In the beginning was the word

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Of course, I am not a writer in the direct sense of the word, although I have written several books about cinema in Ukraine and continue to write articles and blogs, but as a journalist and editor with a decent experience, I can tell you how a text is created. Usually I find a curious topic, collect tons of information about interest to me, and in such quantity that I literally begin to choke under its weight. Then I procrastinate, breathe out, analyse, clarify, separate grains from chaff, pass it through the sieve of my experience, mentality and sense of humour – that’s how I write my texts. And I dare say that every word is in its proper place. Why? Probably, because I have read around 4,000 books.

In the process of writing, all external factors switch off for me and I often don’t hear my colleagues calling my name (dear colleagues, excuse me, please).

Do you know how real writers write their work? Where did they draw their inspiration from? This may be the flip side of genius, but many authors, whose books are read around the world, were eccentric.

For example, Henrik Ibsen, who wrote A Doll’s House, would stare at the portrait of his archenemy, the Swedish writer August Strindberg, while waiting for his Muse. His portrait hung right in Henrik’s office, which surprised most of his friends. Ibsen himself said he couldn’t write a line without those ‘mad eyes’ looking at him.

The Irishman James Joyce wrote books with a thick blue pencil, lying on his stomach, invariably in a white coat. The author of the world’s most famous novel with the most formidable reputation, Ulysses, had eye problems, and by 1930 he had undergone several eye operations which, unfortunately, failed to produce positive results. Joyce’s oddities were therefore guided by the practical side of the question: thick pencils are better visible on paper and his white coat reflects light well, especially at night.

Victor Hugo, the author of Notre Dame de Paris, was afraid of his own books. At the time, all works were written by hand, and Hugo got annoyed when the pile of scribbled paper got bigger and bigger. It was one of the reasons why he often failed to finish one book and started another. Desperate, Hugo decided that the only way to finish a manuscript was not to leave the house. So, he would often order servants to take all his clothes out of the house and work naked.

One of my favourite writers, Sergei Dovlatov, in the last ten years of his career deliberately avoided sentences containing words beginning with the same letter. Among Dovlatov’s works that use this principle are The Suitcase, The Reserve, The Branch, and others. According to him, this rule helped him avoid verbosity and emptiness.

John Steinbeck, the Nobel Prize-winning author of East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath, loved pencils. Every day began with a ritual of sharpening 24 pencils. He himself said of his weakness: ‘The luxury of long, shiny and sharpened pencils inspire me.

The German poet and philosopher Schiller was inspired by the rotten apples that lay in his desk drawer. He also immersed his feet in icy water when he wrote. It ‘invigorated’ him.

Honoré de Balzac always worked only at night. He closed the windows with blackout curtains, lit six lamps, turned back the clocks, drank 50 cups of coffee a day and wrote for 18 hours straight. It is estimated that he drank 15,000 cups of strong coffee while writing The Human Comedy. “Coffee turns the walls of the stomach into a galloping horse; they become inflamed; sparks permeate the whole body, right down to the brain. Ideas set in motion and begin to march like battalions of a great army in a great war,” Balzac claimed.

Charles Dickens used to “talk” to the characters in his works, and if they began to bore him, he threatened not to write a line about them.

Write drunk, edit sober. This commandment of Ernest Hemingway could rival the popularity of his novels. Ham and his drinking companions, from Joyce to Fitzgerald, knew a thing or two about drinking and writing.

“Shaken but not stirred” is the most famous cocktail recipe in literature from Ian Fleming. Researchers have estimated that in the books Bond drank around 92 servings a week – four times more than he should have. The author of the spy books kept up with his hero and drained a bottle of gin and smoked half a hundred cigarettes a day while writing another book.

Stephen King is one of the world’s most prolific authors. He published his first novel in 1974 and hasn’t been able to stop since, publishing several volumes a year. His hard work and inhuman capacity for work have helped him along the way. But in the early decades he generously fed the fire of his inspiration with alcohol and drugs. King became addicted to alcohol in his youth. He worked as a schoolteacher and in his spare time collected rejections from publishers. After each rejection, King would get upset and get drunk. Later, after becoming world-famous, King couldn’t stop. Alcohol became his engine and sometimes even his autopilot. King can’t remember, for example, how he wrote Cujo. Contrary to Hemingway’s rule of writing drunk and editing sober, King wrote sober and sat down to edit while embracing a bottle of booze. Now King has given up his bad habits, surprisingly finding that he can write without doping.

Basically, it doesn’t matter whether I write for clients being naked or rubbing my hands with a rabbit’s foot for inspiration, if I stick to the topic, hit the mark, am not afraid to quote others, invite dialogue, try to satisfy readers’ information hunger, make the text a tool for knowledge transfer and avoid spelling mistakes. Amen

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