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How Rituals Keep Writers On Track – Pt 2

slaughterhouse 5Kurt Vonnegut is known for writing some classic science fiction during the fifties and sixties. His first novel Player Piano came out in 1952, followed by Cat’s Cradle (1963), and his most famous novel Slaughterhouse –Five, (1969).

Slaughterhouse-Five takes on the horrors of war, specifically the bombing of Dresden, which he and his protagonist Billy Pilgrim survived.

Vonnegut wrote about his routine in a letter to his wife, explaining that he starts at 5:30 A.M. waking and writing until 8:30. At that time, he’d break for breakfast, and then continued writing until 10:00 A.M.

The rest of his day has a strict routine as well, although he finished writing at 10:00 A.M.

The other activities (which you could say, also contributed to his creativity) involved walking into town, doing errands, swimming a half hour, doing push-ups and sit-ups, then returning home at 11:45 A.M.

The rest of his day involved reading and teaching literature and was capped off by a few belts of Scotch.

Then he either went out to bars, or listened to jazz until he went to sleep at 10:00 P.M.
Maya Angelou has published five books of poetry, including I Shall Not Be Moved, (1990), and the autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, (1969).

She has also acted in films (Roots) and written screenplays and even directed “Down In The Delta.” Her poetry volume “Just Give Me A Cool Drink of Water For I ‘die.” Was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
President Obama recently presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Angelou keeps a hotel room in her hometown, and pays for it monthly. At 6:30 A.M. she goes to the hotel room to write. She keeps a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus and the Bible with her to provide inspiration or distraction.

She had a theory about the Big Mind and the Little Mind. She could do cross-world puzzles, or play cards, or read the Bible with the Little Mind while calling on the Big Mind to help her with the deeper subject matter she was writing about.

She has some strict habits regarding the hotel room, including not allowing the maids to clean up, in case she discards a page and needs it later.

She always writes until around 2:00 P.M., then returns home with the pages to clean them up, meaning to make notes and edit.

If you ask writers you’ll probably find lots of other examples. Some writers I know can’t write at home for some reason.

Some of them always go to a certain restaurant, or bar, or coffee shop to write where they don’t feel so isolated.

Another common ritual for writers involves renting a cabin in the woods, or a bungalow at the beach.

Some less healthy writer’s rituals involve having to chain-smoke and guzzle coffee.

Writers with partners sometimes meet at one another’s homes. Others never want to write together in the same room, and prefer to take turns doing drafts.

I even know a writer who always takes his first draft to Disneyland or Las Vegas to do his rewrites.

Looking at this particular group of creative individuals (Tharp, King, Didion, Kerouac, Vonnegut, and Angelou) certain common ritualistic elements are evident.

1) Starting at the unGodly hour of 5:30 A.M. (Sometimes it’s a slightly more reasonable hour, say 6:30 or 8:00 A.M.)

2) If not early the writing rituals tend to run all night long, which is my personal preference.

3) Many of these rituals involved doing some form of exercise — at least walking.

4) Almost all of them seemed to integrate drinking alcohol– wine and Scotch specifically into their routines.

5) Some of them indulged in taking various drugs –including cocaine.

Image credit: Creative Commons, Pass it on #clasic #vonnegut to @izzykart #books  2015,  by kartfamily is licensed under CC By 2.0

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How Rituals Keep Writers On Track – Pt 2

David Silverman, MA, LMFT

A lot of careers can really knock you around. The compettiion is fierce, in graphic design, architecture, you name it -- especially in creative careers in Hollywood. Writers and performers get slammed with rejection constantly. If you're going through something -- anxiety, addiction or depression -- I help people like you get through it. And thrive. Let me help you get your dream back on track.

Please check out my website: My story: my brother grew up with a severe case of OCD, and while I just a kid --- in family therapy with him, I witnessed a miracle as he was transformed, and now is enjoying the life he deserves. I went to Stanford University to study Psychology, and USC Film. I've worked in FIlm/TV and experienced high levels of anxiety, and got slammed with rejection myself. I learned how to get through it. Today, I love to help people to regain the lifestyle they deserve.

David Silverman Psychotherapy

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APA Reference
Silverman, D. (2016). How Rituals Keep Writers On Track – Pt 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Oct 2016
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