The Daily Habits of Famous Writers

they stick to them with particular rigor(毅力). The writing routine, says hyper-prolific(极度高产的) Stephen King, is “not any different than a bedtime routine. Do you go to bed a different way every night?” Likely not. As for why we all have our very specific, personal quirks(怪癖) at bedtime, or at writing time, King answers honestly, “I don’t know.”


So what does King's routine look like? “There are certain things I do if I sit down to write,” he’s quoted as saying in Lisa Rogak’s Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King:

I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged(安排) in the same places. The cumulative(累积的) purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.”

The King quotes come to us via Daily Routines, which features brief summaries of “how writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days.” We’ve previously featured a few snapshots of the daily lives of famous philosophers.The writers section of the site similarly offers windows into the daily practices of a wide range of authors, from the living to the long dead.


A contemporary of King, though a slower, more self-consciously painstaking(不怕麻烦的) writer, Haruki Murakam(村上春树) incorporates into(整合) his workday his passion for running, an avocation he has made central to his writing philosophy. Expectedly, Murakami keeps a very athletic writing schedule and routine.

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition(重复) itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism(催眠). I mesmerize(催眠) myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training(生存训练). Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity(艺术敏感度).

金词: mesmerism 催眠状态


Not all writers can adhere to such a disciplined(自律的) way of living and working, particularly those whose waking hours are given over to other, usually painfully unfulfilling(不令人满足的), day jobs. An almost archetypal(典型的) case of the writer trapped(被困的) in such a situation, Franz Kafka kept a routine that would cripple(致残) most people and that did not bring about physical strength, to say the least. As Zadie Smith writes of the author's portrayal in Louis Begley’s biography, Kafka “despaired of his twelve hour shifts that left no time for writing.”

Two years later, promoted to the position of chief clerk at the Workers' Accident Insurance Institute, he was now on the one-shift system, 8:30 AM until 2:30 PM. And then what? Lunch until 3:30, then sleep until 7:30, then exercises, then a family dinner. After which he started work around 11 PM (as Begley points out, the letter- and diary-writing took up at least an hour a day, and more usually two), and then "depending on my strength, inclination(倾向), and luck, until one, two, or three o'clock, once even till six in the morning." Then "every imaginable effort to go to sleep," as he fitfully rested before leaving to go to the office once more. This routine left him permanently on the verge of collapse(崩溃边缘).

Might he have chosen a healthier way? When his fiancée Felice Bauer suggested as much, Kafka replied, “The present way is the only possible one; if I can’t bear it, so much the worse; but I will bear it somehow.” And so he did, until his early death from tuberculosis.


While writers require routine, nowhere is it written that their habits must be salubrious(健康的) or measured(有规则的). According to Simone De Beauvoir, outré French writer Jean Genet “puts in about twelve hours a day for six months when he’s working on something and when he has finished he can let six months go by without doing anything.” Then there are those writers who have relied on pointedly unhealthy, even dangerous habits to propel(驱动) them through their workday. Not only did William S. Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson write under the influence, but so also did such a seemingly conservative person as W.H. Auden, who “swallowed(吞下)Benzedrine(苯丙胺) every morning for twenty years… balancing its effect with the barbiturate(巴比妥盐酸) Seconal when he wanted to sleep.” Auden called the amphetamine(安非他命) habit a “labor saving device” in the “mental kitchen,” though he added that “these mechanisms are very crude, liable to injure the cook, and constantly breaking down.

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endeavor [in'devə]

n. 努力;尽力
vi. vt. 努力;尽力

require [rɪ'kwaɪə]

vt. 要求;需要;命令

routine [ruː'tiːn]

n. 例行公事;日常工作;程序
adj. 日常的;例行的

rigor [ˈrɪgə]

n. 严格,严厉;严谨,严密

mundane [mʌnˈdeɪn]

adj. 世俗的,平凡的

breakthrough ['breɪkθruː]

n. 突破点, 突破性进展, 重要的新发现

practiced ['præktist]

adj. 熟练的;有经验的;精通的

adhere to

坚持, 依附

commonality [kɒmə'nælɪtɪ]

n. 共性,共同特征

parameter [pə'ræmɪtə]

n. 参量, 参数