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9 Weird Habits That Famous Writers Formed to Write Better

9 Weird Habits That Famous Writers Formed to Write Better

Every writer is in constant search of a solid strategy for their personal daily battle with the blank page. This doesn’t only happen to newbies, it even happens to the literary icons we adore. Excellent wordsmiths have to wait for their best and motivated self before they can produce deep and thought-provoking novels and stories. Along with their drive to work in the ways that best suit them, famous writers’ own strange writing rituals also bring meaning to their creations.

Aside from innate skills and intelligence, the greatest geniuses share their potential with the world by possessing remarkable eagerness and a strong passion towards their craft. But believe it or not, most famous writers have also adopted bizarre habits in an attempt to scribble their words down on paper. Many successful authors were able to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack because of these quirky secrets. Take a look at some of the routines of these eccentrics that may help you simplify your own writing process.

1. Lying down

Twain_writing_in_bed_jpg_600x458_q85
    Mark Twain writing in bed.

    For some authors, lying down seems to set their creativity and focus in writing. They find inspiration and the right words to write while they are in the comfort of their bed. Among the successful novelists who have practiced this habit are Mark Twain, George Orwell, Edith Wharton, Woody Allen and Marcel Proust. They were all known for churning out pages while lying in bed or lounged on a sofa. American author and playwright Truman Capote even claimed to be a “completely horizontal author” because he couldn’t think and write unless he was lying down.

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    2. Standing up

    Hemingwaywriting1
      Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up.

      In contrast to point 1, writing vertically is also not peculiar for famous writers of critically acclaimed novels and motivational speeches: writers like Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll, and Philip Roth. These great thinkers have been inspired to pen their finest pieces at their standing desk. For health-conscious writers, this technique might work for you because standing desks offer many proven benefits.

      3. Writing with index cards

      vladimir-nabokov-writing-draft-on-index-cards
        Vladimir Nabokov writing a draft on index cards.

        Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita, Pale Fire, and Ada, was very particular about his writing instruments. He composed all his works on index cards, which he kept in slim boxes. This odd method enabled him to write scenes non-sequentially and re-order the cards any time he wanted.

        Nabokov also stored some of his lined Bristol cards underneath his pillow. This way, if an idea popped into his head, he could quickly write it down. You can use index cards when doing your note-taking or plotting too. It’s a different way to construct your story that can knock fun things loose.

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        4. Using a color-coded system

        Alexandre-Dumas2
          Alexandre Dumas

          French author Alexandre Dumas wrote his historical adventure novels like The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo using a color-coded system of writing. It may be hard to imagine, but this genius was actually very specific on the palettes of colors for his works. Interesting, right? For decades, Dumas used various colors to indicate his type of writing. Blue was the color for his fiction novels, pink for non-fiction or articles and yellow for poetry. Why not try applying different colors to your content creation and see if it can help you express yourself in print.

          5. Hanging upside down

          Dan Brown
            Dan Brown

            Hanging upside down is the cure for writer’s block; at least, this is what the renowned bestselling author Dan Brown believes. According to Brown, when he does so-called inversion therapy, it helps him relax and concentrate better on his writing. The more he does it, the more he feels relieved and inspired to write.

            Another unusual habit of the Da Vinci Code writer is having an hourglass on his desk. Every hour he sets aside his manuscript to do some push-ups, sit-ups and stretches. Imitating such weird tactics doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all. If it helps you to write, why not give it a try, right? At the very least, you’ll stay fit!

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            6. Facing a wall

            Francine_Prose
              Francine Prose

              Francine Prose, the author of Blue Angel, believes that writing while facing a wall is the perfect metaphor for being a writer. When working in a strange apartment, Prose’s solution for limiting distraction was moving her desk to face the window and looking out on a high brick wall. She found this view monotonous but it helped her to sit and write for long stretches of time.

              7. Acting out dialogues

              Aaron-Sorkin
                Aaron Sorkin

                The award-winning screenwriter behind The West Wing and The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin, confessed that he broke his nose while writing. How did it happen? Well, he likes to act out his stories’ dialogues in front of the mirror, and once, after getting carried away, he accidentally head butted it. Acting out your story dialogues is good, but make sure that you don’t step over the line and get yourself hurt when you’re structuring your story.

                8. Writing without clothes

                Victor Hugo
                  Victor Hugo

                  To complete your writing before a deadline, you may possibly consider Victor Hugo’s weird habit — writing without clothes. When he was facing a tight schedule for his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he instructed his valet to confiscate all his clothes so he wouldn’t able to leave the house. Even during the coldest days, Hugo only wrapped himself in a blanket while he penned his story.

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                  9. Drinking massive amounts of coffee

                  Honore de Balzac.jpg
                    Honore de Balzac

                    French novelist Honoré de Balzac fueled his creative writing by consuming around 50 cups of coffee a day. Yes, that’s the amount of coffee he drank every day just to find inspiration for his written works. Some studies say that Balzac barely slept when he wrote his magnum opus, La Comedie Humaine. Besides de Balzac, another coffee-addicted author was Voltaire. He was known for drinking up to 40 cups of coffee a day.

                    Featured photo credit: the author/streetwrk.com via flickr.com

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                    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

                    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

                    There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

                    How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

                    Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

                    Why is multitasking a myth?

                    The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

                    Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

                    You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

                    Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

                    We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

                    Your brain on multi-tasking

                    Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

                    When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

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                    But I can juggle multiple tasks!

                    You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

                    For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

                    Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

                    Why multitasking is failing you

                    Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

                    Multitasking wastes your time.

                    You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

                    In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

                    It makes you dumber.

                    A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

                    You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

                    This is an emotional response.

                    There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

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                    Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

                    It’ll wear you out.

                    When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

                    We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

                    How to stop multitasking and work productively

                    Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

                    In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

                    Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

                    1. Consciously change gears

                    Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

                    As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

                    This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

                    2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

                    Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

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                    Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

                    This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

                    3. Set aside distractions

                    Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

                    If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

                    Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

                    Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

                    4. Take care of yourself

                    We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

                    Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

                    In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

                    5. Take a break

                    People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

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                    Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

                    6. Make technology your ally

                    Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

                    Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

                    The key to productivity: Focus

                    Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

                    Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

                    If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

                    How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

                    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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