The XX Factor

Junot Diaz Does His Best Writing in the Bathroom

Last week the Wall Street Journal interviewed basically every good living writer and asked them to share tips on sitting down and penning a book. The only clear lesson to emerge from the piece (titled ” How To Write A Great Book “) is that there is no set step-by-step instructional for writing a great book. That, and writing is hard so famous authors invent their own eccentric tactics to deal with the inevitable torture that is writer’s block.

The best ones:

Nicholson Baker, quasi-conscious writing in the dark:

Most days, Nicholson Baker rises at 4 a.m. to write at his home in South Berwick, Maine. Leaving the lights off, he sets his laptop screen to black and the text to gray, so that the darkness is uninterrupted. After a couple of hours of writing in what he calls a dreamlike state, he goes back to bed, then rises at 8:30 to edit his work.

Junot Díaz, all good ideas hail from the bathroom:

He often listens to orchestral movie soundtracks as he writes, because he’s easily distracted by lyrics. When he needs to seal himself off from the world, he retreats into the bathroom and sits on the edge of the tub. “It drove my ex crazy,” he says. “She would always know I was going to write because I would grab a notebook and run into the bathroom.”

Laura Lippman, color-coding with ribbons:

She assigned a color to each point of view and made a chart with alternating blocks of color. For her novel “To The Power of Three,” which had seven different points of view, she bought seven different colors of ribbon and assigned a color to each character. Then she created a grid and strung colored ribbon representing each character between chapters where that character appeared, creating an intricate colored lattice.

Photograph of Junot Diaz by Ricardo Hernandez/AFP/Getty Images.