Peggy Bechko: Those Weird and Wacky Writers


by Peggy Bechko

Okay, no talk today of how to write, or edit, or sell or any of that ‘important’ stuff we all do. This one’s just for fun.

I was researching something else altogether and ran across some of the weird things very well known writers do, habits and rituals they have. So, I dug a little deeper because I needed a distraction and found out some fun facts.

First, alcohol seems to have a lot to do with writing. I admit it never has for me, but for a lot of writers, it ranks right up there.

Then there are the specific habits. Apparently Mark Twain liked to write lying down. Go figure.

Screenwriters would love Vladimir Nabokov – he loved index cards. Only he didn’t have a computer so he used REAL 3 x 5 inch index cards. He paper clipped them and stored them in boxes. Did someone transcribe those cards? It didn’t say. Oh, and he sometimes liked to write in a parked car.

Flannery O’Connor had some problems. She had lupus apparently and so wrote only about two hours each day due to extreme lack of energy. Near the end of her life things were so taxing for her she sat facing the blank surface of her wooden dresser so as to have no distractions.

From what I saw, Truman Capote was another horizontal author who claimed he couldn’t think unless he was lying down. His favorite places were bed or sofa with coffee and a cigarette. Apparently he transitioned throughout the day from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. (Remember that alcohol thing I mentioned above?)

Their habits were as varied as the writers. They might not have had the web and computers, but they certainly enjoyed plenty of other distractions – or not, depending on the writer.

Ernest Hemingway was unwittingly ahead of his time. Aside from his alcohol consumption, he had a couple of interesting habits. He stopped his writing day when he arrived at a place where he knew what came next in his story. Not a bad idea as it launched the next day’s writing from a springboard. But here’s the interesting thing. He wrote standing up, typewriter at chest height while standing in a pair of oversized loafers. Hey, I can sort of match that. I have an adjustable desk so I can easily stand for long stretches and I love to wear my fleece-lined boots in the winter.

Hmm, it seems there’s a rumor Dan Brown hangs upside down in anti-gravity boots. It’s also said he has an hourglass on his desk and every hour he stops writing to do pushups, sit-ups and stretches. So the antigravity boots thing is a separate issue; at least he apparently doesn’t write in them.

A little more digging brought up the seeming fact that author Friedrich Schiller kept a drawer full of rotten apples at his desk that created an overpowering smell. It was relayed by Schiller’s wife that the aroma inspired her husband and he couldn’t live or work without it. Maybe the methane gas created the decomposing apples just made him tipsy, I don’t know.

Then there’s The Method. Wallace Stevens apparently composed his poetry on bits of paper while walking and then passed them on to his secretary to type up. Edgar Allan Poe wrote final drafts on separate pieces of paper made into a running scroll with sealing wax. Then there was James Joyce, who, due to several physical conditions couldn’t see well and suffered eye pain. H wrote lying on his stomach in bed with a large blue pencil and clad in a white coat. And were you aware he composed most of Finnegan’s Wake with pieces of crayon on pieces of cardboard? Apparently the use of the large pencils and crayons allowed him to see his work better and the white coat reflected more light onto it.

Charles Dickens, OTOH, liked to write with blue ink. Think now, this was a different era. Why? Because it dried faster than other colors and he didn’t have to pause in his fiction writing to blot the ink. Ah, days gone by.

There are many more tales of oddities, habits and superstitions connected with writers famous and otherwise. Bet you have a few of your own ideas. But then again, how much of this is totally accurate? People love to gossip and exaggerate and we all know what can happen when stories are passed from one person to another. For that matter, might not the authors themselves be spinning a few tales to create a persona to go with their writing?

How might my own stand-up Varidesk be interpreted? Or the bulletin board that takes up an entire wall, yet is covered with a calendar, notes and pictures, leaving little room for actual work papers? Or the fact that I still have floppy disks laying around and had to find a reader with a USB drive in order to be able to still use them? Or the cup of green tea that comes up to my office with me each morning as I stand to work?

Oh well, enjoy the experience and please share some of your own idiosyncrasies below.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.

Three Rules to Follow When You Live With Someone Who Works From Home

This one goes out to my significant other. Significantly: Leda Marritz

When my husband, Tim, quit his job to develop his own game almost two years ago, I knew there would be challenges. For example, he was funding its development entirely with his own savings, with no guarantee of any kind of return—and I became the sole breadwinner in a city famous for its unaffordability. To save money, he decided to work from our small one-bedroom apartment, where his desk and our living room share the same space.

I definitely anticipated stress over money, long hours, and uncertainty, but I looked forward to the perks and flexibility of having someone at home during the day. But in reality? It was him working from home that caused much of the stress we experienced that first year.

I work in an office and keep pretty regular hours; while I stay late sometimes, I endeavor to not work after I get home. Tim used to be this way, too. Back when he was a salaried employee at a game design studio, evenings and weekends were time for friends, relaxation, and outside interests. When he started working for himself, all of that changed. Work was now home, and home was work. Not to mention, sharing our small space became a whole lot more complicated.

Over time, we’ve managed it better, but looking back, here are three things I learned that helped us navigate the transition.

1. Agree on a Quitting Time

When I get home at the end of the day, work is over. I’m ready to talk about my day, spend time on personal projects, or watch a movie. But when your home is your (or your spouse’s) workspace, this divide becomes much harder to observe.

In the beginning, I’d come home and start chatting right away—I was, as usual, ready to talk about the details of the day, and I’d be hurt when he wasn’t.

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Peer Production: YIDLIFE CRISIS

Yidlife Crisis Capture

Sorry, but this baby’s irresistible to those of us with a certain ethnic/religious background. And we especially love the fact that it’s all in Yiddish.

Don’t worry, there are subtitles for the goyem:

YouTube Preview Image

Created by Jamie Elfman & Eli Batalion
See more!

Not only funny, but educational too, right.


Never mind. Guess you have to be there.

Yours for a less ferchachtig life.

Gehe cochen!

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/24/14


Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Kathryn Price & Nichole Millard (THE GAME PLAN) are writing the pilot for PARIAHS, a legal drama in development at ABC. (In other words, since TV will never give leading roles to characters who are genuine pariahs – cuz by definition they’re outcasts to everyone in society including the viewers – this one’s gonna feature some misunderstood ex-cons who now are practicing law. See how reading this column improves your life?)
  • Chris Collins (SONS OF ANARCHY) and Marc Abrams (PINKERTONS) are the new showrunners of RAIN, a cable series starring and produced by a dude named Keanu Reeves. (Have our people call their people pronto cuz Chris and Marc should be staffing. Although inasmuch as the announcement doesn’t mention any network, this whole project could be JPBS. As in Just Plain Bull Shit. Who the hell knows?)
  • Karen Stillman (THE ASSETS) is writing the pilot for ABC’s MKULTRA, a historical spy drama about, um historical spying. (Great name, though. I mean really great name. Yep, kids, back during the Cold War our ever-lovin’ CIA was creative as all get out when it came to labeling its secret ops. But, since they were secret, why?)
  • Dean Georgaris (LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER) is writing LAS REINAS, a drama about the Miami Police Department. (And, we assume, its Spanish speaking employees, of whom there must be one or two. Cuz the title, you know? As a major fan of MIAMI VICE – saw it in reruns cuz, you know, my full name is munchman millennial – you’d better believe that yer friendly neighborhood muncharooni will have his eyes on this ball. )

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)

“Good writers are hard to find”

So sayeth the television industry. No, not the U.S. industry but worldwide. Everybody in power says they’re looking for good writers but just can’t find them. Over here at TVWriter™ we think it’s all about definitions, as in “What are those so eagerly seeking “good writers” really looking for?

Sparing no expense, we’ve scoured the globe for more info on this situation. Here’s what we think is the most interesting take, direct from…Mumbai:

film-tv-production-manager-job-in-mumbai-123962457-1402411456by Ritwika Gupta

MUMBAI: The heartbeat of any television programme lies in its story and content. Developing good content through various ideas and imagination is a significant priority for television channels and producers. Story-telling, as they say, is an art and the small screen is constantly looking for compelling scripts that tell stories which entertain, engage and enrich the audience. Over the past few years, the Indian television industry has been exploring new formats and series of programmes in order to give the viewers an excellent TV viewing experience.

Television director and creator of the unique chat show Satyamev Jayate, Satyajit Bhatkal says, “To be honest, we did not have any preconceived model for content creation or the kind of show we hoped to do. We made 6-7 documentaries on real life people and we realised that there was so much happening in the country. The common man faces so many problems and we needed to address these serious issues and give a 360 degree look to the matter.”

However, except for a few who are willing to take up the challenge of creating something new, many are still stuck with the tried and tested.  According to Bhatkal, television, today, is way too cautious.  He elaborates, “It is a challenge that we have to cater to people of various education levels and social backgrounds. However, I feel we are not willing to move to a different level of aesthetics.”

Director of many popular television series like Amanat, Kyunki Saans bhi kabhi bahu thi, and the current hit show Jodha Akbar, Santram Verma believes that there is a division amongst the audiences today as while some of the viewers want to watch fresh content, the older generation wants to stick to the same stories that were showcased years back. As a result, he feels that it is hard for the industry to evolve.

Read it all


Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/23/14


Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • David Arata (CHILDREN OF MEN) is adapting yet another comic book into a TV series. This one’s called FROM HELL and is going to FX. (Yeppers, comic book nerds, the print version of FROM HELL was written by Alan Moore. Anybody know if he signed off on this? If they’ll be using his name? Yer pal munchikins really wants to know.)
  • Jeff Eastin (WHITE COLLAR) has renewed his overall writing and producing deal with Fox TV. (So we can expect more mediocrity to land on our teeny little cellphone screens. Ain’t showbiz grand?)
  • Bill Martin & Mike Schiff (GROUNDED FOR LIFE) are the new showrunners of TV Land comedy THE SOUL MAN. (Showbiz and TVWriter™ vets know the drill: If you know these guys, call ‘em, take ‘em to lunch. Pitch your heart out so your agent can jump for joy and tell you how he got you staffed!)
  • Clifton Campbell (THE GLADES) is writing an ABC drama pilot based on a series of books by Ingrid Thoft who basically sound like refugees from a Shonda Rimes show. (Which ain’t bad, really, if, like a certain muncher, you like to get stoned and watch primetime soaps.)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)