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How best-selling author Lee Child writes 2,000 words a day

Lee Child’s productivity secrets include no internet and no food.

How best-selling author Lee Child writes 2,000 words a day
[Illustration: Denny Rahayu]

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our feature, “Secrets of 13 of the most productive people.” See the complete 2018 list here.

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I start writing on the first day of September. That was the day I started my first book, so it’s kind of sentimental, but it’s also common sense. I publish a book a year, so this gives me a structure, which is useful.

I drink about 30 cups of coffee a day. I like to work before I eat. If I’m hungry, then I’m on the ball. I have two computers, at different ends of a room. One is connected to the internet, and one isn’t. When I want to go online, I have to walk across the room, which usually disincentivizes me.

When I start [a book], I have no idea what the plot is going to be. I try to come up with a good opening sentence, and then I think, “Great,” and go from there. I write about 2,000 words a day. I don’t revise, because I have this mental oddity where I think once the story is written, changing it would feel dishonest. You can’t do that in real life. I get clarity from doing hypnotic tasks. Many writers get ideas in the shower. You don’t have to concentrate, so you can let your mind wander. I feel the same way when I drive. It clears my mind.

The day I start writing, my creativity explodes in every direction except the book I have to work on. I’ll start a project, like redecorating my apartment, when I should be focusing. I have some distance from the idea of being a writer. It’s just work. I don’t expect to win a Nobel prize, I just want to give people a good time for a couple days a year.

Time he gets up

Between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.

First thing he does in the morning”

“I have coffee.”

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Productivity philosophy

“I have a motto: ‘I’m not afraid of stress; stress is afraid of me.’ It helps me plow through.”

Last thing he does at night

“Often I smoke a joint, to relax.”

What he does with 15 minutes of free time

“I like to read someone else’s book.”

Time he goes to bed

Between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.

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