Five of the best writers of our time reflect on the importance of discipline, routine, repetition and the significance of continuing to write despite the space you occupy.

John Steinbeck famously said, “I have written a great many stories, and I still don’t know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.” The process of writing is akin to taking a leap of faith and is possible only if you put pen to paper, there’s no other way around it. However, it requires discipline and commitment and is not something that materialises unless you are dedicated to the craft. Here is a list of five famous writers who shed light on their process. Hopefully, it will inspire you to get started on your writing journey as well.

Maya Angelou

For the celebrated poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, author of the famous book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a change in space when writing was what helped her creative juices flow.

“I have kept a hotel room in every town I’ve ever lived in. I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses. I never allow the hotel people to change the bed, because I never sleep there. I stay until twelve-thirty or one-thirty in the afternoon, and then I go home and try to breathe; I look at the work around five; I have an orderly dinner-proper, quiet, lovely dinner; and then I go back to work the next morning.”

Haruki Murakami

One of the most prolific authors of our time, who has had his work translated into more than fifty languages, Haruki Murakami talks about the importance of having a routine and sticking to it no matter what.

“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long – six months to a year – requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”

Ray Bradbury

An acclaimed author and screenwriter, who worked in a variety of genres like fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery, Ray Bradbury stresses upon the significance of practising regularly, for those beginning their journey in the craft, by writing short stories. 

“The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a hell of a lot of short stories. If you can write one short story a week-it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least you’re practicing, and at the end of the year, you have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones. Can’t be done. At the end of 30 weeks or 40 weeks or at the end of the year, all of a sudden, a story will come that’s just wonderful.”

Joan Didion

Winner of multiple awards, including the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2007 and the American Academy of Arts & Letters Gold Medal in Criticism and Belles Letters in 2005, Joan Didion gives you an in-depth look into what her day looks like when she’s writing.

“I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I’ve done that day. I can’t do it late in the afternoon because I’m too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following these evening notes. When I’m really working I don’t like to go out or have anybody to dinner, because then I lose the hour. If I don’t have the hour, and start the next day with just some bad pages and nowhere to go, I’m in low spirits. Another thing I need to do, when I’m near the end of the book, is sleep in the same room with it. That’s one reason I go home to Sacramento to finish things. Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep right next to it. In Sacramento nobody cares if I appear or not. I can just get up and start typing.”


Essayist, author, humorist and poet E.B. White, who is known for creating beloved children’s classics such as Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, stresses the significance of creating a space for writing despite distractions, and not get carried away in the quest of creating an ideal writing atmosphere.  

“I never listen to music when I’m working. I haven’t that kind of attentiveness, and I wouldn’t like it at all. On the other hand, I’m able to work fairly well among ordinary distractions. My house has a living room that is at the core of everything that goes on: it is a passageway to the cellar, to the kitchen, to the closet where the phone lives. There’s a lot of traffic. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, and I often use it as a room to write in, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. A girl pushing a carpet sweeper under my typewriter table has never annoyed me particularly, nor has it taken my mind off my work, unless the girl was unusually pretty or unusually clumsy. My wife, thank God, has never been protective of me, as, I am told, the wives of some writers are. In consequence, the members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man—they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

Published On: October 7th, 2022 / Categories: Blogs, Creators' Dialogue, Latest Posts /