On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore the routines, schedules, habits and typical day in their life.
During a 2016 Q&A with Goodreads members, American author Paul Auster was asked to describe his life as a writer. “There was a Monty Python sketch that showed Thomas Hardy writing in front of a live audience, and when he’d finish a sentence, they’d all cheer,” Auster explained. “Then he’d cross out a sentence, and they’d all boo or sigh. That’s about as exciting a life as it is for a writer: You write sentences, and you cross out sentences.”
I don’t know why I write. If I knew the answer, I probably wouldn’t have to. But it is a compulsion. You don’t choose it, it chooses you. And I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.The Rumpus Interview With Paul Auster – The Rumpus.net
Known best for his New York-centred novels, Auster, who originally hails from Newark, New Jersey, has lived in Brooklyn for 30 years, and currently resides there with his wife, novelist and essayist, Siri Hustvedt.
“Siri and I have been together for 30 years and have shared our work with each other from the very beginning,” Auster said. “As I write my books I’m reading them out loud, carrying pages home, eagerly awaiting her comments. She’s brilliant. I don’t think there’s a comment she’s made that I haven’t taken to heart over those years. Conversely, I read everything she writes, in her finished draft.”
When he is working on a novel, Auster tends to “stick to a rigid routine,” waking up between 7-8am to have his orange juice and tea, and to read the newspaper. At about 9am, the writer will walk three blocks down to another apartment he owns in the same neighbourhood and begin his writing day.
It’s very Spartan here, nothing to do but work. I spend as much time as I can writing each day, which usually means from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.—basically a 9-5 schedule. Some days one has more stamina, you’re more on fire, it’s a marathon so you have to pace yourself.Interview with Paul Auster | Goodreads
As part of his creative process, Auster always starts working on his novels by writing in longhand in notebooks. “I’ve always written by hand,” he told The Paris Review in 2003. “Mostly with a fountain pen, but sometimes with a pencil—especially for corrections.”
“If I could write directly on a typewriter or a computer, I would do it. But keyboards have always intimidated me. I’ve never been able to think clearly with my fingers in that position. A pen is a much more primitive instrument. You feel that the words are coming out of your body and then you dig the words into the page. Writing has always had that tactile quality for me. It’s a physical experience.”
Auster is fond of his Olympia 1961 typewriter, so much so that he wrote an entire book, The Story of My Typewriter, as a tribute to the machine. He also believes that working on a typewriter prevents him from being a lazy writer “because the typewriter forces me to start all over again once I’m finished. With a computer, you make your changes on the screen and then you print out a clean copy. With a typewriter, you can’t get a clean manuscript unless you start again from scratch.”
Auster’s most recent novel, 4 3 2 1, published in 2017 to coincide with his 70th birthday, was the author’s first book in seven years — the longest timespan in between his books. With over 800 pages, 4 3 2 1 is more than double the size of anything he’s written before. To finish the novel, Auster worked “seven days a week for three years, finishing each day too exhausted to do anything but collapse in front of the television,” according to an Esquire profile.
Every day it’s the same. It’s very boring to someone on the outside but inside you are full of thought and ideas. It’s very exciting for me. Writing is very hard, it’s very hard to write a good sentence. It doesn’t come easy. But the difficulty is part of the pleasure. So I wouldn’t say writing is fun, I don’t enjoy it the way I enjoy certain other things but I feel more alive when I’m doing it.Paul Auster to Kathimerini: Time is running out, but I’m happy | ekathimerini.com
Before you go…
Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Joe Rogan, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.