Creative Process

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The Daily Routines of Famous Writers

By Maria Popova, from Brain Pickings:
http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

Kurt Vonnegut’s recently published daily routine made we wonder how other beloved writers organized their days. So I pored through various old diaries and interviews — many from the fantastic Paris Review archives — and culled a handful of writing routines from some of my favorite authors. Enjoy.

Ray Bradbury, a lifelong proponent of working with joy and an avid champion of public libraries, playfully defies the question of routines in this 2010 interview:

My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this.

[…]

I can work anywhere. I wrote in bedrooms and living rooms when I was growing up with my parents and my brother in a small house in Los Angeles. I worked on my typewriter in the living room, with the radio and my mother and dad and brother all talking at the same time. Later on, when I wanted to write Fahrenheit 451, I went up to UCLA and found a basement typing room where, if you inserted ten cents into the typewriter, you could buy thirty minutes of typing time.

Joan Didion creates for herself a kind of incubation period for ideas, articulated in this 1968 interview:

I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I’ve done that day. I can’t do it late in the afternoon because I’m too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following these evening notes. When I’m really working I don’t like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. If I don’t have the hour, and start the next day with just some bad pages and nowhere to go, I’m in low spirits. Another thing I need to do, when I’m near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That’s one reason I go home to Sacramento to finish things. Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it. In Sacramento nobody cares if I appear or not. I can just get up and start typing.

E. B. White, in the same fantastic interview that gave us his timeless insight on the role and responsibility of the writer, notes his relationship with sound and ends on a note echoing Tchaikovsky on work ethic:

I never listen to music when I’m working. I haven’t that kind of attentiveness, and I wouldn’t like it at all. On the other hand, I’m able to work fairly well among ordinary distractions. My house has a living room that is at the core of everything that goes on: it is a passageway to the cellar, to the kitchen, to the closet where the phone lives. There’s a lot of traffic. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, and I often use it as a room to write in, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. A girl pushing a carpet sweeper under my typewriter table has never annoyed me particularly, nor has it taken my mind off my work, unless the girl was unusually pretty or unusually clumsy. My wife, thank God, has never been protective of me, as, I am told, the wives of some writers are. In consequence, the members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man — they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

Photograph by Tom Palumbo, 1956

Jack Kerouac describes his rituals and superstitions in 1968:

I had a ritual once of lighting a candle and writing by its light and blowing it out when I was done for the night … also kneeling and praying before starting (I got that from a French movie about George Frideric Handel) … but now I simply hate to write. My superstition? I’m beginning to suspect the full moon. Also I’m hung up on the number nine though I’m told a Piscean like myself should stick to number seven; but 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. Frankly I do feel that my mind is going. So another ‘ritual’ as you call it, is to pray to Jesus to preserve my sanity and my energy so I can help my family: that being my paralyzed mother, and my wife, and the ever-present kitties. Okay?

He then adds a few thought on the best time and place for writing:

The desk in the room, near the bed, with a good light, midnight till dawn, a drink when you get tired, preferably at home, but if you have no home, make a home out of your hotel room or motel room or pad: peace.

Susan Sontag resolves in her diary in 1977, adding to her collected wisdom on writing:

Starting tomorrow — if not today:

I will get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)

I will have lunch only with Roger [Straus]. (‘No, I don’t go out for lunch.’ Can break this rule once every two weeks.)

I will write in the Notebook every day. (Model: Lichtenberg’s Waste Books.)

I will tell people not to call in the morning, or not answer the phone.

I will try to confine my reading to the evening. (I read too much — as an escape from writing.)

I will answer letters once a week. (Friday? — I have to go to the hospital anyway.)

Then, in a Paris Review interview nearly two decades later, she details her routine:

I write with a felt-tip pen, or sometimes a pencil, on yellow or white legal pads, that fetish of American writers. I like the slowness of writing by hand. Then I type it up and scrawl all over that. And keep on retyping it, each time making corrections both by hand and directly on the typewriter, until I don’t see how to make it any better. Up to five years ago, that was it. Since then there is a computer in my life. 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.

[…]

I write in spurts. I write when I have to because the pressure builds up and I feel enough confidence that something has matured in my head and I can write it down. But once something is really under way, I don’t want to do anything else. I don’t go out, much of the time I forget to eat, I sleep very little. It’s a very undisciplined way of working and makes me not very prolific. But I’m too interested in many other things.

In 1932, under a section titled Daily Routine, Henry Miller footnotes his 11 commandments of writing with this wonderful blueprint for productivity, inspiration, and mental health:

MORNINGS:
If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.

If in fine fettle, write.

AFTERNOONS:

Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.

EVENINGS:

See friends. Read in cafés.

Explore unfamiliar sections — on foot if wet, on bicycle if dry.

Write, if in mood, but only on Minor program.

Paint if empty or tired.

Make Notes. Make Charts, Plans. Make corrections of MS.

Note: Allow sufficient time during daylight to make an occasional visit to museums or an occasional sketch or an occasional bike ride. Sketch in cafés and trains and streets. Cut the movies! Library for references once a week.

In this 1965 interview, Simone de Beauvoir contributes to dispelling the “tortured-genius” myth of writing:

I’m always in a hurry to get going, though in general I dislike starting the day. I first have tea and then, at about ten o’clock, I get under way and work until one. Then I see my friends and after that, at five o’clock, I go back to work and continue until nine. I have no difficulty in picking up the thread in the afternoon. When you leave, I’ll read the paper or perhaps go shopping. Most often it’s a pleasure to work.

[…]

If the work is going well, I spend a quarter or half an hour reading what I wrote the day before, and I make a few corrections. Then I continue from there. In order to pick up the thread I have to read what I’ve done.

Ernest Hemingway, who famously wrote standing (“Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.”), approaches his craft with equal parts poeticism and pragmatism:

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.

Don DeLillo tells The Paris Review in 1993:

I work in the morning at a manual typewriter. I do about four hours and then go running. This helps me shake off one world and enter another. Trees, birds, drizzle — it’s a nice kind of interlude. Then I work again, later afternoon, for two or three hours. Back into book time, which is transparent — you don’t know it’s passing. No snack food or coffee. No cigarettes — I stopped smoking a long time ago. The space is clear, the house is quiet. A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it. Looking out the window, reading random entries in the dictionary. To break the spell I look at a photograph of Borges, a great picture sent to me by the Irish writer Colm Tóín. The face of Borges against a dark background — Borges fierce, blind, his nostrils gaping, his skin stretched taut, his mouth amazingly vivid; his mouth looks painted; he’s like a shaman painted for visions, and the whole face has a kind of steely rapture. I’ve read Borges of course, although not nearly all of it, and I don’t know anything about the way he worked — but the photograph shows us a writer who did not waste time at the window or anywhere else. So I’ve tried to make him my guide out of lethargy and drift, into the otherworld of magic, art, and divination.

Productivity maniac Benjamin Franklin had a formidably rigorous daily routine:

Image by Nick Bilton

Haruki Murakami shares the mind-body connection noted by some of history’s famous creators:

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. 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.

William Gibson tells the Paris Review in 2011:

When I’m writing a book I get up at seven. I check my e-mail and do Internet ablutions, as we do these days. I have a cup of coffee. Three days a week, I go to Pilates and am back by ten or eleven. Then I sit down and try to write. If absolutely nothing is happening, I’ll give myself permission to mow the lawn. But, generally, just sitting down and really trying is enough to get it started. I break for lunch, come back, and do it some more. And then, usually, a nap. Naps are essential to my process. Not dreams, but that state adjacent to sleep, the mind on waking.

[…]

As I move through the book it becomes more demanding. At the beginning, I have a five-day workweek, and each day is roughly ten to five, with a break for lunch and a nap. At the very end, it’s a seven-day week, and it could be a twelve-hour day.

Toward the end of a book, the state of composition feels like a complex, chemically altered state that will go away if I don’t continue to give it what it needs. What it needs is simply to write all the time. Downtime other than simply sleeping becomes problematic. I’m always glad to see the back of that.

Maya Angelou shares her day with Paris Review in 1990:

I write in the morning and then go home about midday and take a shower, because writing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a double ablution. Then I go out and shop — I’m a serious cook — and pretend to be normal. I play sane — Good morning! Fine, thank you. And you? And I go home. I prepare dinner for myself and if I have houseguests, I do the candles and the pretty music and all that. Then after all the dishes are moved away I read what I wrote that morning. And more often than not if I’ve done nine pages I may be able to save two and a half or three. That’s the cruelest time you know, to really admit that it doesn’t work. And to blue pencil it. When I finish maybe fifty pages and read them — fifty acceptable pages — it’s not too bad. I’ve had the same editor since 1967. Many times he has said to me over the years or asked me, Why would you use a semicolon instead of a colon? And many times over the years I have said to him things like: I will never speak to you again. Forever. Goodbye. That is it. Thank you very much. And I leave. Then I read the piece and I think of his suggestions. I send him a telegram that says, OK, so you’re right. So what? Don’t ever mention this to me again. If you do, I will never speak to you again. About two years ago I was visiting him and his wife in the Hamptons. I was at the end of a dining room table with a sit-down dinner of about fourteen people. Way at the end I said to someone, I sent him telegrams over the years. From the other end of the table he said, And I’ve kept every one! Brute! But the editing, one’s own editing, before the editor sees it, is the most important.

Anaïs Nin simply notes, in a 1941 parenthetical comment, in the third volume of her diaries:

I write my stories in the morning, my diary at night.

She then adds in the fifth volume, in 1948.

I write every day. … I do my best work in the morning.

Lastly, the Kurt Vonnegut routine that inspired this omnibus, recorded in a letter to his wife in 1965:

In an unmoored life like mine, sleep and hunger and work arrange themselves to suit themselves, without consulting me. I’m just as glad they haven’t consulted me about the tiresome details. What they have worked out is this: I awake at 5:30, work until 8:00, eat breakfast at home, work until 10:00, walk a few blocks into town, do errands, go to the nearby municipal swimming pool, which I have all to myself, and swim for half an hour, return home at 11:45, read the mail, eat lunch at noon. In the afternoon I do schoolwork, either teach of prepare. When I get home from school at about 5:30, I numb my twanging intellect with several belts of Scotch and water ($5.00/fifth at the State Liquor store, the only liquor store in town. There are loads of bars, though.), cook supper, read and listen to jazz (lots of good music on the radio here), slip off to sleep at ten. I do pushups and sit-ups all the time, and feel as though I am getting lean and sinewy, but maybe not. Last night, time and my body decided to take me to the movies. I saw The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I took very hard. To an unmoored, middle-aged man like myself, it was heart-breaking. That’s all right. I like to have my heart broken.

For more wisdom from beloved authors, complement with Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules for a great story, Joy Williams on why writers write, David Ogilvy’s 10 no-bullshit tips, Henry Miller’s 11 commandments, Jack Kerouac’s 30 beliefs and techniques, John Steinbeck’s 6 pointers, and Susan Sontag’s synthesized learnings.

 

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NaNoWriMo Info. (Thank you Tamara!)

FranzMark
Painting: Franz Mark

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing month, which takes place each year in November. More and more, related events are offered throughout the year. Tamara has assembled some NaNoWriMo links for you!

Erin’s Morgenstern’s Nanowrimo pep talk
http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/erin-morgenstern

Official web page for Night Circus
http://erinmorgenstern.com/the-night-circus/

Official web page for Nanowrimo
http://nanowrimo.org/

And camp Nanowrimo which is new and, as far as I can tell, is year round. I just logged in there using my nanowrimo account and was immediately invited to an online writing marathon this Saturday! Super fun!
http://campnanowrimo.org/

Example of Mosaic Writing: Kabuika Kamunga

Kabuika Kamunga: MEMOIR OF A CONGO GIRL

Here Memoire of a Congo Girl by Kabuika Kamunga, an example of Mosaic Writing inspired by Maira Kalman’s Principles of Uncertainty. In a free-wheeling, personal and journal-like style you can keep the reader’s interest and attention by juxtaposing surprising images and ideas, going from abstract musing to concrete description and detail, from mundane specificity (a glass of cola) to larger concerns (politics), from the personal to the general and back again. This is another way of telling “story” without any linear plot, but you still evoke a strong atmosphere and world. You can see the slideshow by clicking on the images.

For anyone who missed it, here also the slideshow of the mosaic writers Kabuika was inspired by: Charlotte Solomon, Maira Kalman and Toc Fetch:
MosaicSlideshow

Zen Pencils: Creating a Life that Satisfies Your Soul

Zen Pencils post by Bill Waterson: Creating a Life that Reflects your Values and Satisfies your Soul

“Creating a Life that Satisfies your Soul” by Bill Watterson

2013-08-27-watterson

More Book Art

Here a great link to some amazing book sculptures.
Claire McGuire, “Sculptures Made Out of Books”

13 Sculptures Made Out of Books by Claire McGuire

barer_sunset_72_0

Books are beautiful in their own right, but these artists have managed to improve on perfection.

1. Books to infinity

Flickr

This crazy miracle in a library in Prague was designed by Slovakian artist Matej Kren. There’s a mirror inside so the tunnel of books looks endless when you lean into it.

2. Books as landscapes

Guy Laramee

Montreal-based artist Guy Laramee uses the texture of the pages to give the feeling of earth and rocks in his landscape sculptures.

3. Film Star

Flickr

This piece by John Latham was part of a special exhibition at the Tate Britain in 2005-2006.

4. Sunburst of books

Flickr

This wall-mounted sculpture is by Colombian artist Federico Uribe.

5. The Raven

Jaron James/Su Blackwell

Paper sculptor Su Blackwell makes delicate cut-outs that appear to be rising from the center of the book.

6. OMG LOL

Flickr

This sculpture made from a dictionary is by artist Michael Mandiberg.

7. Book ball

Flickr

This sphere made out of books is in Minneapolis.

8. Paging M.C. Escher

Brian Dettmer

This sculptor carves angular pathways into books, making convoluted three-dimensional figures worthy of M.C. Escher.

9. Sunset

Cara Barer

This book is reminiscent of wild, rainbow hair.

10. Creepy-crawlies

BookDust

Robert The unlocks creatures hiding inside books.

11. Color wheel

Flickr

This colorful sculpture is at Kansas City Public Library.

12. Books as canvas

Flickr

Artist Mike Stilkey uses acrylic paint on backdrops made out of books, including this piece on display at the Bristol Museum.

13. Flying books

Flickr

This is the ceiling of a booth made out of books by Jan Reymond for the Geneva Book Fair.

Art Book Slideshow

1590RoundBookHere you can download the art book slideshow we watched in class:

SLIDESARTBOOKS

AliceinW.LewisCarroll,1862

Ideas for art books on Pinterest: Pinterest Art Books: Forms and Techniques

LouiseRichardsonBoundbyNature:Spell Bound

Bookbinding Techniques

In case anyone is interested in bookbinding options, here some links that might be of use:

rozi+dos-a-dos+oriental+blue+4

In bookbinding, a dos-à-dos binding (from the French meaning “back-to-back”) is a binding structure in which two separate books are bound together such that the fore edge of one is adjacent to the spine of the other, with a shared lower board between them serving as the back cover of both. When shelved, the spine of the book to the right faces outward, while the spine of the book to the left faces the back of the shelf; the text of both works runs head-to-tail. In our class slideshow we will see several examples. More about this technique on wikipedia: Dos-à-dos binding Wikipedia

Dos-a-dos bookbinding tutorial online

More bookbinding tutorials: Bookbinding tutorials pinterest

How to fold a poster into a book:
Book/Poster fold

Handy links:
Book binding tutorial

Through this link you can see several tutorials on youtube on simple bookbinding techniques:

Click here for Some more simple bookbinding techniques

TF_bindingbookbook foldingimagesbookbinding-foldsimages-1

Youtube Tutorial:

Five Hole Book Tutorial: Pamphlet stitch

Five Hole Book

How to make a chapbook:

How to Make Your Own Chapbook

You can find way more if you google “Simple Bookbinding Techniques”

Cloth Cover Bookbinding Tutorial

cloth5http://library.thinkquest.org/J001156/makingbooks/sc_clothcovered.htm

Children’s Book Challenge

First World Publishing, founded by Rodney Charles, extends a challenge to any of my students: Write a children’s book about fearlessness.

In the children’s book market it is very important to consider your audience (and especially the age range of your audience). Do you want to write for tiny children of 4, or for young teens? It makes a big difference in the vocabulary you will use, the themes you will cover, etc. So first decide upon your audience. Going to the library to check out books can be helpful to give you some idea of the level of books in the age range you are most interested in. Children’s librarians are great resources as well.

Here is the link to the website of First World Publishing:
First World

If you have a manuscript ready (either with illustrations or without, for First World also employs illustrators), send it to me. I pre-screen all submissions and pass along the best ones to Rodney, who makes the final selection. If your work is accepted for publication, First World pays for the publishing costs via its non-profit imprint. This is a special gift to all MUM students, because Rodney wants to encourage a new generation of young people to achieve their goals and shine in the world. He also wants a new generation of kids to grow up believing they have a right to be fearless and happy.

THIS OFFER IS NOT TIME-BOUND. YOU CAN SUBMIT YOUR WORK TO ME ANY TIME WHILE YOU ARE ENROLLED AS AN MUM STUDENT.

Schedule Monday-Wed April 7-9

Schedule Monday/Tuesday

We will meet in class on Monday morning at 10 AM. I will definitely teach half days on Monday and Tuesday, and I will be available full days if I can. I am getting better. Thank you for all of the sweet notes.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Creativity

If you have not seen it yet, please watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s video on TED.com about Nourishing the Creative Genius, which is also posted to your blog: http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius

Janet shared this video link about the Creative Spark you might also be interested in. I will post it to the blog today:

http://www.ted.com/playlists/11/the_creative_spark?utm_campaign&awesm=on.ted.com_f097u&utm_content=awesm-publisher&utm_source=l.facebook.com&utm_medium=on.ted.com-facebook-share

Readings

I wanted to remind you all that we will discuss readings on Monday, so be prepared. We will also discuss the artist dates, so you will be reporting to the class briefly about what you did.

Acting Workshop Wednesday all day

On Wednesday this coming week, we will have an all day acting workshop with Lenore Jones, former Theater professor here at MUM. We will hold the workshop in the media lounge to have more space. I will remind you of this again ahead of time.