From Pacific Standard:
Charles Dickens wrote while blindfolded. Virginia Woolf took three baths a day, and always with ice-cold water. Stephen King eats a blood orange at every meal whenever he is working on a book. Joyce Carol Oates writes only in Comic Sans.
None of those things is true. Before you go and stock your kitchen with blood oranges or switch the font on your word processor, let me assure you that I invented every one of those writerly habits. But what if I hadn’t? What if you had read them in an interview or in any one of the million aggregations of writerly routines? Would you really stop taking hot showers or start blindfolding yourself when you write?
. . . .
Whenever I see one of these lists, I read it. I even bought a copy of Mason Curry’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. I read it. Twice. And while I would never ask such a question, I am secretly pleased whenever someone asks an author at a reading how and when she writes.
But why? One of the things you notice when you start reading enough of these lists of highly successful habits of highly successful artists is that no two routines are alike. The incessant interrogation of artists about their daily lives might only be voyeurism, in which case such idiosyncrasies are fine, but I think most of us read about their lives in order to shape our own. I read and read and read these routines thinking that if only I could find the right one to borrow then I would be more productive, more successful, more writerly.
. . . .
The idea that any one of these habits can be isolated from the entirety of the writer’s life and made into a template for the rest of us is nonsense. What none of these lists tell you is that sometimes these highly creative people weren’t waking so early on their own, but were woken by domestic servants. Or that some of these highly productive writers also had spouses or children or assistants enlisted in the effort. Or that often the leisurely patterns of drafting and revising were possible only because generous familial support made the financial demands of everyday life irrelevant.
Link to the rest at Pacific Standard and thanks to Meryl for the tip.