Finished reading “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey

A fascinating whirlwind tour of the daily schedules of a huge number of creative people. Some of the entries were so brief – a paragraph at times – it was difficult to catch my breath before moving onto the next. Reviewers on Goodreads felt the same way, and some suggested to read this book in small chunks instead of all the way through the way I did.

What I found most interesting were the common threads between these disparate individuals. Sure, there was huge variation (some people have extremely defined schedules, others just go with the flow) but a number of themes appeared in many of the chapters. These included struggles with substance abuse (alcohol, caffeine, amphetamines), under- or overeating, depression and anxiety (it’s heartening to know that even the most brilliant people struggle with these), treating their loved ones poorly (forcing their families into rigid schedules, taking advantage of servants, demanding specific meals at particular times of the day), and a practice of working on creative projects even without the spark of inspiration. That last item is important to me; although I may be relatively prolific in my musical output, I generally only create music when I’m specifically inspired. I wonder how much more I could create if I created even without a spark of inspiration. Perhaps the spark would appear during the course of my creative activity.

Many of these artists also kept diaries and journals, using them as source material for their work, recording their various struggles, and in the end, providing an intimate look into their thoughts– extremely helpful as source material for a book like this.

The text was filled with hundreds of fantastic quotes. Two of my favorites:

Basically I enjoy everything: I am never bored.

– Matisse

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.

– Chuck Close

The book was a very quick read. I highly recommend it to everybody, creative types, non-creative types, and everybody in between. Anybody pondering their own daily routine, wanting to be more productive, or just curious about some of history’s greatest minds would be well served to give this a read.

5 out of 5 stars

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