What Author Wrote His Last Novel in Crayon? (Solved)

One of the most common trivia questions I’m asked is about the famous author who wrote in crayon.

What author wrote his last novel in crayon?

James Joyce wrote his last novel in crayon. Due to his waning eyesight, he wrote a large part of his novel, Finnegan’s Wake, with crayons. Instead of writing on paper, he wrote on cardboard while laying in bed. He suffered from ocular degeneration for most of his life.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about what author wrote his last novel in crayon.

Why Did James Joyce Write His Last Novel in Crayon?

(This post may have afilliate links. Please see my full disclosure)
Jasper Art Depiction of Author James Joyce - What Author Wrote His Last Novel in Crayon
I made this image with Jasper Art – What Author Wrote His Last Novel in Crayon?

James Joyce wrote his last novel in crayon because of a debilitating eye condition.

Around 1907, at the age of 25, Joyce started suffering from acute anterior uveitis, a form of inflammation that affects the iris. The condition caused him a great deal of pain and eventually resulted in glaucoma.

Many historians now believe his eye problems resulted from syphilis.

As his vision deteriorated, Joyce became increasingly reliant on eye patches and magnifying glasses.

He underwent more than 10 eye surgeries, reportedly without general anesthesia.

According to some stories, he would lay alone in dark rooms while his eyes bled and healed. It’s a startling portrait of an author heralded as one of the best in history.

Along with vision problems, he dealt with other growing health issues, such as boils and losing teeth.

He continued to write despite his declining eyesight, dictating some of his later work to his wife and son.

Although his painful treatments were ultimately unsuccessful, they did allow him to see well enough to complete his final novel, Finnegan’s Wake in crayon.

He chose crayons because of the bold, large lettering.

The bright colors of the crayons combined with the thick letters helped him see what he was writing.

But how, exactly, did James Joyce write his novel with crayons? Let’s answer that question next.

How Did James Joyce Write His Last Novel in Crayon?

According to biographers, Joyce wrote his last novel in crayon while laying on his stomach in bed.

Usually, in his favorite white “coat.”

All of this is to make writing more comfortable and possible, given his ill health and poor eyesight.

Yet, as one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th century, his last novel, Finnegans Wake, is considered to be one of his most challenging works.

The novel is notorious for its complex wordplay and stream-of-consciousness style.

As a result, Finnegans Wake is both a fascinating and troubling work that continues to challenge readers today.

Why Did James Joyce Write His Last Novel in Crayon on Cardboard?

There are a few possible explanations.

For one thing, the thickness and size of the cardboard is a good writing medium when using crayons. The wax in the crayons prevents them from slipping, and the cardboard provides a sturdy surface for writing.

Additionally, Joyce may have wanted to create a physical object that was as unique as the novel itself.

By writing on cardboard, he ensured that he could write whole passages that he could read.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Joyce was known for his love of puns and wordplay; perhaps he saw writing on cardboard as another opportunity to play with language.

Whatever Joyce’s reasons for choosing this unusual writing medium, there’s no doubt that Finnegans Wake remains one of the most enigmatic and baffling novels ever written.

The physical form of its early draft is just one more layer of mystery to add to the mix.

Did James Joyce Write Any Other Novel in Crayon?

There is some rumor that James Joyce may have written parts of other novels in crayon.

Novels such as one of his most popular, Ulysses.

However, as far as I could find in my research, this anecdote is not validated by clear evidence.

Joyce didn’t always write in such a cryptic and creative manner. In fact, his early work was quite accessible, and his first novel, Dubliners, is considered to be one of the great Irish novels.

Nevertheless, Joyce always pushed the boundaries of language, and his later work became increasingly experimental.

Here is a good video that goes into detail about James Joyce and his life:

YouTube video by Manufacturing Intellect – What Author Wrote His Last Novel in Crayon?

Is Writing in Crayon a Good Practice for Authors With Poor Eyesight?

While it’s an unorthodox method, it could work.

Along with seeking proper medical attention, it’s useful to pursue creative strategies for producing creative work. In my mind, whatever works is what matters.

For authors with poor eyesight, writing in crayons could be a good practice.

The bright colors would be easier to see than traditional black ink on white paper. Plus, the texture of the crayon would provide tactile feedback that could help with the flow of writing.

Of course, there are potential downsides to this approach.

For one thing, it might be difficult to find writing implements in large enough print size. And you might end up with some interesting-looking manuscripts!

But ultimately, if it helps you produce your work, then it’s worth considering.

So don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to your writing process.

Did Any Other Famous Author Write Novels in Crayon?

As far as we know, James Joyce is the only author to write his novels with crayons.

However, Virginia Woolf did write her novels in purple ink, a colorful contrast to the standard black and blue ink. She might have done so to “compete” with her sister, an artist.

Another writer, Alexandre Dumas, wrote on color-coded paper.

For example, he only wrote fiction on blue-colored paper. Apparently, there is some connection between color and the creative mind.

The Writing Quirks of Other Famous Authors

Plenty of famous authors demonstrated unusual quirks with writing.

Here are some of the most unusual:

  • Friedrich Schiller wrote with his feet plunged in cold water and rotten apples in his desk drawer.
  • Sir Walter Scott mentally wrote one of his most famous poems while riding horseback.
  • Demosthenes shaved part of his head to force himself to stay in his house and write.
  • Gertrude Stein enjoyed writing in the car while his significant other drove around town.

Final Thoughts: What Author Wrote His Last Novel in Crayon?

We have lots of other great articles on this site about author trivia, words, and writing.

For example, Which Writer Coined the Phrase, “Ships That Pass in the Night”?

Check out a few of these related posts:


BMJ (Research on James Joyce’s Eyesight)