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6 Famous Writers Who Were Masters at Procrastinating

The creative process is rarely standard. In her book Odd Type Writers, Celia Blue Johnson reveals the truly strange habits of some of history's great authors.

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Inspirational Dogs

The French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette used her French bulldog, Souci, to procrastinate writing. She would pluck fleas from Souci’s back and hunt for them in her fur until the grooming ritual prepared her to move on to other procrastination techniques like cuddling with Souci and swatting flies. Only then would Colette begin to work. 

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Lucky Numbers

Graham Greene needed a sign from above to begin working on a piece. Obsessed with numbers, the English playwright and novelist needed to see a certain combination of numbers by accident in order to write a single word. He would spend long periods of time by the side of the road looking at license plates and waiting for the hallowed number to appear. 

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Magic Trinkets

Wherever he traveled, Charles Dickens decorated his desk with nine objects. The bronze toads, green vase, and the statuette of an eccentric dog salesman surrounded by his pups comforted Dickens when he hit a mental block, and helped him feel comfortable enough to work anywhere. 

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New Wardrobes

Victor Hugo did more than buy a new bottle of ink in preparation to write The Hunchback of Notre Dame. With a deadline looming, Hugo locked himself inside his house with nothing to wear but a knitted gray shawl that reached down to his toes. The uniform suited his productivity, and he completed the novel weeks ahead of the deadline. 

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Strange Stenches

Friedrich Schiller, an 18th century German philosopher, playwright, and poet, needed a very special smell to get his creative juices flowing. He filled a drawer of his desk with apples and left them there to spoil. He claimed he “could not live or work” without the rotten stench. 

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Horizontal Brainstorming

Some people dream of lounging all day, but Truman Capote really did. His work day began in a bed or on a couch where he would write on a notebook rested against his knees. He always kept cigarettes and whichever drink was appropriate for the time of day—coffee, tea, or sherry.

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Odd Type Writers

This slideshow was adapted from Odd Type Writers by Celia Blue Johnson by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright © 2013 by Celia Blue Johnson

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest