Fun facts from the world of writing
Since we launched this blog in 2012, we’ve uncovered all sorts of curious facts about the written word. We’ve also encountered some interesting trivia about the process of writing, and about how writers write. We hope you enjoy them.
Elizabethan scribe Peter Bales reportedly produced a complete, handwritten copy of the Bible so small it could fit inside a walnut shell.
Friedrich von Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk, claiming he needed the scent of their decay to help him write.
Edith Sitwell reportedly liked to lie in an open coffin before she began her day’s writing.
John Steinbeck used 300 pencils to write East of Eden and was known to use up to 60 pencils in a day.
The word ‘mogigraphia’ means ‘writer’s cramp’.
The word ‘colygraphia’ means ‘writer’s block’.
Gertrude Stein claimed the water-drinking patterns of her dog, Basket, taught her the difference between sentences and paragraphs in writing.
Vladimir Nabokov and Gertrude Stein both liked to write while sitting in a parked car.
Poet Amy Lowell once bought a stash of 10,000 cigars, claiming she needed them to help her write.
Graham Greene would write 500 words a day and then stop – even in the middle of a sentence.
Anthony Trollope began his writing day at 5.30 every morning. He would write 250 words every 15 minutes, pacing himself with a watch.
J. R. R. Tolkien thought there were no new stories but only a ‘Cauldron of Story’ which writers dip into as they write.
Agatha Christie suffered from dysgraphia which meant she could not write legibly; as a result, she dictated all of her novels.
When Dr. Seuss was stuck writing his books, he would go to a secret closet filled with hundreds of hats and wear them till the words came.
Truman Capote would often write while lying on his back, with a glass of sherry in one hand and a pencil in the other.
Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote both sharpened pencils to help them think while they were writing.
In the 1891 UK census, 6,000 respondents identified themselves as writers, editors, or journalists; by 1901, the figure had risen to 11,000.
The first published novel that was ‘written’ on a word-processor was Len Deighton’s 1968 novel Bomber.
The first philosopher to ‘write’ on a typewriter was Friedrich Nietzsche.
Alfred Hitchcock once rang Georges Simenon only to learn the prolific author was writing a novel. ‘Let him finish,’ he said; ‘I’ll hang on.’
‘Scrabblement’ is a rare 17th-century word referring to ‘writing of a rambling character like that of a madman’.
‘Typomania’ denotes a mania for writing for publication.
If you enjoyed these writing-related facts, check out our curious facts about reading and literacy. You might also enjoy our book full of fascinating literary trivia, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History, available now from Michael O’Mara Books.