Those Quirky Authors!

Quirk: /kwərk/ Noun 1. A peculiarity of behavior, action, or personality; mannerism. We all have them, don’t we? Writers have them by the truckload.

Take one of my favorites, William Faulkner. He drank a lot of whiskey while writing. He told the story of the time he met Sherwood Anderson when they both lived in New Orleans. Faulkner worked for a bootlegger at the time. They used to meet in the evenings and drink until 2 am. Next morning, Anderson was secluded in his rooms, writing. Faulkner said, “I thought then, if that was the life it took to be a writer, that was the life for me.”

truman-capote-1977Truman Capote had to be lying down to write. Pencil in one hand and a glass of sherry in the other he produced such masterpieces as Other Voices, Other Rooms, A Christmas Memory, and who can forget In Cold Blood? When he was interviewed by Paris Review in 1957 he said, “I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis.”

Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and Lewis Carroll all wrote while standing up. Thomas Wolfe did, too. He was so tall (6’6”) that he used the top of his refrigerator as a desk!

Mark-Twain2Edgar Allan Poe dressed in black and wrote with his cat sitting on his shoulder, while Mark Twain always chose to write dressed in white. Victor Hugo gave his clothes to his valet and told him not to come back with them until the writing was done, and wrote in the nude.

I have my quirks, too. I absolutely must have a bottle of cold water and a cup of hot coffee. The neatness of my desk is unimportant. It may be littered with half a dozen dirty coffee cups, books, papers and such but even though I write mostly at the keyboard, my writing pad and pencil have to be close at hand.

Most importantly, I can’t write a word until I’ve washed my hands and face. Every hour or so, no matter how well (or badly) the writing is going, I have to get up and go wash again.

What quirks have you when you’re producing your potential best-sellers? Are you fully dressed in a particular outfit like Poe or Twain or do you write in your underwear like John Cheever, or even naked like Hugo?

Do you have rituals that must be performed like me, or a particular place that gives you inspiration? Share your quirks with me!

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