Mad Routines

Hunter S. Thompson via Jeph JacquesI need some music today, so I am standing in my pajamas holding a book of CDs in front of the stereo; how rustic and old school. My Mp3 player is meant only for running, walking or ignoring people I know on the tram.

I choose Tom Waits, slip it in, sit back down at the desk and type a few words. I am struggling with my 1,000 words today and am being fitful as a result. It’s 10 a.m., Sunday, I have written 6 words: Get to work you fat fucker.  

Stephen King listens to heavy metal when he writes, which surely helps explain the deeply disturbing nature of his writing. Nothing says ‘let’s have a demonic clown dismember a child’ like Motorhead.

I drift off into that glorious space of procrastination, where each fleeting thought demands immediate and extensive attention. Questions such as ‘Who created the Smurfs?’ and ‘Does water really roll off a duck’s back?’ must be looked into. If done well, these questions could lead to twenty, even thirty minutes of solid procrastination that actually feels like research and, therefore, work. I am a genius.

Today’s query: What are the routines of famous writers? I go to the Internet.

We all have this idea of the classic writer toiling away at a typewriter (enter again notion of rustic and old school) that sits amid hundreds of manuscript pages on an oak desk. The classic writer is wearing a roll neck cotton sweater and smoking a pipe, a record player mumbling Bach from the corner of a bookshelf which holds hundreds of worn tomes.

Reading through the surprisingly many websites dedicated to this subject, it’s clear that sometimes this is a realistic idea. C.S Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien and T.S Eliot did write in locales such as these and have routines similar…maybe it’s an initial thing. Henry Miller didn’t have an exact routine, but split his day among writing, reading, painting, going to cafés and shtupping Anaïs Nin. Nin, for her part, had a simple regimen: Write stories in the morning, diary at night. Translation: Stories before Henry stops by, write about rocking Henry’s world later in the evening.

What is most fascinating on this topic, though, are the writers who somehow break this stereotype. John Cheever, known as the Chekhov of the suburbs, wrote in his underwear. Kurt Vonnegut wrote from 5:30 a.m. til 8 a.m. and then went swimming, his evenings were spent drinking scotch and listening to music. Truman Capote wrote lying down and smoking. Jack Kerouac wrote with a candle next to his typewriter and prayed for sanity. Surely, this routine has since been followed by 6 million hipsters mimicking the most overrated ‘writer’ in the history of paper. Or, more appropriately, toilet paper. He should have prayed for the ability to form cohesive story lines and at least one character you don’t want to kick in the throat. Just a thought…

And for those of you who want to feel that their lives are somewhat normal, please read Hunter S. Thompson’s daily routine. This maniac and owner of a superhuman liver, heart and septum, spent each day on an imaginary yellow submarine dropping LSD, snorting cocaine, drinking scotch, smoking weed and, yes, somehow, writing. I took a hit off a joint last week and wrote something about clouds, mobiles and pillows that I’ll thankfully never be able to decipher. This made me feel better.

In any case, this story has a happy ending. Not that kind, you sickos…though if you know a place…nevermind. I think there’s a tendency to judge yourself against the classic model of whatever you do, whether it’s write, play music or paint. This can be detrimental. I know that I should get up early and write from 5-8 a.m. and then jog while practicing my Czech vocabulary, but sometimes I wake up late, read the news and eat oatmeal while I write. Sometimes I watch TV and scan porn sites in the evening and then get my 1,000 words done around midnight.

I guess the moral is that everyone does it differently, just keep doing what works for you.

And don’t read Jack Kerouac. Or do anything like Hunter S. Thompson.

  1. #1 by Marcelle on February 11, 2013 - 3:09 pm

    You’ve given me a great idea. Perhaps if I teach in my underwear, my Intro to Lit students will begin to share the appreciation I have for Cheever’s suburban critique rather than dismissing him as boring. “The Country Husband” is on their calendar for next week. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for doing the research!

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on February 11, 2013 - 3:52 pm

      No problem, Marcelle! Show them the Seinfeld episode where Susan’s dad had had the affair with Cheever. Falconer!

  2. #3 by Andy on February 11, 2013 - 7:34 pm

    Sounds like someone is subtly fishing for a membership to the “Kerouac of the Month Club.” Consider it done, man. You should receive a complimentary turtleneck and clip-on soul patch with your first installment…

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