Creative Work Habits

A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.

– “Plimpton, George. “Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21”, The Paris Review, 1958.

Creative people have indigenous work habits – peculiar maybe, to the outsider, but natural to the creative person, fitting temperament and personal need. Veteran creative people, and honest ones, embrace their own eccentricities. They know what it takes to create.

I have a short attention span and am prone to dismissing boring things at a biochemical level. I drift away and even fall asleep. Ask my mom, who put up with me sleeping through church on more than one occasion. Or my wife. I used to be embarrassed about this trait. I have come to recognize it as a cue that something isn’t working. If it is something over which I have no control, such as when hearing a sermon, I use the opportunity to analyze why it isn’t working and create a list of things that I would do to fix it. If it’s something that is part of my responsibility, such as a book I am editing, my boredom and disengagement is a personal cue to make it better.

Another habit is to listen to movie soundtracks while I read and write. I like the sweeping epic kind, like Lord of the Rings or Legends of the Fall or Braveheart. The music flavors the writing with possibility. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes the soundtrack sends me from an awareness of the computer screen into a time bending idea excursion. It is during these sessions I often find my best morsels.

What are some of your unique creative work habits? How do they make your creations better?