He didn’t wake up until 3:00 pm each day and survived largely on cocaine and whiskey.
It’s been four years since I graduated with my master’s in creative writing. In that time, I’ve managed to have several short stories and a poem published, as well as have the opportunity to sustain myself as a content writer.
I’m a writer, but it still feels weird introducing myself as one, mainly because of the questions that I get asked. People seem mystified by writers, like we’re these nerdy enigmas that lurk in the shadows of our homes and never venture out into the light of day. Or, that we’re these emotionally tormented souls that drink copious amounts of booze and chain smoke.
Stereotypes aside, I will say that every writer is different, therefore, our writing routines are all different. I’m naturally more of a night owl writer. In my master’s program, I was basically nocturnal, going out with friends after class for drinks then coming home with a takeaway pizza or kebab at 3 am and then writing till I’d see the first rays of light.
Of course, this all changed once I became a “real adult” and now my writer’s routine has become a 5 am start with tons of coffee and an actual word count goal, usually between 500-1500 words. Nothing too outlandish or noteworthy about my routines, right?
But then there are the writers of lore, the ones who started the stereotypes in the first place. Those are the ones whose routines are as famous as their works. One perfect example is the writing routine of Hunter S. Thompson.
The gifted writer who gave us such notable works as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as well as The Rum Diary. If you’ve ever read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or at least seen the movie version with Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro, then you’ll know that drugs play a large part in the narrative.
If you’ve ever reviewed Thompson’s real-life writing routine, you will understand why alcohol and drugs were such a big part of his work. Write what you know, right? While I have to admit his writing routine sounds like what some might consider a really fun weekend, it’s bananas to think that this was his normal routine.
As biographer E. Jean Carroll shares in her book, Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson, he was quite excessive. In fact, Carroll’s first chapter has a very detailed account of his daily writing routine.
The very first thing of note is that Thompson would normally wake up at 3 pm. Then, by 3:05, he’d be reading his morning paper while enjoying Chivas Regal and Dunhill cigarettes. At 3:45, it was cocaine time, followed by another glass of Chivas and a cigarette.
According to Mental Floss, Carroll’s notes stated that Thompson’s first cup of coffee wouldn’t come until 4:05, and it was usually accompanied by another Dunhill.
By 4:15 Thompson would have another bump of cocaine, and then a minute later, at 4:16, he’d have orange juice and yet another cigarette. At 4:30, he’d do cocaine again, and he’d keep doing hits every 10-ish minutes until 5:11 when he’d stop for coffee and another cigarette. At 5:30 the writer would break to put more ice in his Chivas.
As Carroll wrote in the notes, 5:45 was “cocaine, etc., etc.” And at 6 pm, Thompson has some “grass to take the edge off the day.” According to Carroll’s detailed schedule, by 7:05 pm, Thompson would be ready for lunch, which he’d take at the Woody Creek Tavern.
There, he was known to enjoy himself a Heineken, two margaritas, coleslaw, a taco salad, a double order of fried onion rings, carrot cake, ice cream, a bean fritter, Dunhills, another Heineken, and cocaine. Then, for his ride home, the writer would get himself a snow cone, which was essentially just a glass of crushed ice over which he’d pour three to four shots of Chivas.
By 9 pm Carroll noted that Thompson would begin to “snort cocaine seriously,” and at 10 pm the writer would be dropping acid. An hour later at 11 pm, Thompson would be smoking weed, doing coke, and sipping Chartreuse until 11:30 when he’d do more cocaine.
Amazingly, by midnight, the writer would be “ready to write.” Then, from 12:05 am all the way until 6 in the morning, we can only assume that he did manage to get his writing done, however, during that period Thompson would also fill the hours with Chartreuse, cocaine, grass, Chivas, coffee, Heineken, clove cigarettes, grapefruit, Dunhills, orange juice, gin, and a never-ending stream of pornographic movies.
Then, at 6 am he would retreat to the hot tub where he’d indulge with some champagne, Dove Bars, and fettuccine alfredo. By 8 am he would take some Halcyon and then by 8:20 am he would be asleep only to do it all again in 7 hours’ time.
That was his daily routine…don’t think many people’s bodies would be able to keep up with that routine. Perhaps that is why he’s regarded as one of the great writers of the past? What do you think of Thompson’s writing routine? Have you ever read his work? Do you think he’s a good writer? Let us know!