Writing Routines

Khaled Hosseini’s Writing Routine: “You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine.”

Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan-American novelist, UNHCR goodwill ambassador, and former physician, best-known for his 2003 debut novel The Kite Runner.

When I’m writing, a thought will occasionally pass unblemished, unperturbed, through my head onto the screen—clearly, like through a glass. It’s an intoxicating, euphoric sensation to feel that I’ve communicated something so real, and so true. But this doesn’t happen often.

Even Khaled Hosseini Can’t Tell Stories as Effectively as He Wants To | The Atlantic

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Khaled Hosseini got his first break in writing during college freshman year. He was an 18 years old working graveyard security shifts which started at 11pm and ended at 7am. “Luckily, at night, there was no one around to supervise what I did,” he told The Atlantic. “So I spent my grave shifts studying, reading books, and writing short stories.”

20 years later, Hosseini published his debut novel, The Kite Runner, which became a New York Times bestseller with over seven million copies sold in the US. The novel was also adapted into a 2007 film of the same name, which went on to be nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as turned into stage performances, and a graphic novel.

Khaled Hosseini’s daily writing routine

When it comes to Khaled Hosseini’s writing routine, in a 2012 interview with The Daily Beast, the author succinctly summarised it up — “I get up and work out. Get home in time to get the kids off to school (on my days—my wife and I trade off), eat, read the paper, front page first, check all news on Afghanistan. Flip to sports page, check for any San Francisco 49ers news. Then I write, typically from about 8:30 to 2 p.m., at which time I go to pick up my kids from school.”

Between those hours, he aims to get down 2-3 pages, although he admits he’ll be happy with the day’s work if he manages to write “at least three good sentences” and have an “idea of what I will write the next day.” In between writing, Hosseini likes to drink lots of coffee and snack on fruit and black liquorice.

While the typing of the novel is done in those 5-6 hours each day, Hosseini says that most of the actual writing is done away from the computer, “when you’re driving or mixing spaghetti sauce. It does take you out of the moment at times, but that can’t be helped.”

I write while my kids are at school and the house is quiet. I sequester myself in my office with mug of coffee and computer. I can’t listen to music when I write, though I have tried. I pace a lot. Keep the shades drawn. I take brief breaks from writing, 2-3 minutes, by strumming badly on a guitar. I try to get 2–3 pages in per day. I write until about 2 p.m. when I go to get my kids, then I switch to Dad mode.

Khaled Hosseini: How I Write | The Daily Beast

When writing a book, Hosseni doesn’t like to create an outline first, preferring the “surprise and spontaneity, of letting the story find its own way.” He starts out by writing the draft, a process which he describes as “difficult and laborious,” which is just a sketch of the final version. From there, he continues to rewrite and “add layer and dimension and shade and nuance and color.”

You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen—it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.

Even Khaled Hosseini Can’t Tell Stories as Effectively as He Wants To | The Atlantic

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