7 Common Writer Superstitions
In the creative world of words, many writers have superstitions around creating the luck that will get their work published. Even hugely successful authors like Dr. Seuss and J.K. Rowling have their little superstitious quirks when writing a bestseller. The following list contains just a few of the most common superstitions writers share.
Superstitions of Writers
1) The Number 13
A book must not end on chapter 13, nor have 13 pages in any chapter. If a chapter is going to end at 13 pages, an author will pad it until it reaches 14. It’s especially unlucky to spill ink on the 13th page.
Truman Capote would change hotel rooms if the telephone number contained a 13. “Distrust of the number 13 is a common superstition outside of the writing world as well,” says Kaitlyn Thatcher, Creative Writer at APA Style service. The origin of this is unknown, but there are many theories about it, including explanations from both religion and numerology.
2) Writing a Title
The title must not be written until the manuscript is complete. J.K. Rowling has this superstition. The superstition also has a practical application. If the title is already written, it may cause the writer to force her writing to fit it. Leaving the title for last allows the book to be written more organically.
3) Lucky Pen
Many writers will only write with one specific pen or tool.
John Steinbeck would only write drafts in pencil. He always had 12 freshly sharpened ones in his desk when he began writing.
Saul Bellow had separate typewriters for fiction and non-fiction.
4) What to Wear
From pajamas to a lucky sweater, specific clothing can make or break writing. When Dr. Seuss had writer’s block, he would put on one of his many hats. James Joyce wore a white coat while writing. John Cheever didn’t wear pants.
5) Even pages
According to Ruth Williams, Senior Content Writer at ConfidentWriters, “the manuscript must end on an even page or no one will want to read it.” Some believe the same but that it must end on an odd page. The superstition is that ending on the wrong page can jinx the book. Writers will pad the prose in order to reach the desired end page.
One cannot be a writer without a cat. Writers with cats include Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens and Neil Gaiman.
Cats are not only good luck charms for the writers, but also provide inspiration.
Many authors have specific dates they stick to when writing. James Joyce published Ulysses on his birthday.
Isabel Allende begins all of her books on the same date, January 8th, which was the day she began her first novel. Truman Capote would not begin or end anything on a Friday.
They Did What?
- Edith Sitwell laid in a coffin before beginning her writing for the day.
- Joaquin Miller had sprinklers installed above his roof so it would always sound like it was raining.
- Friedrich Schiller needed to smell rotten apples.
- Alexander Dumas used different colored paper depending on what he was writing.
- Maya Angelou rented a room to write in.
- Sir Walter Scott wrote while riding horseback.
- Charles Dickens slept facing north in order to improve his creativity.
- Many writers, including James Joyce and Truman Capote, wrote while lying down.
- Virginia Woolf wrote while standing in order to compete with her sister who painted while standing.
- Truman Capote never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray.
- Victor Hugo deprived himself of clothing until he finished The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
- Charles Dickens wrote in blue ink.
- Vladimir Nabokov wrote in a parked car.
Superstitions aren’t always silly. They can make a person feel more confident and secure when writing. That lucky pen, hat or cat makes the author believe they’re doing their best work, which in turn causes them to perform better and aim higher. The end result is worth it.
Paul Bates is an editor at Paper-Research.com located in California, US.