On Writing: Just Write

Ernest Hemmingway did his writing between 6am and noon every day. Later in life, when he lived in Cuba, he had something of a turret in his house that was devoted exclusively to his writing. He labored over each word, spending hours to get everything just right or, as he put it, honest. Often his revisions would exceed three dozen before he’d let anyone see the product.

All of this work was done standing up.

While Hemmingway didn’t sit, Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin does all of his work on a DOS computer (for those of you who don’t know what that is, DOS = Disk Operating System – what Microsoft used BEFORE it invented/stole Windows). Not that he’s a technophobe; it’s just that the only way he can avoid using the internet while he writes is to make sure none is available to him.

In contrast, Hunter S. Thompson got up every day at 3. PM. Buzzfeed recently published his daily routine. Thompson would have scotch as a wake up drink, then alternate cocaine, scotch, cigarettes and coffee until 7. At this point, he would visit a local tavern for (and I’m quoting the article now): “…lunch- Heineken, two margaritas, coleslaw, a taco salad, a double order of fried onion rings, carrots cake, ice cream, a bean fritter, Dunhills, another Heineken, cocaine, and for the ride home, a snow cone (a glass of shredded ice over which is poured three or four jiggers of Chivas). At 9pm, he’d start snorting cocaine seriously, followed by acid at 10. At midnight, Hunter S. Thompson declared himself ready to write. This lasted six hours, during which he did more coke, drank beer and scotch and watched “continuous pornographic movies”.

William Goldman, the writer of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride, takes six months to turn around a script. Doug Richardson, writer of Die Hard 2, takes around eight weeks. Creighton Rothenberger and Sylvester Stallone wrote The Expendables 3 in something like three days.

This is all been a long way of saying that there’s no magic way to write. Everyone has their own way of doing it. I myself plant myself in the couch, throw something on the TV for background noise, and work. Sometimes the TV is distracting, sometimes the cadence of the dialogue helps me out. Except for the day I got tired of having a script in my head, sat down and wrote 60 pages in 12 hours.

Anyway, there’s a lot of would-be writers out there who aren’t writing. Because something comes up, the game’s on TV, the dog needs to go out, whatever.

But…if you’re one of these guys, and you want to write, just write.