The daily lives of famous authors are sometimes even more interesting and unique than those worlds they build in their work. Be it for productivity, inspiration, creativity or other causes, many famous authors acquired interesting habits and routines to keep their tunnel-vision focused on writing.
Thanks to their journals and memoirs, we now have insight into what the daily lives of our favorite authors looked like. In this article, you will have the chance to read about some of the most unusual daily routines and habits of famous writers. So, let’s start!
According to information from their journals, Honore de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Kingsley Amis, Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka all set aside a dedicated time of day for napping.
Thomas Mann made it a daily habit to have an hour-long nap every day at 4 PM and made it strictly forbidden for his family to make any noise during his nap-time.
While this does not intuitively seem as a productivity hack, this allowed them to create and work at night – which was the prime time for writing for all of these authors.
An Apple a Day…
Friedrich Schiller left apples in the drawers of his writing tables to “enjoy their scent as they rot”. Allegedly, this boosted his inspiration and made his writing process easier.
Another author influenced by apples, although in a different way, was Agatha Christie. She loved eating apples while sitting in a hot bath and looking at crime scene photos, looking for inspiration for her next stories.
One of the writers that’s most well-known for his many superstitions is definitely Truman Capote. He never started or ended a book on a Friday, avoided hotel rooms with room number digits that added up to 13 and never allow to have more than 2 cigarette butts in an ashtray.
I have my superstitions, though. They could be termed quirks. I have to add up all numbers: there are some people I never telephone because their number adds up to an unlucky figure. Or I won’t accept a hotel room for the same reason. I will not tolerate the favorite flower. I can’t allow three cigarette butts in the same ashtray. Won’t travel on a place with two nuns. Won’t begin or end anything on a Friday. It’s endless, the things I can’t and won’t. But I derive some curious comfort from obeying theses primitive concepts.-Truman Capote
Charles Dickens was also a writer who had a set of conditions that had to be met before he could start writing. His writing desk was always organized in detail: it had to have a little vase with fresh flowers, a letter-opening knife, a broche shaped as a rabbit sitting on a leaf and two bronze figurines of frogs in a sword duel.
Alexandre Dumas used a specific shade of blue for paper that he used to write a novel. Depending on the genre and form, he used different paper and pen colors. Dumas wrote poetry on yellow paper, while he used pink paper to write articles.
On the other hand, James Joyce always used thick, blue pens for writing and always wrote a white robe while he was working.
Working in Bed
Many famous authors were known for working in bed; Marcel Proust (who is also the behind the coinword Prousting – working in bed), Mark Twain, Voltaire and others.
Patricia Highsmith, author of psychological thrillers such as The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train, used to sit on her bed surrounded by coffee, sweets, cigarettes and an ashtray. When describing this ritual to ease herself into the mode of working and writing, she explained that her goal was to “create a womb of her own”.
Voltaire, a French Enlightenment writer was notoriously known for writing in bed almost all of the time. In 1774, a visitor shared his experience of Voltaire’s daily routine, which showed that he worked between 18 to 20 hours every day.
To fend out fatigue, exhaustion and burnout, he would do most of his writing in bed by dictating words to his secretaries. Another quirky part of Voltaire’s daily routine is that he drank coffee and ate chocolate for lunch.
It’s definitely fun to learn about quirky habits and rituals of famous authors, but is that all they are – just fun? Would we have Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities if Dickens wrote coffee-free and didn’t take naps?