Bring Your Best to Your Writing

John Grisham

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed studying the work habits of successful writers. Many of the writers I studied were the most successful writers of our time. I relished comparing notes with their writing schedules, where they found ideas to write about, when they managed the business aspects of the writing life and what they did to relax.

For example, Hemingway wrote from seven till noon, then would fish or swim for a few hours. Naturally, most of them had page or word count goals each day. Doesn’t sound much different than you or me, does it? While we don’t have as much time as the masters to write each day, we need a writing schedule and a routine that works for us.

A few weeks ago I was researching famous writers and I looked specifically for photos of them writing. I found a few classics shots of Hemingway and Steinbeck and it got me thinking not only about them and bestselling authors of today (Grisham, Patterson, etc.), but also about you and me. I asked myself a simple question. What do we have in common with the masters of yesterday and today when we’re writing?

As I gazed at the photos of them writing, they looked like us. The expression on their face was as intense. Their eyes were as focused. Their brow was as furled. Their posture, hunched over a typewriter or laptop, was as engaged. We can only assume their frustration finding the right words was as real. And while their writing was and is immensely more successful than ours, we bring the same thing to our work—all of ourselves.

My thoughts allowed me to step into these photos and at least for a moment, I felt on par with them. I looked over their shoulder as they typed. I imagined they turned, faced me and said, “We’re all in this together.”

We all struggle to construct the perfect opening line. We all wrestle to craft the right words. We all love to write, but hate to rewrite. We all often think our writing sings or stinks. We all have felt a compulsion to quit and an undeniable impulse to press on. And we all feel the reassurance of our calling when our words grace the pages of a magazine or novel.

And while the difference between bestselling authors and us may be literary genius and commercial success, what’s arguably equally important is what makes us alike; bringing our best to our writing—and holding nothing in reserve.


The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of encouragement.

Blog entries are posted on Thursday.

You may contact Jim Magruder at:

Published in: on October 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm  Comments (1)  

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