I was recently reading up about the routine of various writers – Vonnegut, Hemingway, Miller, the guy who couldn’t write without the smell of rotting apples, the guy who could only write with coffee – after awhile they all start to blur together.
Reading about their routines is interesting, absolutely. We always like to find out what brilliant people do every day, perhaps at least in the vague hope that we might find some aspect of their routine that we admire. Some aspect we can take upon ourselves in the hope that if we just do this the way Stephen King does it, maybe we, too, can be brilliant.
But it doesn’t really work that way, does it? And believe me, I’ve tried. Knowing me, I will continue trying. I’ll probably keep discovering bits and pieces of writing routines and advice that I try to take upon myself. Am I at my most creative at 5am? I don’t know, I’m never awake then. Maybe I should be.
The truth is, though, that a great and brilliant mind is a great and brilliant mind. How that brilliance comes about is almost irrelevant (although definitely interesting), because it can never be copied. Knowing a routine does not mean knowing a mind – and it’s the minds of these literary giants that produced the work we admire so much. Does routine play into that? Yes. But doing things the way Hemingway did them does not mean you can suddenly write like Hemingway, in the same way that doing things the way a stock broker does them does not mean you can suddenly work on Wall Street. I find reading these routines to be inspiring, but I always have to check myself in my enthusiasm to attempt copying them.
Because my routine is my own. I wrote my novel in a month, and I did it at night after work with a glass of red wine and my cat sleeping on the back of the couch behind me, a furry guard between myself and the draft of the old windows in my apartment. I honestly don’t know if I could ever pull that off again, or if my routine would be the same if I did.
After all, there’s a certain beauty in routine, but there is always a certain thrill to chaos.