The info at the back of a book I recently read mentioned that the author had learned Braille to aid in her portrayal of coping with a visual impairment. This got me wondering how other authors have gone above and beyond for their craft and ideals. Virginia Wolfe wrote for hours standing up, John Steinbeck developed crippling callouses due to his habit of writing with hexagonal pencils and Nathaniel Hawthorne managed to turned several months of muck spreading, hey cutting and blisters into a novel. But these aren’t the strangest incidences I’ve
The writing itself…
Georges Perec was a French writer, film maker and essayist. He belonged to the Oulipo group who championed putting literature under certain technical constraints in order to revolutionise the creative process. Perec decided to go all out for this way of thinking and succeeded in writing an entire 300 page novel, La Disparition, without
using the letter E once. His most famous novel, Life a User’s Manual, is structured around the moves of a particular chess piece.
When composing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo ran into a snag everyone can sympathise with: procrastination. Rather than simply being firm with himself, Hugo decided to take drastic measures to meet
his deadline. He apparently decided to lock away his clothes so he couldn’t leave his room: he spent months dressed only in a woollen shawl until he completed the manuscript on time.
Umberto Eco was the author of epic historical mystery novel, the Name of the Rose. This text was set in the medieval era and appropriately enough, Eco was a scholar who devoted many years of study to the setting. So enamoured was he of the period, during a visit to Paris he supposedly refused to walk down any street that was
not medieval in origin.
And finally, the highly inadvisable….
A lot of authors speak of the importance of establishing a ritual and writing habit that works for you. French author Honoré de Balzac certainly took that advice to heart. His ritual reportedly involved going to bed at 6 PM, getting up at 1, writing for 7 hours, a 90 minute nap, writing until 4 PM and a brief period to socialise, exercise and bathe before 6 PM bed again. Unsurprisingly, this ritual also revolved around a truly gargantuan amount of black coffee.
While you don’t need to take any of these measures to write a world famous novel, it does go to show just how far some people will go for what they love.