Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

After all,” as he wrote years later, “work is still the best way of escaping from life!

A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.

Auden believed that a life of such military precision was essential to his creativity, a way of taming the muse to his own schedule. “A modern stoic,” he observed, “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.

But one’s daily routine is also a choice, or a whole series of choices. In the right hands, it can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism. A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.

Coal mining is hard work. This is a nightmare....There's a tremendous uncertainty that's built into the profession, a sustained level of doubt that supports you in some way. A good doctor isn't in a battle with his work; a good writer is locked in a battle with his work. In most professions there's a beginning, middle, and an end. With writing, it's always beginning again. Temperamentally, we need that newness. There is a lot of repetition in the work. In fact, one skill that every writer needs is the ability to sit still in this deeply uneventful business. - Philip Roth

Descartes believed that idleness was essential to good mental work,

Descartes believed that idleness was essential to good mental work, and he made sure not to overexert himself.

eggs, vegetables, cheese or fruit, and a cup of cold chocolate. Then

If you have to discipline yourself to achieve art, you discipline yourself.

Inspiration is for amateurs,” Close says. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.

I shall always be depressed,” Beckett concluded, “but what comforts me is the realization that I can now accept this dark side as the commanding side of my personality. In accepting it, I will make it work for me.

I simply get up in the morning and go to work, and I read at night. Like Abe Lincoln. - Saul Bellow

It’s cleansing. If I hadn’t been at work all the time, I would have been a lunatic.

It’s no easy business to be simple.

Life has much uneasiness; that is certain. Always remember that, and it will never surprise you. - James Boswell

Miró hated for this routine to be interrupted by social or cultural events. As he told an American journalist, “Merde! I absolutely detest all openings and parties! They’re commercial, political, and everybody talks too much. They get on my tits!

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

Only the ‘Hitlers of the world’ work at night; no honest artist does.”)

the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.

The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, 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, 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.

The morning is the best time, there are no people around. My pleasant disposition likes the world with nobody in it.

The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.

There was the presence only of essentials. It was an uncluttered kind of life, a simplicity deliberately constructed so that she could do her work.

The Russian-born novelist's writing habits were famously peculiar. Beginning in 1950, he composed first drafts in pencil on ruled index cards, which he stored in long file boxes. Since Nabokov claimed, he pictured an entire novel in complete form before he began writing it, this method allowed him to compose passages out of sequence, in whatever order he pleased...

These simple acts make man simple; and how difficult it is to be simple!

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.

[T]he two things, life style and work, have become one. Now if that’s eccentricity, then I’m eccentric.

to sustain these true moments of insight one has to be highly disciplined, lead a disciplined life,

We have failed to recognize our great asset: time. A conscientious use of it could make us into something quite amazing. - Friedrich Schiller

When I sit down to write I never brood. I have so many other things to do, with my children and teaching, that I can’t afford it. I brood, thinking of ideas, in the automobile when I’m driving to work or in the subway or when I’m mowing the lawn. By the time I get to the paper something’s there—I can produce.