the Childshe granted an interview to Goodreads and she talked about her daily routine.

“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 [4 p.m.], it’s all drifting away. But tomorrow morning I will be sharp for about four hours, say from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. If I get up before the sun and greet it, that’s when I start.”

Photo Credit: Hello Naija

2. Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Adichie, one of the most prominent young African authors, has earned her spot in the international league of writers. Her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, was nominated for the Booker Prize and Orange Prize in 2004. The Nigerian author in an interview with Goodreads talked about how she wrote one of her international bestsellers, Americanah.

“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.”

Photo Credit: The Daily Beast

3. Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly, the bestselling author of crime fiction novels with the prominent amidst the pack – the Harry Bosch series earning more readers by the day. In an interview with Goodreads, he shared about his writing habits and how he gets the job done. He has more than 30 novels to his name.

“Because of working on a TV show, 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 because I like to work till dawn.”

Photo Credit: The Verge

4. Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer is an American author best known for her vampire romance series, Twilight. The popular four-book collection has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. She is also the author of The Host and The Chemist. In an interview with Goodreads, she spilled her secrets and daily routines for writing blockbuster novels.

“My writing process has morphed mostly in smallish ways—for example, I have a hard time writing to music with words now. I usually listen to classical music and movie scores. I save the metal for editing.”
“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.”

Photo Credit: The Daily Beast

5. Stephen King

Stephen King is an American author and a revered King in the palace of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. King also writes under two pen names – Richard Bachman and John Swithen.

King has authored 54 novels, all are global bestsellers and he has sold more than 350 million copies with some adapted as films, television series, and comic books. In this interview which was granted in 2014, he sheds lucidity on his daily routine for writing.

“I start work around 8 a.m. 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.”

Photo Credit: Famous Authors

6. Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian author of the 1988 bestseller, The Alchemist, has written over 30 books. The Alchemist is a book of literary ingenuity and no wonder it is the most translated book in the world by a living author. The lyricist is the writer with the highest number of social media followers – 29.5 million fans on his Facebook page and 12.2 million followers on Twitter. In this interview, he served a plethora of hints about his daily routine once he is in a writing mode.

“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.”

” I don’t give a lot of advice, but I tell aspiring writers all the time that until you reach the point where you’re writing one page a day, you’re not serious. ” – John Grisham

Photo Credit: Famous Authors

7. John Grisham

John Grisham is the master of legal thrillers and definitely knows how to spin readers in the wheel of suspense. The American bestselling author has more than 30 books under his belt. In 2014, Grisham talked about one of writing habits and daily routine in an interview with Goodreads.

“Sure, it’s work. Some days the words flow, and some days they don’t. Some days the characters are alive, and some days they’re not. Some days the plot moves in the right direction, and some days it doesn’t. It’s always a struggle to get it right.
I laugh because I don’t have a job; I don’t really work that hard—I mean, these days I don’t. Back then I worked hard because I was also a lawyer, and I had to [write] as a secret hobby whenever I could steal a half an hour here or there. That goes to the advice part—I don’t give a lot of advice, but I tell aspiring writers all the time that until you reach the point where you’re writing one page a day, you’re not serious. I mean, you’ve got to get one page in per day. If you do that, then the pages are going to pile up pretty fast. That, and knowing where you’re going: that goes back to the outlining. You outline a story, you know where you’re going, you start writing, you do at least a page a day, with no exceptions—you’re going to get somewhere! The pages are going to pile up, and that’s what it takes.”

Photo Credit: Emily’s Poetry Blog

8. Margaret Atwood

Award-winning Canadian author, Margaret Atwood is popularly known for her crime fiction novels and she is one of the most celebrated Canadian writers alive today. At age 78, Atwood has 14 beautiful novels to her name, asides children books, poetry collections and short stories. She has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once. Atwood secured a permanent place in Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2001. In an enthralling interview with Goodreads in 2014, she talked about her daily routine.

“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.”

Photo Credit: Screen Junkies

9. Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts is a literary beast that needs no introduction – the master chef when it comes to baking romance novels with an icing of suspense. She is one of America’s most successful authors with more than 200 novels to her name, and with more than 500 million copies in print. Her books have collectively spent more than 1,000 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She talked about her daily routine in a recent interview granted to Goodreads.

“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 f@$king 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. “

Photo Credit: The New Yorker

10. Kazuo Ishiguro

British writer of Japanese descent, Kazuo Ishiguro has authored seven outstanding novels including The Remains of the Day which won him the 1989 Booker Prize award. His 2005 novel, Never Let Me Go was chosen as the best novel of 2005 by TIME magazine and also included in its list of 100 best English language novels from 1923 to 2005. He was recently awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. In an interview with The Guardian in 2014, he shared passionately about how he wrote The Remains of the Day in four weeks.

“So Lorna (his wife) and I came up with a plan. 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 9 am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for dinner. I’d not see, let alone answer, any mail, and would not go near the phone. No one would come to the house. Lorna, despite her own busy schedule, would for this period do my share of the cooking and housework. In this way, so we hoped, I’d not only complete more work quantitively, but reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one.
By the third day, Lorna observed during my evening break that I was behaving oddly. On my first Sunday off I ventured outdoors, on to Sydenham high street, and persistently giggled – so Lorna told me – at the fact that the street was built on a slope, so that people coming down it were stumbling over themselves, while those going up were panting and staggering effortfully. Lorna was concerned I had another three weeks of this to go, but I explained I was very well, and that the first week had been a success.
I kept it up for the four weeks, and at the end of it I had more or less the entire novel down: though of course a lot more time would be required to write it all up properly, the vital imaginative breakthroughs had all come during the Crash.”
These are the daily routines of some of the fascinating authors in the world. I hope it inspires and motivates you to share your stories and literary works with the world. In a nutshell, I have learnt several lessons and they include:
– The power of focus from Ishiguro’s arduous “Crash.” Do one thing at a time and finish it.
The art of waking up early from Toni Morrison, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, and Michael Connelly. It has repeatedly been proven that great achievers are early risers. And most importantly, they focus on the most important events of the day once they wake up before wading into other matters.
– Take your writing life more seriously, see it as a job and not just a hobby as clearly stated by John Grisham.
Get a writing plan or stick with a period that works for you like Paulo Coelho that embarks on two weeks writing marathon once a year.
What is your daily routine when it comes to writing? Which one of the daily routines listed here is your favorite?
Credits: This post was made possible with interview excerpts from Goodreads and The Guardian.

Also published on Medium.

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