On Writing Naked and the Author as Masochistic Authoritarian

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-Victor “Free-Ballin” Hugo

Now that I have your attention, I’d like to open up a discussion inspired by an anecdote I recently stumbled upon.  The legend goes that Victor Hugo, when afflicted with procrastination, would order his servants in the morning to remove everything from his home, including his clothes, except for his pen and paper.  Through this means, Hugo’s nude self had no choice but to remain at home and write until his servant returned in the evening.  Hugo was mainly trying to avoid the temptation of going out and getting hammered at some Parisian brothel, but the modern writer of today has so much more to contend with beyond the odd desire to go on a syphilitic jaunt through 19th century France.

Which brings me to my main point.  Are there any stipulations you self-impose to “force” yourself to write?  Do you turn off your internet connection?  Retire to some remote part of the world?  In other words, do you actively try to become your own secret police force, dolling out punishments or restrictions when writing goals aren’t met?  I see the reason why some do.  We all love to write, but for many of us, writing is incredibly tedious, depressing, painful, et cetera, especially compared to the simple pleasures of web browsing.  Sometimes, one needs to go to extra lengths to maintain the discipline required by serious writing.  What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “On Writing Naked and the Author as Masochistic Authoritarian

  1. That’s certainly an interesting strategy, but one I think I should refrain from out of respect to my roommates. I always find it very difficult to write when I’m not in the mood to write, and I’m often times not in the mood to right because I am in the mood to do nothing instead. What I like to do is incentivize my writing and try to balance it with my other school work. For example if I am planning on going out on a Friday night, I’ll substitute writing for my school work and tell myself “After I’ve written blank amount or or completed my thoughts, I can go to blank” This may just be a means for me to procrastinate my other work, but at least it gets me writing.

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  2. This was so funny! I enjoyed reading it! I think for me, my phone just needs to be absent in order to write. This is the only way I can do anything. Social media (instagram) seems to be my biggest obstacle!

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  3. Stephen, this is a great anecdote, and a really interesting question. While I can’t say I’ve gone on any wild romps through Paris, I know a lot of writers who have rules for their writing time, including turning off the internet and elaborate support groups with regular “burst” challenges (ie, get 1,000 words written in the next 30 minutes, or something like that). I don’t know if I have any particularly interesting habits, but I agree that even when we love to write, we often struggle to just sit down and do it. — CCHJ

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