When people find out I’m working on my second novel they often ask about my writing schedule. “Do you have a particular time you write every day?” “Do you start writing as soon as you get up?” “Do you prefer mornings to afternoons?” I’ve never understood the point of the question. Why would anyone care?
After reading “Daily Rituals, How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work,” I realized I was wrong. I’m fascinated with this examination of creative people’s schedules and their rituals around the schedules. Here are a few examples.
Study in contrasts:Poet W.H. Auden maintained a schedule during the day that was ideal for anyone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, timing his activities “to the minute,” then let loose at night imbibing several strong vodka martinis followed by “copious amounts of wine.”
Bare bones approach: Founding father Benjamin Franklin created a tight schedule, but sometimes had trouble organizing his materials. He began his day early by reading or writing without any clothes, what he called his “air bath.”
Unusual warm up: Composer Ludwig van Beethoven rose early and got right to work. He started many a morning standing naked in front of a mirror and poured “pitchers of water over his hands” while singing scales.
Stripped down schedule: Psychotherapist Sigmund Freud got help in maintaining his work schedule. To spare him time handling mundane tasks his wife chose his clothing and went so far as to put toothpaste on his toothbrush every morning.
Working away from home: Toulouse-Lautrec painted in brothels.
Most everyone observed a regular schedule, whether they worked in the morning, afternoon, evening or all night.
I confess to people who ask me about my schedule that mine is irregular, and I admit to writing fully clothed.
I operate somewhere between those who put in six or seven hours at a time and contemporary writer Marilynne Robinson, who says, “I really am incapable of discipline. I tried that work ethic thing a couple of times…”
Of course not all the creative people described in the book were quirky. The women tended to find a regular time and place to work and combine this with house cleaning, cooking, gardening, and caring for children. Gertrude Stein was one exception among the women. She liked cows, and with Alice B. Toklas took evening drives in the countryside to be inspired by these creatures. If a particular cow didn’t strike her fancy, they’d drive on in search of a different cow.
One thing I noted was that since famous creative people from the past had no television, iPhones, or Facebook they had, theoretically, more time than present-day artists to pursue their craft. I see a possible strategy here for finishing my novel sooner not later.
As far as the rituals these artists pursued, the nudists above stand out. George Sand did keep a chunk of chocolate on her desk to nibble on. I keep mine in the refrigerator, but I could always move it closer.