The daily rituals of artists and how to improve your own routine
“One’s daily routine is 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, 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.”
This quote was taken from Mason Curry’s eye-opening book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. In it, he dives into the daily routines of some of the most creatively influential people in history. It stops and makes you think, shaking self-perception to the bone. How much thought and time goes into planning your daily routines? With autumn quickly approaching and everyone headed back to school, now is a perfect time to recalibrate your own routine. Curry digs deep in this book to provide excellent examples of the ambiguous life long question: How do you do meaningful creative work while making a living at the same time? The following are short glimpses into the daily rituals of three prolific writers, all thanks to Mason Curry’s extensive research.
George Orwell (1903-1950)
At first George Orwell was like many of us, spending all his time on the daily grind. He had completed his first book, which was well-received, but was unable to make a living solely on his writing. He had a teaching gig to supplement the income, but it was taking up way too much of his energy. George Orwell had no spare time to do what he did best – write. In order for him to get his priorities straight meant he needed an entire job change, a difficult decision for anyone. A family member landed him a part-time position at a second-hand bookstore. This left George with over four hours of writing time in the late morning and early afternoon before sauntering to work, constantly surrounded by literature.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Victor rose at dawn, welcomed with a large pot of coffee and the daily letter from his neighboring mistress. With love in his heart, a stomach full of coffee and two raw eggs, he ascended to the lookout. A stunning glass-enclosed room on the top of his iconic home, the Hauteville House, which is the highest point on the island of Guernsey. During this time he completed some of his most memorable work, three poetry collections and the novel Les Miserables. He wrote viscously until 11 am, and then stepped out onto the roof and poured an ice cold bucket of water over his head that had been left out overnight. He got his writing done early and used the freezing shower to keep him invigorated for the rest of the day. Victor Hugo loved to socialize and entertain, so he left his evenings open, finely balancing his work and play.
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Known for Sense and Sensibility and the renowned Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen strayed away from the normal way of writing. Many close themselves off from the world for hours or days on end. Instead, Jane lived in a busy home and never experienced solitude. She would rise early, greeting the morning with soothing piano playing that the rest of the house could joyfully wake up to. She worked exclusively in the family sitting room which was prone to interruptions. Jane Austen kept her writing hidden from anyone beyond her close family. She wrote her novels on small pieces of paper that she could easily hide if someone was passing through. Evenings were spent reading the famous novels of the time aloud and testing out her own wittings in progress to the family audience.
Build your own routine
Now it is time to review and question your own daily routines. Remember that the opportunities and choices are endless so choose wisely. Slowly add in new elements to your morning and night routines. Attempt to greet the morning with joy and excitement, instead of resistance. Write out that to-do list before going to bed, so you don't even have to think about what to do when you wake up. It will soon all become automatic. The following are a few ideas and resources for you to consider when building your new life.
Think about adding some mediation into the mix. It can help ground you, give you some perspective and keep you calm through all those unexpected stresses life is always throwing around.
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- Meditation for Beginners
- Meditations on Intention and Being: Daily Reflection on the Path of Yoga, Mindfulness and Compassion
Add a little philosophy to your routine. Give your mind a jump start in the morning with deep thought on existence and meaning. Just reading anything in the morning for a few minutes helps ease the brain muscle into a successful day.
- Philosophy 101: From Plato and Socrates to Ethics and Metaphysics
- Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar...: Understanding Philosophy through Jokes
- Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
We could all use more exercise in our lives. Even just getting direct sunlight as soon as you wake up can work wonders. Giving your body a jolt of energy so it knows it's time to wake up. Add a short walk, jog or bicycling into the mix. Start off small, so you don't set yourself up to fail. Start by just going around the block for a week and then slowly expand. There is no rush, and just getting out everyday for any amount of time is a huge jump forward.
Add a change of diet to your routine. Challenge yourself to cook at home with fresh ingredients and explore new foods and spices.
- World Spice at Home: New Favors for 75 Favorite Dishes
- Fresh Food National Simple, Seasonal Recipes from America's Farmers
- Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs
The previous suggestions are just to get you thinking about what you might be able to add to your days. You can pick anything, so start brainstorming. It is up to you to fine-tune the perfect combination and timing of these new enlightening activities. We all have obligations, stresses and fatigue. They each have their place and importance, but everyday it is vital to take a few minutes for self-improvement.