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7 Writing Tips From Real Writers May 21, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Word Play, Writing & Writers.

200px-RealMotherGooseFor those of you who yearn for fame, fortune, and publication, here are 7 sure fire writing tips from real writers:

1.  Walk.  A lot.  Charles Dickens walked 20-30 miles a day.  And we know that he wrote some good stuff that has withstood the test of time.  My guess: he did his best writing after a long nap.  Same with Carl Sandburg who also walked 20 miles a day.

2.  Never leave the house.  Emily Dickinson wrote 1,800 poems holed up in her hidey hole, a white room, while wearing only white.  She commissioned her sister to address her correspondence.

Of course, only seven of her poems were published during her lifetime.  So this tip might work best for those who seek posthumous publication.

3.  Follow writing rituals.  Edgar Allen Poe wrote with a cat on his shoulder and wore all black, quoth the Raven, “nevermore.”   Charles Dickens touched certain objects three times for good luck and placed objects on his desk with exacting precision.  T.S. Eliot preferred writing with a head cold.  E.B. White did not ~ he wore a surgical mask in public to protect himself against contagious diseases.

448px-Alice_05a-1116x14924.  Choose the right writing posture.  Ernest Hemingway and Lewis Carroll wrote standing up.  Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote lying down.  Benjamin Franklin wrote naked in the bath.

5.  Don’t avoid stimulants.  Mark Twain smoked 40 cigars a day.  W.H Auden and Dr. Johnson preferred tea. Johnson consumed 25 cups in a single sitting.  Honoré de Balzac preferred coffee ~ 50 cups a day. Samuel Taylor Coleridge used opium to invoke his muse.

It’s anyone’s guess what Lewis Carroll was on.

6.  Do it on a dare.  Agatha Christie began writing detective mysteries at age thirty after her sister told her that she could not handle the rules governing that genre.  Christie wrote 30 Poirot mysteries to prove a point.

7.  Write.  A lot.  Upton Sinclair wrote 8,000 words every day, including Sunday.  In the 18 months he spent as a full-time grad student at Columbia, he wrote 1,275,000 words.  Some of them quite good.  Anthony Trollope wrote 47 novels in 27 years before dying of a stroke while laughing out loud at a novel.  Jack London wrote 20 hours a day on 4 hours of sleep.  To make sure he didn’t oversleep, he rigged his alarm to drop a weight on his head.  That’s dedication!

Bonus tip:  Don’t read a lot of books with tips from other writers.  They are not you and you are not them.  Just write.  Let the way teach you the way.

Aah . . . that’s better!

“Some people don’t really bother much with remembering; it seems such a useless activity.  But most writers are addicted to it.” ~ Alice Munro

More fun facts:  A Writer’s Book of Days ~ A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life, Judy Reeves



1. Rainee - May 21, 2014

An interesting post with unexpected stats : )

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Writers have great quirks and idiosyncrasies, terrific stamina and dedication, odd obsessions and compulsions. 😎

2. Jill Weatherholt - May 21, 2014

I love this, Nancy! Boy, I’ve got to ramp up my walking. Currently I’m only walking 5 miles a day…of course if I drank 25 cups of tea, I’d be doing a lot more walking…to the nearest restroom! 🙂

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

It’s a wonder any of them ever wrote anything. If I walked 30 miles a day at a good clip, that would eat up 10 hours of time. Unlike Jack London, I need 8 hours of sleep a night.

That leaves only 6 hours for everything else: dressing, bathing, meal preparation, eating, talking to friends, painting, singing, waiting on the cat, dancing, cleaning, and writing.

If you add into that 25 cups of tea (or 50 cups of coffee) and the bathroom breaks that would ensue . . . my average daily word count would be about 3.

3. suzicate - May 21, 2014

Walking does fuel creativity! Love these tips. The most important really is ritual; discipline is everything (and it’s something I lack!)

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Do NOT rig up your alarm clock to drop a weight on your head to get you up and out of bed ~ that’s just crazy!

suzicate - May 21, 2014

Ha, no problem with that! I wake up by five every morning, problem is I can’t drag my butt out of the bed until at least six! If I was disciplined I’d get up when I wake up and use that time wisely, oh well maybe eventually I will.

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

To me, staying in bed until 6 (or later) IS a WISE use of time! 😀

4. Kate @ Did That Just Happen? - May 21, 2014

I think I still have my Mother Goose book from when I was a kid – that book is Amazing!!

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

I still love lots of Kid Lit ~ Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss included.

5. Don - May 21, 2014

If it all says one thing it’s this, there’s no right way of writing. Great post Nancy.

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

We can get caught up in the tips, techniques, and temperments of writers who have gone before OR we can make it up as we go along. I prefer the latter.

Don - May 21, 2014

Me too.

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Yes! We’re artists . . . we live by our own rules! 😎

6. JOriginal MuseJoanne - May 21, 2014

Let me get this straight… So, I’m hypothetically taking the “Bonus Tip” and I never read this blog on “7 Writing Tips From Real Writers.” BUT if I HAD read the blog and got VERY serious about making a name for myself in the Writers Hall of Fame PREhumous, starting tomorrow, NO one will see me walking naked around my small living space with a mile calculator strapped to my ankle, a white cat sitting on my shoulder, a jug of hot green tea in one hand, a cigar in my mouth, touching sacred and silly objects on every shelf that I pass, chanting,”Nevermore, nevermore, nevermore… shall I ever walk out that door…”

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Bwahaha! Have I told you today that you’re my favorite?! That’s a great collection of quirks and idiosyncrasies, Joanne!

YOU have the makings of a REAL writer! 😎

Joanne - May 21, 2014

Thanks, Nancy…! It comes from a few other lifetimes as a published writer…However, no one on that list, thank Heaven…!

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Well . . . THE list of writers with “quirks” is quite a bit longer than this list.

Maybe you’re on THAT list. 😛

7. neverending1 - May 21, 2014

I agree with the walking part. They all wrote very well because they all had vivid imaginations.

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Edgar Allen Poe ignored the raven’s insistent “nevermore” and returned in a reprise role as Johnny Dep! This go round, he replaced the black cat with a parrot named Scallywag.

8. An Activist Abroad - May 21, 2014

I LOVE this post. Thank you so much for sharing this.

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Yay! Glad you enjoyed. I got a kick out of compiling a list of tips writers might have shared if they were around to share them.

9. Booksphotographsandartwork - May 21, 2014

That was very interesting and funny. I think if I were to be a writer I would take after Emily Dickinson!

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

A much safer choice than following London’s lead with a BOINK on the head each morning as a Wake Up Call.

10. diannegray - May 21, 2014

Fantastic post, Nancy. It sounds like there’s a lot of OCD going on here 😀

I love your comment “It’s anyone’s guess what Lewis Carroll was on” (I nearly had a stroke laughing at that!) 😉

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Thanks, Dianne! Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking Glass are such a trip! Croquet, anyone?

And, yes, I think some of these other authors had some OCD tendencies. Imagine WANTING to get a head cold before writing.

11. Patricia - May 21, 2014

I think this lists prove that you have to be a little “off” to be a writer. I don’t consider myself a writer but I am a little off so maybe I am a writer.

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Haha! Here’s to being a bit skewed!

12. livelytwist - May 21, 2014

I like to walk. While walking, I get ideas for stories. Sometimes I play with them in my head. I don’t carry anything that I can write with or else, I would be continually stopping to write!

In the early morning, the air is crisp, the people are few. When I return home, I rarely write the wonderful ideas that came to me. Small wonder I am not yet Charles Dickens!

Btw, Eric J Baker led me here.

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

I’ve seen you around Eric’s blog, LT. Thanks for stopping by.

Walking is great for our physical and mental well-being and I expect that it promotes creative writing as well. I wonder if Mr. Dickens first imagined Tiny Tim and Scrooge while wandering around one day?

13. Life Penned - May 21, 2014

Considering points 1) “Walk,” and 2) “Never leave the house”:

So, I’m supposed to walk 20 miles a day inside the house? I’ll have to buy new carpet every year!

Okay, fine, but I’m sending you the bill!

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Haha! That’s just one of the many conundrums we face as writers when we attempt to tailor contradictory advice to our unique sensibilities.

Please send the bill to Jack London’s ghost. He’ll pay it as soon as his latest concussion clears.

14. pix & kardz - May 21, 2014

such fun! enjoyed this. i frequently write with a cat in my arms, which then reduces my typing to a crawl, interrupted by frequent under-the-chin-scratches. 🙂

nrhatch - May 21, 2014

Lucky cat! I’m sure s/he is purr-suaded that s/he is a better writing aid than all the tea in China. Glad you enjoyed.

15. jannatwrites - May 22, 2014

These were interesting tidbits. Quirky bunch! I think Agatha Christie proved to her sister she could indeed do it, haha.

nrhatch - May 22, 2014

I would say so. Sibling rivalry can be a motivating force!

16. sufilight - May 22, 2014

I assume that when Ernest Hemingway and Lewis Carroll wrote standing up, they paced back and forth to be in touch with their muse.

nrhatch - May 22, 2014

That could be it, Marie.

Or maybe they had bad backs from sitting stooped over their writing notebooks, shoulders hunched, in previous years?

17. Behind the Story - May 22, 2014

This is such a fun post. I love it!

I get ideas in the shower, some on walks. But twenty miles a day!? That’s not me. I also drink tea or coffee. But 25 or 50 cups!? No way. I’d be climbing the walls. I thought of having a writing ritual. Tried lighting a candle, but then I worried about air pollution.

nrhatch - May 22, 2014

Thanks, Nicki! Glad you enjoyed. As much as I admire some of these writers, I’m not about to write with a cat, parrot, or raven perched on my shoulder or walk 20-30 miles a day ~ not even in search of inspiration. And, like you, the idea of drinking all that coffee or tea doesn’t float my boat.

I do enjoy regular walks and find that inspiration often strikes mid-stride (or mid-stream when I’m in the shower).

18. Behind the Story - May 22, 2014

Reblogged this on Behind the Story and commented:
Nancy of “Spirit Lights the Way” shared the secrets to becoming a famous writer.

nrhatch - May 22, 2014

Thanks for sharing, Nicki!

19. ericjbaker - May 22, 2014

If anyone ever doubted the weirdness of writers…

nrhatch - May 22, 2014

Exactly! I fear I’m not odd enough to be a serious writer ~ my habits pale in comparison with these quirks and idiosyncrasies.

I’m just too moderate.

ericjbaker - May 22, 2014

I know. I don’t wear a special hat or chew on shoelaces to access my muse. I pretty much just turn on my laptop, open the file, and start typing.

nrhatch - May 22, 2014

How pedestrian of you to boil writing down to its essence:

1. Sit down
2. Write

I bet some writers like to scare off the competition by claiming that writing is harder than it looks ~ or maybe they just want an excuse to get out of doing the dishes. 😎

ericjbaker - May 22, 2014

That’s what I’m doing wrong. I write, and I wash dishes.

nrhatch - May 22, 2014

To Whom It May Concern:

Please excuse Eric from doing the dishes tonight. He is in the midst of re-writing the Lord of the Rings trilogy as Haiku. He cannot afford to splinter and fragment his creativity on mundane tasks.



20. bluebee - May 23, 2014

1, 4 and 5 get my vote, and I would also add to that Read a helluva lot. And hang up the washing – it’s one of my most creative times 🙂 Not that I’m what you would call a successful writer, haha

nrhatch - May 23, 2014

Agatha Christie’s best plots came to her while she washed the dishes ~ sounds like hanging up the washing does the same for you.

I bet loading the dishwasher and tosses clothes in the dryer doesn’t invoke the same level of creativity. Labor Saving Devices may be the enemy of the artist.

21. Grannymar - May 23, 2014

Did you miss me? I was not locked in a garret tapping out words ’till my fingers were worn down to the knuckles. I was living it up for a week and then recovering for a week!

Great news on Wednesday, I am allowed to drive again!! First I need to sort out a flat battery, have the car serviced, replace a couple of tires and have it put through the obligatory MOT, in order to go gallivanting on public roads. I better charge my camera too.

nrhatch - May 23, 2014

That is FANTASTIC news, GM. It sounds like your car needs a bit of attention, but it will be nice to have gallivanting on public roads as an option in the days ahead! Yay!

22. I am J - May 23, 2014

Whoa! Awesome post, Nancy, chock full of fascinating information.

Honore de Belzac drank 50 cups of coffee a day??? He must have done a lot of writing in the loo or outhouse or wherever… And he died at 51. I’d be so buzzed with all that coffee my writing would be … a mystery. Maybe I should try it.

This was just a fabulous post and a great read. Thank you!

nrhatch - May 23, 2014

Glad you enjoyed, J! Several of these writers died young. Jack London at age 40, probably from being conked on the head once too often. Yet another reason NOT to follow their writing advice.

23. Carol Balawyder - May 23, 2014

Finally, some sensible writing tips LOL.
Honore de Belzac with his 50 cups of coffee a day must have been totally wired. I don’t think they had decaf in his days.
Now I get why Poe wrote the Raven -wearing all black. Strange.

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

Hmm…could he have mistaken his cat for the Raven?

This was an utterly fun post. 🙂

nrhatch - May 23, 2014

Thanks, Carol. Glad you enjoyed. I had fun selecting tidbits to include. Some of these guys had real stamina ~ 40 cigars a day is 39 and 3/4 more than I’ve ever smoked. The very thought makes me a bit queasy.

I’ve seen photos of Poe dressed head to toe in black, sans cat.

nrhatch - May 23, 2014

I did a quick search and found images of him at his writing desk with a cat resting on his shoulder.

And other images with the Raven on his head.

24. Three Well Beings - May 26, 2014

These are just wonderful facts. If these are the rules, it would explain why I don’t do any serious writing. Wow! I think you either have that fire, or you don’t. I love to write, but couldn’t begin to manage the time it would take to write with a serious intention. I am glad that others do, however, because I LOVE to read. 🙂

nrhatch - May 26, 2014

Same here, Debra. I write most days, but am not “serious” about it in the way that it seems to require . . . maybe that’s because I enjoy my anonymity and don’t care to have my quirks, idiosyncrasies, stamina, dedication, obsessions, and compulsions mulled over by others.

Here’s to enjoying the ride! :cool:.

25. The Keyboard Awaits | Spirit Lights The Way - August 15, 2014

[…] Related Posts:  Writing and Writers * The Four Horsemen of Writer’s Block & How to Defeat Them  (Raptitude) * 7 Writing Tips From Real Writers […]

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