How Did Collette and Truman Capote Organize Their Days?

The credit/blame/or thanks for my newest addiction goes to Laura Harrington, author of the upcoming (and recipient of a recent rave review from Joni) novel, Alice Bliss.

Daily Routines has searched through books, newspapers, magazines and websites to discover how writers, artists and other interesting folk organized their days. Two opposite ends of the spectrum:

Anthony Trollope

Every day for years, Trollope reported in his “Autobiography,” he woke in darkness and wrote from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., with his watch in front of him. He required of himself two hundred and fifty words every quarter of an hour. If he finished one novel before eight-thirty, he took out a fresh piece of paper and started the next. The writing session was followed, for a long stretch of time, by a day job with the postal service. Plus, he said, he always hunted at least twice a week. Under this regimen, he produced forty-nine novels in thirty-five years. Having prospered so well, he urged his method on all writers: “Let their work be to them as is his common work to the common laborer. No gigantic efforts will then be necessary. He need tie no wet towels round his brow, nor sit for thirty hours at his desk without moving,—as men have sat, or said that they have sat.”

The New Yorker, June 14, 2004

W. H. Auden

Perhaps the finest writer ever to use speed systematically, however, was W. H. Auden. He swallowed Benzedrine every morning for twenty years, from 1938 onward, balancing its effect with the barbiturate Seconal when he wanted to sleep. (He also kept a glass of vodka by the bed, to swig if he woke up during the night.) He took a pragmatic attitude toward amphetamines, regarding them as a "labor-saving device" in the "mental kitchen," with the important proviso that "these mechanisms are very crude, liable to injure the cook, and constantly breaking down."

John Lanchester, "High Style," The New Yorker, January 6, 2003


Okay, no fair--now you have to tell us about Collette and Capote! But really, thanks for this post. It's great to be reminded that everyone has different processes. I personally favor Trollope's to Auden's, but I also think it's tough to compare novelists to poets and vice-versa. When I was writing short fiction and plays, I could lock myself away for a few days and ta-da! There was a first draft manuscript! Not so for me with writing long fiction, and I suspect it's that way for most of us. Now I have to abide by the "write every day" or write nearly every day approach, or else I just don't get enough done.

Still working up to that 250 words every quarter hour thing, though. ;)
Clearly, neither of these authors had to deal with the great e-mail addiction. :)
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