Writers: their havens and routines

It is almost the end of another NaNoWriMo but for those writers amongst you who have chosen this year as your first time to participate in it, hopefully it will be just the beginning of a long lasting hobby or career in writing.

To help spur you on beyond November here are a small selection of famous authors’ special writing spaces and the routines they adopted to keep them on track.

George Bernard Shaw’s Spinning Office


Irish writer and playwright George Bernard Shaw’s writing room was a home-built hut that served as his office, where he wrote the bulk of his work. This wasn’t just any writing hut though: Shaw had not only upgraded it so that there was electricity for a heater, a telephone, a buzzer system and a bed for the necessary nap but with a couple of shoves it could be rotated around to follow the arc of the sun. To obtain privacy Shaw nicknamed his office “London” so that visitors could be told he was visiting the capital. Both the writing hut and his home, “Shaw’s Corner” are now owned by the National Trust.

Dylan Thomas Cliff Top View

Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas originally intended his writing shed to be a garage when it was first built but it was quickly adopted as his writing haven where he produced works such as “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” and “Over Sir John’s Hill“. There were views of four estuaries and pictures of inspiring writers such as Walt Whitman, Lord Byron, and W.H. Auden adorned its walls. His routine started in the morning with letter writing, continued with a jaunt to the pub at lunchtime and then he would settle in his shed from 2 o’clock till 7 in the evening writing and re-reading his work.

J.K. Rowling’s Cafe Hideaways


How Harry Potter came to be is well known among fans. J.K. Rowling revealed that she was initially inspired during a delay on a train journeying from Manchester to Kings Cross. A single mum with a young infant, her writing routine depended on her child’s routine and whenever her baby fell asleep she would go to the nearest cafe and start writing. The Elephant House (pictured) was just one of several cafes that became her regular haunt to complete her novel. Nowadays she writes in a room built in her garden just far enough away from her home to put off regular visitors!


Stephen King’s Six Pages a Day


The prolific author of over fifty novels and around two hundred short stories was recently interviewed by fantasy author George R.R. Martin and was asked, in slightly more colourful language than shall be repeated here, how he wrote so many books so fast. King’s answer was that he aims to always write six pages a day and to achieve this he writes for three to four hours daily. In his book, On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft, he advised writers to set up their desk in the corner of the room, write with the door closed, and to have as few distractions as possible. As for his own personal routine…

“I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.”


Ernest Hemingway’s Bookcase Workstation

Hemingway traveled extensively and his writing went wherever he did. During his time in Paris where he carried a notebook and, like J.K. Rowling, frequented cafes to write. When he moved to Key West, Florida, his writing room was based in his bedroom and he used a bookcase as his desk where he worked on titles such as “A Farewell to Arms“. From 1939 he made his winter residence Cuba and his primary summer residence Idaho. Hemingway way would start writing after first light and he advised that “you write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next”.


Roald Dahls’ Writing Hut

Roald Dahl’s famous writing haven was a small shed a short walk away from his home in his garden. After visiting Dylan Thomas’s writing hut he was inspired to create a replica where he would go to find peace and quiet away from vacuum cleaners and children. He had a very strict routine. Starting at 10.30am he would sit in his comfy armchair with attached footrest and use a piece of wood propped up by a cardboard tube as his actual writing desk. He always had six sharpened Ticonderoga pencils and each would last about two hours depending on how much he was writing, and he would only write on yellow American legal pads which was sent to him from New York. He would write until noon and then break until 4pm till 6pm when he would take a flask of tea into the hut with him and in the winter months he would climb into a sleeping bag to keep him warm.


So that was just a small selection of writers and how they work and where they worked to inspire the creative writer inside you. There may be common themes such as a private space, few, if no distractions, and a disciplined, daily writing timetable, but every writer is different and as long as you can just write you’ll make it. So get typing!

Do you have any rituals or routines when you write? A favourite place to start creating? Let us know! Tweet us @uniwinlibrary!