Druid’s Book Club
Quick Take: Many of the great creatives had some quirky habits. But if you're looking for rituals to apply to your craft, look elsewhere.
I really wanted to like “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey. The idea of learning about how the great creatives use their time was very appealing to me. But unfortunately, most of the content felt superficial and fell flat for me. I had hoped for more depth in each profile and more concrete rituals I could integrate into my life.
But I’m glad I read “Daily Rituals” and learned some interesting things:
WH Auden (Pulitzer Prize winning poet) – Believed that a militaristic level of precision in his daily routines was key to taming the muse. “A modern stoic knows that the surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.”
Morton Feldman (Avant-garde composer) - Feldman would write for a time and then stop and copy what he had just written. He felt this method brought new ideas.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (Author of “The Great Gatsby”) - At points in his writing career, he was certain that alcohol was essential to his creative process.
Henry Miller (Author of “Tropic of Cancer”) – “I don’t believe in draining the reservoir … I believe in getting up from the typewriter, away from it, while I still have things to say.”
John Adams (Contemporary classical composer) - "My experience has been, that most really serious creative people I know, have very very routine, and not particularly glamorous work habits."
Chuck Close (Artist best known for large-scale Photo-realist portraits) - “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work."
William James (The "Father of American psychology") - "There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation."
Franz Kafka (Author of “The Metamorphosis”) - Part of Kafka's daily ritual was to exercise naked in front of an open window.
David Lynch (Director of “Twin Peaks”) - Swore by meditation. In 2006, he said he had not missed a day of meditation in 33 years.
Truman Capote (Author of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) - Would only write lying down in bed or on a couch.
George Gershwin (Composer) - He was dismissive of inspiration, saying that if he waited for the muse, he would compose at most three songs a year. It was better to work every day. “Like the pugilist, the songwriter must always keep in training.”
Bernard Malamud (Author of “The Natural”) - “There’s no one way–there’s too much drivel about this subject. You’re who you are, not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe. You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place–you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time–not steal it–and produce the fiction. If the stories come, you get them written, you’re on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you."
Most “successful” creatives made significant sacrifices for their art. Sacrificing their social life, time with family, and some even their own personal well-being. Some got up late, and some got up early. Some worked in the morning, and some worked at night. Some had a strict schedule, and some worked only when the muse touched them. Some relied on substances to keep them going, and others never touched them. The moral is that there is no one perfect schedule. No one way to harness creativity. The one common denominator seemed to be an unflinching dedication to their craft.
Druid’s Top Entrepreneurship Lesson: There is no one “right way” to live a successful life. Find the way that works for you.