Churchill’s Daily Grind


Every writer is different. Each has his or her own way of working, a method for getting words down on paper. Some are procrastinators, some are methodical, some write in between juggling a daytime job and caring for a family.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (November 30, 1874 – January 24, 1965), was arguably the most famous British statesman of the twentieth century. He was elected to the office of Prime Minister in 1940 and served in that capacity during the rest of the war years, until 1945. He later served as Prime Minister again from 1951 to 1955. He was an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer and an artist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.
When he left the army he looked forward to a life of relative freedom from the regimented existence he had experienced so far, but in fact chose to live every day by a strict regime. He lived in Chartwell, a huge country estate two miles south of Westerham, Kent, in the south of England. One of the researchers who worked for him as he was writing his books was heard to say: “He was totally organized, almost like a clock. His routine was absolutely dictatorial. He set himself a ruthless timetable every day and would get very agitated, even cross, if it was broken.”
In later years his regime was as follows:
He wakes at 8 a.m. and after shaving, makes for the first of his daily baths (filled by his valet), in which he spends some time soaking and wallowing, reciting poetry, rehearsing speeches and singing in a high tenor voice. After drying himself off, he dons a silk dressing gown and goes back to bed for two hours, not to sleep but to read all the daily newspapers. If he finds something of particular interest, he will shuffle across to his wife’s room where he will discuss it with Clementine for a while before returning to his room. While he is reading he pours his first scotch and soda, which he will top up with soda throughout the day, and lights one of his trademark Corona cigars.
When he has finished with the newspapers he tackles his voluminous mail, dictating answers to a secretary who will draft the return letters for his signature. Once the mail is done with he drafts memos and greets any visitors who are staying at the house, who dutifully troop into his bedroom for a chat.
Next he works on his speeches or checks the galley proofs of one of his books until it is time for an impressively formal three-course lunch at 1.15 p.m. He “dresses” for dinner, meaning a white tie and tails, including a cummerbund. He drinks champagne; Clementine drinks claret. Lunch is lavish and languorous and Winston dominates the conversation; but since he is such a fascinating conversationalist the guests don’t mind.
After lunch he totters out to the pond in the garden to feed the ducks, returning about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, whereupon he changes into a silk sleeping vest and climbs back into bed for a nap (a habit he picked up in Cuba when he was a war correspondent there). He wakes at 5 and plays cards with his family until 7 o’clock when he has the second of his baths.
Dinner is at 8.30 and once again there is a variety of guests and family at table. After dinner, as per the household tradition, the men retire to the drawing room for port, brandy and cigars. At 11 p.m. after all the guests have retired, Churchill has his second working period of the day. He dictates the text for his books to two secretaries, aided by his researcher, and works until about 2 a.m. If there is extra work to be done he will stay up till 3 or 4 to finish it.
            Using this extraordinary regime he was able to write between 2,000 and 5,000 words a day and up to 10,000 words at weekends.

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