3 Weird Writing Habits That Worked — And May Work For You

Every once in a while, I like to direct my authors (especially ones who have a hard time settling into a writing routine) to real-life examples of writers who also struggled to get thoughts flowing. There is no one method of writing, and certainly no wrong way to battle writer’s block.

Just as you may labor to write, so did many literary greats from history. Many famous writers have shared the wacky and at times totally outlandish tricks they used to get themselves writing.

Here are 3 weird writing habits:

1. Victor Hugo Stripped Down

Supposedly, the illustrious author of works like Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame was so afraid of procrastinating that he didn’t want any chances that he would be tempted to stray off track. Apparently, he would write naked, giving all of his clothes to his valet to hide until he was finished. By being forced to stay inside, he was forced to write.

Try this: You don’t have to strip down to write, but little tricks — like asking a loved one to change your WiFi password and not give it to you until you’re done working — may be a good way to stay focused.

2. Agatha Christie Soaked and Snacked

The famed mystery author reportedly thought up her murderous story lines while munching on apples in her bathtub.

Try this: It sounds like Christie’s relaxing environment did a lot to help her generate ideas. Try brainstorming while lying down in a hammock, or while lounging by the fire after a long day. Or — take a long, hot bath like Christie.

3. Vladimir Nabokov Used Notecards

Nabokov was quite fastidious, writing entire novels in precise notes on 3 x 5 index cards. He would then apparently shuffle the cards around to see if the flow of events worked. It sounds a bit odd, but this method allowed him to write beautiful words of prose.

Try this: Writing exclusively on note cards might seem extreme, but making short notes is something I instruct my authors to do. It can help you see the framework of a scene. Take a note card and, with one scene in mind, jot down important details like WHO is in the scene, WHAT occurs in the scene and what the PURPOSE of the scene is.

Do you borrow any habits from famous authors? Or, do you have a question about how I use index cards? Reach out to me in the comments below.

6 comments on “3 Weird Writing Habits That Worked — And May Work For You

  • My method is a combination between 2 and 1. I go on the same walk, and when I have an opening sentence that I love, I take out my phone and start typing.

    I don’t let myself pass the dog park until I’ve written something.


  • I’m so surprised to see that Nabokov was so meticulous with his notecards, as his writing seems to flow so poetically. I almost expected him to write with a feather quill LOL. This is a really cool “listicle.” I actually used to make my roommates in college change my Facebook password (so pathetic I was) and not give it back until I had written a paper! Facebook isn’t much of an obsession for me anymore but I’m trying to say that I get what Hugo was trying to do. Especially for a 20-something writer like myself, it seems that any given day is full of so many technological distractions.

    Happy to connect with you on Twitter, Diane! Cheers.

  • Truman Capote had to lie down (and drink copious amounts of fancy alcoholic beverages), Collette had to pick a certain amount of fleas off of her bulldog before going back to work (gross), and we all know how crazy Hunter S. Thompson’s habits were! I’ll drink Chivas in a hot tub any day but it definitely won’t help with my writing! Great post idea ~ I’m happy to see you didn’t include some of the crazier ones. These are good takeaway points. Helpful, incredibly so.

  • There are too many distractions for me at the house: books and television, music to play, the bed to nap on, family members who think I am available just because I’m home. So I try to go somewhere else to work. I know people go to libraries because it’s quiet there, but I like working at a local cafe. This way, I have wi-fi for research, a bottomless coffee mug, white noise of conversation in the background that I can ignore, people to talk to when I need to get out of my head, and nothing to do but work.

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