By Irfan Rifai

Hoping to learn and adapt them in composition classes or simply for getting them unveiled, scholars and researchers have tried to disclose  the secrets of great writers. As composition classes attendees, we may have all tasted the results of their findings. Remember when you were asked to pre-write, draft, write, revise , edit and publish in your composition classes? The then  called  process approach to teaching writing was ‘invented’ from the result of years of studies on  the habits of good  writers.

The writers and their work
The writers and their work

I suddenly remember the time when the likes of my good  writer friends ,  Alex, Yani and Novenia,  offered me to read their newly  published books. As I was going  through the pages, I couldn’t stop but asking myself the process and the stories behind the beautiful poems and stories they have created.  ” Did they go through these bitter-sweet or scary dark or dark scary things themselves? Did they go through the drafts or did they  ask someone to review the drafts before submitting them to publishers? How did they brainstorm? Did they prewrite? How many days did they spend writing a poem or a chapter of a story? Why did they write such stories? Did they anticipate their readers? Did they have their readers in their minds when they wrote?”

As their reader, I simply keep these questions frozen  in my head for some time. So I found it funny that when I had the chance to ask them, the only question popped up was: “When is the best time for you to write?” clumsy me.

The responses to the question, as expected, came in limited variety. Due to the nature of the question, the writers I asked mostly mentioned the external factors that influence their productivity as writers. Two out of three mentions night time to be their more favorable time time to write. The choice of night time as the most favorable comes as a ‘no surprise’ as the three of them are hooked by  day time  time teaching commitment and will only have time for themselves during at night. The   no one around and lonely phrases strengthen the fact that these two writers rely heavily on me time when they write .  How different are they with the writers writing in their native language? They are no different. Most writers spend their time being in solitude. To many, solitude  is  considered as inherent part of writing. It’s part of who you are and what you do as a writer. Franz Kafka, one of the big names in the writing industry, believes that only in solitude that a writer can get to know themselves better : “Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself”, he once said 

Writers are most productive at night time?
Writers are most productive at night time?

In times where people are only about themselves and public places turning private public spaces , the solitary nature of modern times has  shifted. The scenes of people working with their notebooks at cafes or other public areas are pretty common in the past few years. This is the kind of life style that writer can easily embrace. The habit of writing in public area is not actually something new. Ernest Hemingway was previously known of his cafe-writing habit. He spent a lot of times at cafes to write, meet other writers and simply hung around with friends.

cafe and writer: a match? Image from:
cafe and writer: a match?
Image from:

Even in solitudes, writers need companionship. Drinks are long associated with being loyal companions for writers. The following link presents some famous writers’ favorite beverages :  A second language writer I interviewed expressed how a glass of warm tea  and vibrant instrumental music as  good enough companions. The other two writers, however, do not rely on beverages and other supporting external factors like music. One mentioned that she prefers only being in the dark and in the depressed state. She claims that such ‘negative’ emotional state helps her improve her productivity level.  The last writer  even mentioned deadline as a thrilling pushing factor that helps her develop her stories. With one condition : that she only writes within the kind of genre that she knows or likes.

Like the writers of L1, our second language writers are, too, undergoing pretty similar habits. They rely on  solitude to beckon creativity. They need to be in the certain kind of emotional or psychological setting and some supporting environment or companionship like drinks and ghostly room to inspire them. Some would work harder under  demanding situations  and would just go with the flow as long as asked to write what she likes. They are pretty much like their L1 writer counterparts.  In the end, I would say that writers will just be writers:  whatever languages they are using as their medium. [irf]