Writers’ Habits (And Hot Buttons)

Daily RitualsThe New Yorker’s style has always been double consonant-inclined, although even they aren’t entirely sure why this is the case:

The style book gives no reason for this spelling choice. What would be the point? Nothing makes the eyes glaze over so totally as the effort to codify the rules for doubling consonants when adding suffixes.

I personally hate the consonant doubles. Won’t someone think of the RSI-riddled wrists and the unnecessarily felled trees?!

There’s no need for a second ‘s’ in ‘focused’, for example; no chance that leaving it at one would diminish clarity.

Carrying this theme further, ‘program’ is a more efficient if not as pretty substitute for ‘programme’. The latter is, I think, something that’s an overhang from a time when the doubles implied education and un-ironic self-righteous pomposity.

This minutiae is endlessly fascinating for writers and editors of a certain personality type (read: me). I could regale you with the hours I’ve spent debating the unspaced versus the spaced em dash (relating to my aforementioned wrist- and tree-consideration efficiency, I’m a firm follower of the unspaced variety). But I also realise it’s a hot-button issue for a trifling minority.

Artists’—especially writers’—daily habits, though, tend to be endlessly fascinating for most people. The artistic process seems so mystical to those who aren’t trying to live it and so difficult for those of us who are. The first group wants to know its secrets to gain some insight and inspiration and the second group wants to both unlock the secret so the process is not so goddamn difficult and to console themselves that they’re not the only ones struggling.

KafkaKafka, it turns out, didn’t effortlessly metamorphasise out a book (I know I minced that pun badly, but stay with me). He was frustrated with his day job, his home, and his life generally, writing to a friend: ‘Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.’

Mason Currey turned this fascination with artists’ rituals and the insight into their lives into first a blog and second a book (begrudging credit where begrudging credit’s due: I heard about Currey from hipster mag Smith Journal to which I refuse to hyperlink because they don’t need any more traffic, which they’ll take as encouragement to continue being aloof and hipster). It’s a simple idea that probably also provided him with a kind of writing therapy.

Suffice to say, I’ve ordered it faster than you can say ‘add to basket’ and ‘checkout’. Watch this space for some writerly inspiration and consolation …

Published by

Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.