Monday, May 25, 2015

Writing Like Truman Capote

As you can probably tell, I'm fascinated with the process that other writers use. I read their bios and interviews so I can look back at their lives and successes...and see if I have anything in common with them. But if I want to start writing like Truman Capote, I’m going to need to get a whole lot weirder.

Down When I’m Loaded

Truman Capote never started a new writing project on Fridays. And if you think that’s weird, you ain't read nothing yet. To call him eccentric is far better than he deserves. By most standards, the author of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "In Cold Blood" acted like a straight-up nutjob. Writing like Truman Capote is possible in the literal sense. To get started, lie down.

That's how Capote wrote: lying down. He used a pencil, and in his other hand held a cup of coffee...or a martini, and often a glass of sherry. Capote famously indulged in drink. For most all authors, drinking while writing is a truly terrible idea.

Capote was also superstitious, bizarrely so. He wouldn't even get on a plane if there was more than one nun aboard. He would not keep more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray, and put the spares in his pocket.

In other words, Truman Capote was truly one of a kind. Writing while lying down probably won't help you write a book like "Breakfast at Tiffany's." It probably won't help you write at all; I have written while lying down, and it's incredibly uncomfortable. Writing with a pencil is time-consuming and I do not recommend it. And if you write while intoxicated, you are not likely to be pleased with the results most of the time.

How other authors write is interesting trivia to know. It's a fun fact to throw out at a party or in a writers forum, and maybe a Jeopardy question one of these days. But you shouldn't ever try to write like another author, whether  you want to copy their prose style or lay down on the couch with a martini in your hand. Truman Capote found his own very unique ways to write, in the way he put words on the page and in the way he went about his process. All writers have to find their own ways to write as well.

Let's just hope you don't develop any weird superstitions about nuns while you're at it.

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