Monday, September 16, 2013

New Book: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

Daily Rituals: How Artist Work by Mason Curry

Routines can be mundane or extraordinary. B.F. Skinner started his day with corn flakes and coffee.   James Joyce played the piano, and Jean-Paul Sarte consumed amphetamines.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry is a fascinating look at the daily routines of 161 famous creative geniuses. Included are daily patterns of  artists, writers, poets, scientists, and composers as recorded by interviewers, family members, servants, and secretaries.

Picasso painted at night; Gunter Grass wrote in the mornings. Herman Melville visited his farm animals for a break from writing, while Erik Satie took long walks. Some were strict about daily routines, while others had no routines whatsoever.

Many of the people included in the book were fortunate to have servants and/or family members to take care of daily household tasks. Most did not have typical 9-5 jobs.  The work habits of many of the women reveal that they often hid their work from visitors and often did not have a permanent work space.

What can we learn from this book? According to a piece written by Curry for Slate, it is difficult to pin down effective work habits.  Each person has their peak time of day for productivity and individual rituals:
Given how much time I've spent reading and thinking about artists' schedules and working habits, you might expect that I would have some insight into what makes for an ideal daily routine. Is there some combination of sleep, work, exercise, coffee, and focused head-scratching or brow-furrowing that is most likely to lead to creative breakthroughs? Or, at the very least, are there some basic guidelines that will stave off blocks and guarantee a minimum level of intellectual output?
Short answer: no, not really. 
Find the full interview here:

A must read for those interested in this topic (via NPR) is the Onion's essay Find the Thing You're Most passionate About, Then Do It On Night and Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life,31742/?ref=auto

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