Strange Writing Habits

In the acknowledgments for her novel In the Midst of WinterIsabel Allende reveals that she starts each new book on January 8. 

Isn’t that interesting? That little tidbit got me thinking (always dangerous, I know). So, I asked some clients to share any strange writing habits—quirks, superstitions, compulsions, etc.—they might have (also dangerous, I know). Here’s what they said:

If I don’t see mountains, it’s too cloudy to write (Jerry Barnes, author of When Heaven Visits).

I often get good writing ideas when I’m exercising, particularly walking or riding my bicycle. I think there is something about elevating the heart rate and pumping oxygen through the body that facilitates thinking (Rob Currie, author of Hunger Winter: A WW2 Novel).

I’m big on creating a structure for my books. Everybody outlines, but I get a little obsessive about it, especially when writing devotionals or anything with a lot of brief chapters. I often use a spreadsheet so I can see how all the titles, epigraphs, thesis statements, etc., stack up with each other (Lawrence Wilson, author of Promises & Prayers for Men).

I absolutely cannot sit down to write unless I brew a fresh cup of coffee. I also have to be wearing comfortable clothes. I think those two things combined bring out my creative flow and put me in the zone to write (Caitlin Henderson, author of Faith, Farming, and Family: Cultivating Hope and Harvesting Joy Wherever You Are).

To minimize internal and external distractions, I do two things before I sit down to write. First, I brush my teeth. There’s nothing more distracting (especially for a dental hygienist) than the feel of fuzzy teeth. Who can compose a coherent thought while a colony of bacteria sets up housekeeping between your premolars? Second, I clip my fingernails super short. The click click click of nails on a keyboard is as disruptive as a kid dropping marbles one by one onto a ceramic tile floor—for hours. The sound drives all brilliant thoughts far, far away (Lori Hatcher, author of Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible).

Before I sit down to write, I pray … then I turn on the TV for background noise to a show I’ve seen a dozen times, like Young Sheldon (Rebekah Millet,

When I was expecting my first child, I had to know if I was carrying a boy or a girl so I could call him/her by name the remaining months. I feel the exact same way when I get an idea for a new book. Long before I can start to write the story, I have to know who the characters are. I’ll search baby names online for days and days until I find the right names, then immediately their story starts to unfold in my mind (Michelle Shocklee, author of Under the Tulip Tree).  

I don’t know if this counts as strange, but I occasionally get a compulsion to write that keeps me from sleeping at night. I imagine I am not alone in that. It often seems to be Holy Spirit inspiration and compulsion, a la 1 Corinthians 9:16 (Alan Ehler, author of How to Make Big Decisions Wisely).

Since I live alone and have a degree in theater, my writing gives me a great opportunity to act out my scenes, in character. Recently, as I energetically acted out an argument between my protagonist and antagonist, my front door slammed against the wall. There stood my landlord with a jar of home-canned pickles in one hand and his side iron in the other. He thought my ex had broken into my house and was trying to kill me. Guess I need to tone down my scenes a bit (Karen Lynn Nolan, author of Above the Fog).

How about you? Do you have any strange writer habits? Do tell.

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