Famous writers often have a few things in common: they work hard, have a solid writing routine, and are a little…odd. Yes, writers tend to be a little weird! But what makes them different is exactly what often leads them to create truly unique writing. We have rounded up our favorite funny and weird habits of famous writers to both entertain and inspire you on your writing journey.
Are you working on a nonfiction book? Our Getting Started for Authors program helps aspiring nonfiction authors go from a big idea to a finished manuscript in under 6 months—with plenty of opportunities for creating your own funny and weird writing habits.
10 Funny and Weird Habits of Famous Writers
1. Jack Kerouac Does Nine “Touchdowns” a Day
At one point, Jack Kerouac, American novelist, poet, and pioneer of the Beat Generation, would write exclusively by candlelight. Following this ritual, he began to perform nine “touchdowns” a day to get his writing done.
“I try to do nine touchdowns a day, that is, I stand on my head in the bathroom, on a slipper, and touch the floor nine times with my toe tips, while balanced. This is incidentally more than yoga, it’s an athletic feat, I mean imagine calling me ‘unbalanced’ after that.” – Jack Kerouac
2. James Joyce Wrote Lying On His Stomach
James Joyce, an Irish novelist and literary critic, not only preferred to write while lying down on his stomach but wore a white lab coat and wrote with an oversized blue pencil. But he had a good reason to do this: his poor eyesight. The big pencil helped him better see his writing, while the white lab coat reflected the light better on the page.
3. Susan Sontag Wrote By Hand
With the invention of computers, writers don’t need to write with a pad and pen anymore. They don’t even need to write with a typewriter. They can type into documents that save their changes in real time.
But Susan Sontag, an American writer, didn’t want to. She would write her essays with a felt-tip pen or pencil on yellow or white legal pads, then use her typewriter to type them up. Then she would scribble her edits on the typed-up manuscript, and then retype the entire thing. Finally, when computers came to be, she discarded the typewriter ritual but continued to write her first, second, and third drafts by hand.
“I like the slowness of writing by hand… After the second or third draft it goes into the computer, so I don’t retype the whole manuscript anymore, but continue to revise by hand on a succession of hard-copy drafts from the computer.” – Susan Sontag
4. Virginia Woolf Wrote Standing Up
Considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors, Virginia Woolf didn’t write at a normal desk. Instead, she wrote standing up on an aisle-type desk that allowed her to evaluate her work from up close and afar, like a painter.
5. Joan Didion Slept Next To Her Book
Joan Didion is considered one of the pioneers of New Journalism and was an acclaimed author. Here’s her weird writing habit: When she would near the end of a book she was writing, she would routinely sleep in the same room as it.
“Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it.” – Joan Didion
6. Dan Brown Hangs Upside Down
Dan Brown, who is best known for his DaVinci Code series, will often hang upside down to process his ideas for his books. He will put on a pair of gravity boots and hang from an exercise frame.
He will also use an hourglass to track his writing time. Once the hour is up, he will do a round of pushups, sit-ups, and stretches.
7. Jodi Picoult Doesn’t Believe in Writer’s Block
At Publish Your Purpose, we talk about writer’s block a lot. That’s because we work with aspiring authors who experience it all the time. And as authors ourselves, we have experienced it our fair share of times, too.
Well, according to American writer Jodi Picoult, who has over 40 million copies of her books printed worldwide, we’re all full of excuses. Writer’s block, according to Picoult, doesn’t exist.
“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it—when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult
8. Victor Hugo Ordered His Servant to Hide His Clothes
We all know the lure of procrastination. But for French Romantic writer Victor Hugo, leaving the house to frequent a local brothel would seriously impede his ability to meet his writing deadlines. To avoid the temptation, Hugo would order his servant to hide all of his clothes from him, including those on his back.
9. Haruki Murakami Wakes Up at 4 a.m. To Write
Haruki Murakami, author of Norwegian Wood and other famous books, takes his writing routine very seriously. You know how some people insist you need to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to be successful? Well, Murakami takes it to an even more extreme level: he wakes up at 4 a.m. every morning and immediately writes for five to six hours. Talk about hardcore. Then in the afternoon, he goes for a long run or swim (or both) and calls it a night with some light reading and music.
“I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.” – Haruki Murakami
10. Agatha Christie Ate Apples in The Bath
Murder mystery legend Agatha Christie was known as the “Queen of Crime.” Having penned 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, Christie was busy. So how did she come up with these epic mysteries? She would envision the plots of her books while chewing on apples in a warm bath.
What’s Your Writing Routine?
So, what do you think? Are you inspired to write your first few drafts by hand like Susan Sontag, or moved to wake up at 4 a.m. to get your best writing done like Haruki Murakami? Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, a writing routine is essential. Join a community of writers that can motivate you to get your writing done.
Our Getting Started for Authors program helps aspiring nonfiction authors go from a big idea to a finished manuscript in under 6 months. Whether you want to do 9 touchdowns before each writing session is up to you!
We would love to hear about your funny or weird writing habits! Send us a message on Instagram @publishyourpurpose.
Want to learn how to publish your book? Purchase Jenn T. Grace’s new book—Publish Your Purpose: A Step-By-Step Guide To Write, Publish, and Grow Your Big Idea.