Writing before dawn began as a necessity – I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama–and that was always around five in the morning. Many years later, after I stopped working at Random House, I just stayed at home for a couple of years. I discovered things about myself I had never thought about before. At first I didn’t know when I wanted to eat, because I had always eaten when it was lunchtime or dinnertime or breakfast time. Work and the children had driven all of my habits… I didn’t know the weekday sounds of my own house; it all made me feel a little giddy.

I was involved in writing Beloved at that time – this was in 1983–and eventually I realized that I was clearer-headed, more confident and generally more intelligent in the morning. The habit of getting up early, which I had formed when the children were young, now became my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down.

Recently I was talking to a writer who described something she did whenever she moved to her writing table. I don’t remember exactly what the gesture was–there is something on her desk that she touches before she hits the computer keyboard–but we began to talk about little rituals that one goes through before beginning to write. I, at first, thought I didn’t have a ritual, but then I remembered that I always get up and make a cup of coffee and watch the light come. And she said, Well, that’s a ritual. And I realized that for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space I can only call nonsecular… Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transaction. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.

I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are at their best, creatively. They need to ask themselves, What does the ideal room look like? Is there music? Is there silence? Is there chaos outside or is there serenity outside? What do I need in order to release my imagination?

Toni Morrison
The Paris Review, Issue 128, 1993

Writing is a lover

April 5, 2018


I’m not good at writing consistently, or with discipline. For years, when people asked, I would say I wrote 2,000 words every day, at the same hour, drinking the same tea. It was a lie — a lie to hide the shame. I write in the dark, at odd hours, with a too-bright screen. I avoiding writing, because writing is both a joy and a job and I’m afraid — the same way I’m afraid of a rollercoaster. And the same thrill fills my bones when I’m finally engaged in the act, when words emerge with each stroke of a finger. Writing is a lover I cannot look in the face until we’re in the throes of passion. Writing comes together, or it doesn’t, a sculpture I pick at, until I swear it looks human. Writing is getting to mix all my metaphors and then using time later to edit and smooth and polish. Writing is rough. My desk reflects these small battles and remind me of the power of raw affect: Figurines from pop culture, dog treats to bribe creatures into loving me on command, empty cans of diet beverages that contain way too much aspartame. I write in my head when I’m not writing, the hamster constantly running. But I write, ultimately, because I do, because that’s what I do, because what else could I do?

Adriana e Ramírez
8th March 2018

the body is quiescent

March 31, 2018

I work in the morning, but I think the afternoon is a good time to work. Most people sleep in the afternoon. I’ve always found it a good time, especially if one doesn’t have much lunch. It’s a quiet time. It’s a time when one’s body is not at its sharpest, not at its most receptive — the body is quiescent, somnolent; but the brain can be quite sharp. I think, also, at the same time that the unconscious mind has a habit of asserting itself in the afternoon. The morning is the conscious time, but the afternoon is a time in which we should deal much more with the hinterland of the consciousness.

Anthony Burgess
Interview with John Cullinan in Paris Review spring 1973

Your writing routine –

March 24, 2018


If groggy, type notes and allocate, as stimulus.
If in fine fettle, write.


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.


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.

Henry Miller
On Writing

have a few drinks

March 22, 2018

I never type in the morning. I don’t get up in the morning. I drink at night. I try to stay in bed until twelve o’clock, that’s noon. Usually, if I have to get up earlier, I don’t feel good all day. I look, if it says twelve, then I get up and my day begins. I eat something, and then I usually run right up to the race track after I wake up. I bet the horses, then I come back and Linda cooks something and we talk awhile, we eat, and we have a few drinks, and then I go upstairs with a couple of bottles and I type — starting around nine-thirty and going until one-thirty, to, two-thirty at night. And that’s it.

Charles Bukowski
Sunlight here I am: interviews and encounters 1963 – 1993

writing late at night too

January 2, 2018

I am not a great creature of routine, but I like to be writing (or drawing) by about nine thirty and work through till lunchtime after which I go for a walk. On return I may briefly rest and have a cup of tea and listen to music before doing more work till six or seven. I usually do some writing late at night too, even if is only making a brief entry in my diary.

Reggie Oliver
Interview with Simon Bestwick 11th December 2015