Emma Collins
07 Jul

Hello everyone and welcome to another blog post! Today, we're going to explore the writing routine of Sylvia Plath, which has been a frequent request. Previously, I’ve discussed the routines of authors like Haruki Murakami, Octavia Butler, Hayao Miyazaki, Neil Gaiman, and Stephen King. However, before we delve into Sylvia Plath’s routine and its details, let's talk about who Sylvia Plath was.

Who Was Sylvia Plath?

Sylvia Plath was born in the United States in 1932. During her short but incredibly prolific career, she wrote poems, short stories, and her only novel, "The Bell Jar," which was semi-autobiographical and published in January 1963 under the pen name Victoria Lucas. In a letter to her mother, Plath wrote of the novel: "What I've done is to throw together events from my own life, fictionalizing to add color. It's a potboiler, really, but I think it will show how isolated a person feels when he is suffering a breakdown. 

I've tried to picture my world and the people in it as seen through the distorting lens of a bell jar."A month after the book's publication, at the age of 30, Sylvia Plath sadly died after taking her own life, following a lengthy struggle with mental illness. Despite her tragic end, Sylvia Plath was talented, bold, and fearless in her writing. Her work was described by the US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky as "thrashing, hyperactive, perpetually accelerated." Her poems catch the feeling of her imagination throwing off images and phrases with the energy of a runaway horse or a machine with its throttle stuck wide open. 

All the violence in her work returns to the violence of the imagination, a frenzy of brilliance and conviction.Sylvia Plath had a massive impact on me personally. I read "The Bell Jar" at 16 and deeply connected with that story. I loved the metaphor of a fig tree and also really love the poem "Mad Girl's Love Song," which is one of my favorite poems of all time.

Sylvia Plath's Writing Routine

Now, let’s talk about Sylvia Plath's writing routine. I’ve deliberately chosen the routine she had prior to motherhood. The routine Sylvia Plath had in the last few years of her life was one in which she got up much earlier and it was a bit more erratic.

According to Fast Company, daily routines were something Plath liked to describe in letters to her mother. We know that she and Ted Hughes planned to write for 4 to 6 hours a day: from 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM, and then from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. As far as her work ethic goes, Sylvia Plath worked at poetry as a crafts person, a wildly driven one. 

She sat down every day and made herself write, turning out the products of her writing until they became fulfilled poems. In the words of Ted Hughes, her husband, Sylvia Plath's attitude towards her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn't get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair or even a toy.

Adding a Touch of Sylvia Plath's Life

This routine is the simplest and most laid-back I’ve tried to replicate. It’s just a time slot, which didn’t seem enough, so I added some Sylvia Plath-themed elements. We know Sylvia loved fashion and was interested in clothes, as depicted in "The Bell Jar," a semi-autobiographical novel. 

So, I tried to wear something reminiscent of the 1950s or early 1960s.Additionally, Sylvia Plath really loved food. There is a Twitter account called "Sylvia Plath's Food Diary," dedicated to the many times Plath mentioned food in her essays, poetry, writings, or novel. I found an example from her journal in 1943, where she wrote: "For lunch, I had two helpings of corn, ham and beans, a glass of water, and the biggest helping of raspberry Jello." Though she was 11 when she wrote that, it showed her fondness for food.I also found that she once made orange tea bread in 1961, which I interpreted as tea cake. I decided to include baking that in my routine to add a little more flavor (literally!) to this experience.

Trying Out the Routine

Morning Writing Session

My day began at 8:30 AM with writing. I wore an outfit inspired by the 1950s, focusing on my novel. I spent about three hours in the morning working on chapter 23, with some tweaks to chapter 22. This part of the routine was straightforward and familiar, as I usually enjoy having a decent chunk of writing time in the morning.

Four-Hour Break

One of the most interesting parts of Sylvia Plath's routine was the four-hour break in the middle of the day. During this time, I decided to take a walk, read a book, and relax. I even prepared a low-effort orange tea bread, adding a bit of fun to the break. This break helped me reset and recharge for the next writing session.

Afternoon Writing Session

At 4:00 PM, I returned to writing. This second session lasted for about two hours. I focused on problem-solving and rearranging parts of my novel. The break in the middle of the day made the second session feel fresh and productive.

Reflecting on Sylvia Plath's Routine

Overall, Sylvia Plath’s writing routine was simple yet effective. The balance between work and breaks, combined with a craftsman-like approach to writing, made for a fulfilling day. The additional elements of fashion and baking added a touch of Sylvia Plath's life, making the experience more immersive.I appreciate how Sylvia Plath's work ethic and dedication to her craft shine through her routine. This experience reinforced the idea that a piece of writing doesn't have to be perfect from the start. The iterative process of writing and problem-solving is crucial to creating strong, impactful work.Thank you for joining me in trying out Sylvia Plath's writing routine. I hope you found this blog post enjoyable and insightful. If you’d like to explore more author routines or writing tips, feel free to check out my other posts. Until next time, happy writing!

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