Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up in the kitchen, the top of the refrigerator as his desk, dreamily fondling his “male configurations”. . . Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on Corydrane tablets (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin), ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day . . . Descartes liked to linger in bed, his mind wandering in sleep through woods, gardens, and enchanted palaces where he experienced “every pleasure imaginable.” - Amazon Product Description
In a nutshell description
Daily Rituals is a wonderful collection of the daily routines of a broad spectrum of creative people over several hundred years lovingly compiled by former design-magazine editor Mason Currey. What started out as a side project blog grew steadily in popularity, captivating thousands of visitors and leading directly to the publication of this book.
The format is simple. Each chapter recounts the daily routine of a famous (or at least notable) creator. When did they get up? What did they have for breakfast? When did they start work in the morning/afternoon/night and for how long? Where did they go to find inpsiration? Did they wait for inspiration to strike or did they have to force it?
Readers will recognise many of the names included in Daily Rituals but they probably won't have considered how Agatha Christie worked without a desk, how Beethoven relied on 60-bean cups of coffee for breakfast or how Anthony Trollope made sure to write three thousand words each morning before going to his day job.
Ultimately this book demistifies some of the magic behind great art. The people documented here have been responsible for creating works of art that are celebrated and enjoyed to this day. It turns out their lives were quite ordinary (if endearingly eccentric in some cases), but they all carved out time almost every day to work on their crafts and (mostly) refused to give up to the temptations of procrastination.
Why I love this book
I read Daily Rituals at a point in my life where I was obsessed with making electronic music and it gave me some really useful perspective. I think that most creative processes are quite similar in that coming up with something new is really difficult and there are a million ways to distract yourself when you're struggling for ideas.
There is also a common perception that great art is purely a matter of inspiration. Although inspiration is hugely important, I think it's a common misconception that inspiration is something that you wait for rather than actively seek out. For anyone making their way with a creative endavour, this can turn into yet another excuse to avoid the difficulties of putting one foot in front of the other towards whatever piece of art you are working on.
Reading about how truly succesful artists, writers and musicians have been putting in the time for centuries, using sweat and tears to force inspiration and make the most of their talents was, in itself, inspiring to me and it's a lesson I have never forgotten. Also, I'm naturally nosy and I loved getting a peak into the daily lives of such an interesting group of people!
Quotes to make you think
“It is a danger to wait around for an idea to occur to you. You have to find the idea.”
“One can be very fertile without having to work too much. Three hours in the morning. Three hours in the evening. This is my only rule. - Jean-Paul Sartre”
“to sustain these true moments of insight one has to be highly disciplined, lead a disciplined life.”
“(Stephen) King writes every day of the year, including his birthday and holidays, and he almost never lets himself quit before he reaches his daily quota of two thousand words.”
Read this book if…
You are fascinated by how our day-to-day lives compare to those of people from different time periods and especially if you are a creative person who wants to understand some of the common behaviours of the world's greatest creators.
Some good further reading/watching/listening
Where to get it
About the Author
Mason Currey is a freelance writer and editor whose writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Slate. In 2019, he published a follow-up to Daily Rituals called Daily Rituals: Women at Work.
April 23, 2013
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