From the book group material at the end of Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips (which, incidentally, is a quirky, charming novel which far too few people have read):
'When I meet people at parties and I tell them that I'm a writer, the first question is always the same. "Are you very disciplined?" "Oh yes," I say. . . . And it's almost true – about the discipline, I mean. My approach to writing is like improvised acting: I lose myself in my characters and let them do all the work. So I can write large amounts over long stretches of the day. However, I try as far as possible to avoid conscious thought while I'm writing, because it interrupts the flow and pulls me out of my characters. Before I start on a novel I have to do a huge amount of thinking, for months on end, without writing a word. I don't like to begin until I have a destination in mind and at least a vague idea of how I'm going to get there, otherwise I am liable to write around in circles.
I'm not a comfortable thinker, however. What am I supposed to look at while I'm thinking? What should I do with my hands? Research is my favorite way to think, as it gives me something tangible to do. I like spending the entire day reading, and then sounding like a harassed intellectual to friends in the pub ("God, I've been reading all day, I'm knackered").
. . . But reading is ultimately distracting as I'm dealing with other people's thoughts, so sometimes I have to put the books down and just think. I think in the shower, doing the shopping, tidying the house, and I get vast amounts of thinking done on the bus. I think in bed, last thing at night and first thing in the morning, because being half asleep pushes open the door to my subconscious just that little bit wider. Mostly, though, I lie on the sofa and think (I have a special sofa in my study for this purpose – chosen by stretching out on all the sofas in Ikea to find out which one was the thinkiest). This causes untold problems in the pub ("God, I've been lying on the sofa all day, I'm knackered").
I think until I can't bear it any longer and then I start writing, but it's never long enough. I get myself stuck and have to take weeks out in the middle of drafts just to think some more, and then I get furious with myself for "not doing any work," force myself back to the computer too soon, and end up with writer's block, which is basically just thinking plus self-loathing.'
I love it when I pick up a book I've never heard of, and find something unexpected.