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Sunday, December 19, 2010

For Trollope, Writing Novels Was No Different Than Laying Bricks

Here's a favorite new website I've discovered--Daily Routines, a collection of descriptions of the daily work routines of well-known architects, artists, filmmakers, musicians and composers, philosophers, scientists and mathematicians, statesmen, and writers. I love this kind of shop talk and have often found it a source of useful little ideas and tricks that help me overcome writer's block and enhance my productivity.

Here's an awe-inspiring example involving the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope:
Every day for years, Trollope reported in his “Autobiography,” he woke in darkness and wrote from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., with his watch in front of him. He required of himself two hundred and fifty words every quarter of an hour. If he finished one novel before eight-thirty, he took out a fresh piece of paper and started the next. The writing session was followed, for a long stretch of time, by a day job with the postal service. Plus, he said, he always hunted at least twice a week. Under this regimen, he produced forty-nine novels in thirty-five years. Having prospered so well, he urged his method on all writers: “Let their work be to them as is his common work to the common laborer. No gigantic efforts will then be necessary. He need tie no wet towels round his brow, nor sit for thirty hours at his desk without moving,—as men have sat, or said that they have sat.”
Unlike Toni's cat, it doesn't sound as though Trollope set aside much time for stretching or napping.  What's that saying about different strokes--?


  1. Fantastic website, Karl. I love the glimpses at the lives and work habits of so many accomplished people. Thanks.

  2. Definitely gotta check out this website . . . and the Trollope example is such an inspiring one that it almost makes me want to set my alarm for 5:30a.m.- it would be an interesting experiment to see how that boosts productivity. If I can stay awake past midnight, I get a whole second wind of energy and have done some of my best writing between 1-2am--but the mornings after are really no fun. Maybe I should turn the model on its head, as Trollope does. Thanks, Karl!