I love hearing about how writers write. Hemingway wrote standing up – by some accounts with a carpenter’s pencil (macho: very, very macho). Terry Jones insists that he wrote Starship Titanic in the nude. Proust wrote in bed, in a cork-lined room. Hunter S Thompson loaded up on anything from bourbon to Benzedrine, put a Dunhill in a cigarette holder, lit up and let rip. Kerouac wrote on rolls of paper because he believed that individual pages imposed artificial boundaries on his prose. Martin Amis hand-writes his fiction, but used a computer for Experience. Clive James sometimes writes in cafes and takes a nap every afternoon. When writing a book Stephen Fry gets up progressively earlier each day to work on it and eschews shaving. Salman Rushdie starts writing at 10:30am and doesn’t eat lunch.
I love this kind of information because it’s essentially gossip. The last thing I’d ever do is think that any of these snippets represented the secret to successful scribbling. They just give my impressions about writers a local habitation and a name.
It’s puzzling, therefore, to be confronted with advice relating to writing. And when I’m confronted with rules for becoming a writer purporting to be a signpost reading ‘Fountain of the Hippocrene: 500m’, I start to twitch a bit and bite things. Continue reading