In the course of working on my upcoming book on optimizing the writing process, I discovered Sarah Stodola’s wonderful book Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors. If writing is your thing, read this book to take a tour through the behind-the-scenes activities of the authors of classic works of literature.
Stodola sorts famous authors into creative categories: the nine-to-fivers, productive procrastinators, autodidacts, author as protagonist, etc. She has reconstructed the work habits of luminaries no longer with us such as George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, and Virginia Woolf. Contemporary authors weigh in as well; did you know that Margaret Atwood loves Twitter?
The result is a surprisingly touching assortment of stories of the habits, routines, and strange things people do to work productively and summon creativity.
As foreign and distant as the greats like Kafka and Joyce seem, their problems and demons are familiar. Famous authors often adopt unique and highly personal strategies for dealing with those issues. George Orwell banished himself to a remote Scottish island while writing 1984. Some plan everything painstakingly in advance, others discover as they write. Many rise early to write, while others work into the late hours.
Despite the wild variations, the universality of the quest makes the book compelling.
If you write, it’s comforting to know that even these famous authors faced the same problems you do. You may find inspiration from others’ dedication to process.