Odd Writers #7: Sitwell’s Spooky Habit


Writers are funny things. When the dreaded writer’s block rears it’s ugly head, they often think back to when they were writing really well. What were they doing then? Had they had three cups of coffee instead of just one? Were they using a red pen or a blue one? Had they gobbled down cornflakes for breakfast, or Cocopops? Was their computer exactly 23.5cm away from the edge of the desk?

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of: ‘If I do this, this and this, in that order, I’ll be able to write some good stuff today.’ But some writers can go a little too far…

  • Gertrude Stein found she wrote best in the driver’s seat of her Model T Ford.
  • Agatha Christie liked to lie in a big bath and eat apples while she constructed her plots
  • James Joyce wrote at night with a blue pen, lying on his stomach in bed, whilst wearing a white coat.

But I love Edith Sitwell’s recipe best of all. In the morning, before she started her writing, Dame Edith Sitwell (1887 – 1964, a Yorkshire Lass) liked to lie in a coffin!

‘In her old age Edith Sitwell told a sad, comical story about her girlhood ambitions. At four years old she was asked by a family friend what she wanted to be when she grew up. Young Edith was ready with her answer: “A genius.” She was promptly sent to bed in disgrace.’ (Review of Richard Greene’s biography of Edith Sitwell, The Guardian)

Cover Image: ‘The Premature Burial’ by Antoine Wiertz (Creative Commons)

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