Can These Quirky Habits of Famous Writers Inspire Your Content?

July 9, 2015

Writing Quirks

At the heart of it, creating marketing content is the same as any other kind of storytelling. It takes creativity, a unique way of looking at the world, and the ability to communicate your thoughts in a clear and engaging way.

So it’s no wonder that marketers fall prey to the same blocks that afflict writers in the literary world. The one thing all writers have in common is that sometimes we all look hopelessly at a blank page (or screen) and wonder how we’re going to fill it.

But if Stephen King can write 1100 pages about a sewer-dwelling evil clown, you can finish that blog post today. To help you break through your blocks, we examined the eccentric habits of famous writers to see how they kept the thoughts and words flowing. The next time you get stuck, try one of these ideas to keep the stellar content marketing coming:

Find Your Happy Medium

Vladimir Nabokov“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” – Vladimir Nabokov

Famous writers are notoriously picky about their writing materials. Vladimir Nabakov wrote all 112,000 words of Lolita on 3x5 note cards, in pencil. Imagine being his editor! Alexandre Dumas used color-coded paper: blue for fiction, pink for non-fiction, and yellow for poetry.

If you can’t seem to get your words out while staring at your laptop screen, change it up. Maybe you need to write on sticky notes and stick them to a wall to connect ideas together, or write in pen on paper to stop yourself from over-editing.

Try Different Positions

ernest hemingway“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly, sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” –Ernest Hemingway

We may think the “standing desk” trend is a fairly modern invention, but it’s nothing new. Virginia Woolf wrote at a chest-height desk, and so did Ernest Hemingway. By contrast, Truman Capote would only write while lying down on a chaise lounge. He claimed he could only think while horizontal.

It’s possible none of them would have produced their masterworks if they were forced to sit in an office chair, even one with nifty adjustable armrests. Experiment with posture and position to see what works, even if you get a few strange looks from co-workers.

Eliminate Distractions

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” –Jack KerouacJack Kerouac

Quick, what did Edgar Allen Poe and Jack Kerouac have in common? You are correct, both of them wrote on scrolls. Poe attached pieces of paper together to make long spools that he would roll up and seal with wax before delivering to his editor. Kerouac wrote On the Road on a single 120-foot roll of paper. Both men said that stopping to get a new piece of paper broke their concentration.

While it’s true that your computer doesn’t need fresh sheets of paper, it does provide a host of distractions that can break your focus. Experiment with shutting off your laptop’s internet connection while you write, forcing you to stick to your writing and nothing else.

Customize Your Workspace

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.” – Neil Gaiman

Neil GaimanNeil Gaiman is famous for his office of choice; he built a gazebo in the woods behind his house, screened-in and cozy, equipped with everything he needs to write. By contrast, Maya Angelou and Agatha Christie didn’t have so much as a desk. They worked best in hotel rooms, sitting on the bed.

The lesson, of course, is to have a gazebo in the middle of the forest. If that’s not possible, customize your workspace to make it work for you. It’s often best to have some kind of separate space for writing, to subliminally tell your brain it’s time to get creative.

Take Advantage of Your Peak Creative Time

“A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” –Thomas Mann

Thomas MannScientists have found that whether you’re a night owl or a morning person, people’s brains tend to be more creative in the morning. But writers argue that having a regular routine is more important than when you write. Thomas Mann locked himself in his study from nine to noon every day, while Marcel Proust slept all day and worked through the night.

If you find there’s a specific time of day when you’re brimming with ideas, start setting aside that time to work on content creation. Train your body to sit down and write when your brain is most up to the task.

Try a Different Point of View

“I write slowly. I actually write quickly, but I throw out so much material.” –Dan Browndan brown

Sometimes it’s helpful to look at things from a different perspective. Dan Brown takes this piece of advice literally; he has an inversion therapy table in his study, and uses it to hang upside-down when he feels writer’s block coming on. Which may explain some of the stranger plot twists in the Da Vinci Code.

Your expense account may not allow for an inversion table, but you can still get a different perspective when you feel stuck. Take a break, walk around the building (or the block), and come back refreshed.

Content marketing is a creative endeavor. You can nourish your own creativity by borrowing advice from these famous writers: find the materials and posture that inspire you to write, eliminate distractions in your personal writing space, use your brain when it’s at its most creative, and try a different point of view when you get stuck.

For tips on getting the most out of the content you create, check out our latest eBook, Creating Your First Big Rock: A Step by Step Guide for Marquee Content.