Strindberg’s Daily Writing Routine
From Sue Prideaux's wonderful new biography of August Strindberg:
I am up at seven… boil my coffee (for no one else but I can do that, just like Balzac and Swedenborg). Then I go out for a walk.. the morning possesses something that makes one feel young at heart, reborn, a feeling that evaporates with the dew… after an hour and a half I am back home.
By now I am wet with sweat and loosen my clothes all the way down to my belt. And so it begins: on yellow, uncut Lessebo Bikupa paper, with Sir Joshua Mason's 1001 nib and Antoine Fils's violette noir ink it breaks out, accompanied by continual cigarette smoking until 12 o'clock. Then it is over. I am extinguished; I go and lie down to sleep, wake up renewed, read, write letters, sleep, but am too tired to eat… then I eat dinner [at 3] take a good after-dinner nap (which I have done since I was twelve years old); get up at 6 and have to solve the terrible problem of what to do with the evening…
I am a morning writer myself, and the last part of that hit very close to the bone. The trouble with being a morning writer is that when the work is really going well, and you are up at seven and done by lunchtime, the mind is still alert and racing, the euphoria of having written is vividly felt, but the imagination's strength has been used up for the day. I have often failed to solve Strindberg's “terrible problem,” and have ruined many afternoons and evenings either attempting to write on past lunchtime (although some days this works perfectly fine), or by simply being too on edge to return fully to the world of existence. Hence the therapeutic power of teaching: it forces you back into social thinking, forces you back into your practical, calculating front brain. Sleep, too, works wonders. But I can understand why so many writers like to drink. When it's time to stop writing, the mind, somehow, has to be shut off. How do you do it?