Sunday, August 27, 2017


Even when on our best behavior, we fiction writers are strange beasts. We spend our days staring off into space, dreaming up people who may have lived experiencing events that might have happened. Some days, the story gushes from inspiration to paper, almost writing itself. Other days, we couldn’t string three words together with a gun to our heads.

But then, there was that time when you wrote 3,500 words in a day, and the subsequent book was snapped up by the first publisher who read it. And you were wearing those lime green socks your kid gave you at Christmas. Or that Tractor Supply cap. Or maybe you were sitting in the second booth on the right at IHOP instead of at your writing desk at home. That’s where superstition comes into play.

Many famous authors admit to having rituals or lucky charms. They include time, place, wearing certain articles of clothing (or not!), and even way-out OCD things like the number of pencils on the desk. Here are a few notables.

Truman Capote never started or ended a piece on a Friday. He refused to accept any hotel room assignment containing the number “13” and allowed no more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray. He also favored writing while lying down, as did Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, and George Orwell.

John Steinbeck wrote his drafts in pencil…make that one of twelve perfectly sharpened pencils (no more, no less) he kept on his desk.

(Note to self: buy a dozen pencils and a sharpener. Proceed to write several great American novels. No problem, right?)

Jack London insisted on writing one thousand words every single day of his career. (Slackers like me, take note. And, by the way, define "career." Can we three to four-day-a-week writers prorate that number?)

John Cheever (from the waist up)
John Cheever dressed in a suit and tie when he was preparing to write. Then, he went to his basement and took off his pants. Writing in his boxers served him well. He won a Pulitzer for The Stories of John Cheever.

As for me, I don’t have any particular talismans or rituals that I rely on. That said, I notice that I usually write with my feet propped on a table. I tend to get new ideas or work out story details when I’m driving. Strangely, I have done a lot of my best writing in busy places like restaurants or airports. And there is that Mickey Mouse coffee mug…