“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition”
– W. H. Auden
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
Daily routines and rituals boost productivity tremendously! I’ve learned through this amazing book that by setting your mind to a few tasks to do every day, your mind will focus on other important matters. For example, instead of concerning yourself with what you will wear today or eat for breakfast, you can have something you wear every Monday or Tuesday at the office and eat 3 eggs every morning. This will provide you with the focus to concentrate on the idea of your next project or presentation for work.
They are also great time savers. By automating your actions, you’ll be saving time from worrying the next part of your morning and evening. This helps drastically, especially when time is the most valuable commodity in the world. Those extra few minutes are precious. Check out this awesome poem for inspiration.
Therefore in this article, you’ll discover many of the greatest mind’s routines that you can implement today and dominate your day’s productivity. This article provides daily routine tips to guide your exploration to finding a routine that works for you. Because ultimately as novelist Bernard Malamud enlightened, “How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter… Eventually, everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery is to crack you.”
This book has definitely inspired and directed me to a path of automizing my mornings by taking my dog out, a shower, prayer, then eating a salad while I watch a motivational video on YouTube, and finally reading a chapter of a book before getting dressed for work. By doing these things in this order every day, I don’t have to think about time, food, clothing, etc.
And if you want more examples, I suggest you check out the book. It supplies 100 more artists with interesting routines and habits.
“The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automation, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision”
– William James
Daily Routine Tips
Wake Up Early
Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992) The Irish-born, British figurative painter, believed that painting always came first. He woke up early at the first sight of light and worked until noon. Amazingly, he did this even when having late nights.
James Boswell (1740 – 1795) The Scottish biographer explained, “As soon as I am awake, I remember my duty, and like a brisk manner I give the lash to indolence and bounce up with as much vivacity as if a pretty girl, amorous and willing, were waiting for me.” This is a great daily routine tip that pushes me out of bed in the morning.
Franz Schubert (1797 – 1850) This French novelist and playwright sat at his writing desk every morning at 6 am and composer straight through until 1 pm. He smoked his pipe much throughout and never composed in the afternoon.
N.C. Wyeth (1882 – 1945) American artist and illustrator, almost never worked under artificial light, so daylight hours were precious. He hated to stop at the end of the day, often wishing he could start the next day immediately. “It’s the hardest work in the world to try not to work.”
Haruki Murakami (1949 – Present) Contemporary Japanese writer admits that he doesn’t have much of a social life. He wakes up at 4 am and works 5 or 6 hours straight, runs or swims (sometimes both), runs errands, reads, and listens to music before bed at 9 pm.
Nicholson Baker (1957 – Present) American novelist and essayist who, incredibly, squeezes 2 mornings in 1 by getting, “up around 4, 4:30 am. And I write some. Make coffee sometimes, or not. I write for maybe a hour and a half. But then I get really sleepy. So I go back to sleep and then I wake up around 8:30 am.”
Hit The Snooze Button
William de Kooning (1904 – 1997) Dutch-American abstract expressionist artist who all his life had trouble getting up in the morning. He generally rose between 10 am to 11 am, drank several strong cups of coffee, and painted all day and into the night, breaking only for dinner and the occasional visitor. In those studios, the heat used to go off after 5 pm because they were commercial buildings. He used to paint with his hat and coat on. Painting and whistling as he went.
Work The Graveyard Shift
George Sand (1804 – 1876) This French novelist and memoirist worked late at night, a habit she picked up as a teenager caring for her sick grandmother when the night hours were her only chance to be alone and think.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) German composer who took an occasional break to walk outdoors, which aided his creativity.
Herman Melville (1819 – 1891) The writer of Moby Dick enjoyed working in the fields as a way to relieve the stress of working 6-8 hour days.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 – 1977) Russian-American novelist who started the first draft of Lolita on a road trip across America, working nights in the back seat of his parked car.
“A solid routine saves you from giving up”
– John Updike
Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) English philosopher, in the evening he would sing a few popular songs in bed before going to sleep – not because he had a good voice, but because “he did believe it did his lungs good and conducted much to prolong his life.”
Patricia Highsmith (1921 – 1995) Novelist who found an interesting tranquility feeling when she first saw two snails locked in a strange embrace. This led to her housing 300 snails in her garden. And when she moved to France, she had to maneuver around the prohibition of bringing live snails into the country. How? By making multiple trips with 6 to 10 creatures hidden under her breast.
Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) Russian author who wrote the epic War and Peace opened, “I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine.”
Stephen King (1947 – Present) American author of contemporary horror, he writes every day of the year including holidays and birthdays to meet his daily quota of 2,000 words. He usually wakes up around 8 or 8:30 am and finishes at 11 or 1:30 pm. The rest of the afternoon is free.
Vincent van Gough (1853 – 1890) Dutch post-Impressionist painter. When in the middle of intense inspiration, he painted nonstop.
B. F. Skinner (1904 – 1990) This American psychologist had a timer ranging 4 times a day: at midnight, 1 am, 5 am, and 7 am for 1 hour of nocturnal composition.
Work Around A Job
George Orwell (1903 – 1950) Author of 1984, his aunt found him a part-time job at a London secondhand bookshop. This left him almost 4 in a half hours in the morning and early afternoon, which conveniently, were the times he was most active.
Voltaire (1694 – 1778) The French Enlightenment writer worked 18 or 20 hours a day. It was perfect, “I love the cell.” He worked at home in solitude, spent the evening with company, then back to writing.
Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) An English writer who needed absolute quiet. One of his houses had an extra door installed to his study to block out noise.
Agatha Christe (1890 – 1976) The English crime novelist shared her habit, “I felt slightly embarrassed if I was going to write. Once I could get away, however, shut the door and get people not to interrupt me, then I was able to go full speed ahead, completely lost in what I was doing.”
Simone de Beauvoir (1908 – 1986) French female writer who worked by herself in the morning, then joined author and friend, Paul Sartre, for lunch. In the afternoon they worked together in silence at Sartre’s apartment. In the evening, they went to whatever political or social event on Sartre’s schedule, went to the movies, or drank Scotch and listened to the radio at Beauvoir’s apartment.
Carson McCullers (1917 – 1967) American novelist and short story writer. As newly weds, Carson, age 20, and Reeves, age 24, both aspired to be writers, they agreed that one of them work full time and earned a living for the couple while the other wrote; after a year, they switch roles. Yet, after the first year ended, Carson had landed a contract for her novel, so Reeves continued to put his own literary aspirations on hold and earn a salary for the both of them.
Maira Kalman (1949 – Present) American illustrator, writer, artist, and designer says, “I procrastinate just the right amount. There are things which help me get in the mood to work.”
Donald Barthelme (1931 – 1989) The American novelist pulled out the entire page, toss it in the wastebasket, and started over with a fresh sheet of news print if the words didn’t sound right. Therefore, by the end of each morning, the wastebasket would be brimming with 30 – 40 discarded pages. When he got stuck, Barthelme headed out for a 20-30 minute walk in the neighborhood. He tried not to rush the writing. Some days he ended with 1 or 2 completed pages, other days, just a sentence or even nothing at all.
Gerhard Richter (1932 – Present) German visual artist recalled, “I go to the studio every day, but I don’t paint every day. Weeks go by, and I don’t paint until finally, I can’t take it any longer. I get fired up…but perhaps I create these little crises as a kind of a secret strategy to push myself.”
Or Even Have No Routine At All
Arthur Miller (1915 – 2005) Author of Death of a Salesman claimed, “I wish I had a routine for writing. I get up in the morning and I go out to my studio and write. And then I tear it up! That’s the routine really. Then, occasionally, something sticks.”
David Foster Wallace (1962 – 2008) This American novelist admits, “So I have absolutely no routine at all because the times I’m trying to build a routine are the times the writing just seems futile and flagellating.”
Many artists have daily routine tips to spark their fire and help them bloom. Not every type of flower is watered the same. I’ve learned that in order to be successful, you must learn self-awareness. Knowing about yourself from those around you. And that it’s not the habit itself that matters, but what it means to your life and the value it presents.
Today’s Question: What’s a routine or habit that you have developed?
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