“What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working even when he's staring out the window.” - Burton Rascoe
The idiosyncrasies of writers are well known. Stephen King opined that Anne Rivers Siddons’ novel, “The House Next Door,” is one of the best ever written in the horror genre. It is unknown whether her husband shares that view, but he reports that, “She makes a nest of papers, like a mouse getting ready for winter, then she starts walking into walls just before she begins a new novel.”
Gertrude Stein wrote her poems while sitting behind the wheel of her Ford, “Godiva,” parked at the curb.
John Cheever wore his only suit when he went to his studio every morning. He would hang it up, work in his underwear, and put it on again for the trip home. Forest McDonald is said to have preferred to write on his porch—naked.
While it would be easy to write these behaviors off as artistic eccentricities, to do so would be unfair. Left-brained math and science geeks are quirky as well.
Sir Isaak Newton is revered for his contributions to mathematics and physics. But he was a singularly distracted man. It is said that upon swinging his feet out of bed in the morning he would sit for hours, immobilized by the sudden rush of ideas to his head.
Fellow countryman Henry Cavendish was a brilliant scientist who treasured solitude. In fact his degree of shyness was described by one biographer as, “a degree bordering on disease.” He is best known today for his exacting study of gravity, but he found human contact so painful that he communicated with his house keeper by letter.
Geology pioneer Charles Lyell had perhaps the most unusual quirks. When distracted by thought he would slouch so low in his chair that his buttocks would almost touch the floor. Or, as his friend and colleague Charles Darwin said of him, “Would rest his head on the seat of a chair while standing.”
Idiosyncrasies, it would seem, are the trademark of the creative mind regardless of the field of endeavor. Next time you catch yourself doing something that the less informed might consider absent minded—punching your bank card PIN into the microwave for example—don’t look around sheepishly to see if anyone noticed. Hold your head high and know that you share traits common to the great minds in history.