Brilliantly compiled and edited, and filled with detail and anecdote, Daily Rituals describes how more than 160 novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians subtly maneuver daily obstacles to accomplish their inspiring work.
Daily Rituals is a fascinating compilation of artists’ peculiarities—and offers an abundance of interesting common denominators.
For instance, light and darkness play a role in creativity, though not always to the same effect. Toni Morrison positioned herself to begin writing as the sun came up. Glenn Gould waited until sundown to practice the piano in darkness, then headed to bed with the first light of day. N. C. Wyeth never painted under artificial light.
Daily choices regarding food and drink—whether given minimal thought or approached with intentionality—are a necessity for every artist. Several artists fast while working. Others consider the dinner hour their one opportunity to indulge. Ludwig van Beethoven counted out sixty beans for every coffee cup.
I especially enjoyed reading about how artists seek and value privacy. Graham Greene kept a studio that only his wife knew the whereabouts of or phone number for. Jane Austen wrote on small pieces of paper she could easily tuck away when anyone entered the room. William Faulkner removed the doorknob to his library. Igor Stravinsky closed his studio windows so no one could hear his composition process. Charles Dickens installed an extra door to his study to block out noise.
One more common denominator is the ongoing dilemma of how to handle social obligations that fall outside of routine. Haruki Murakami describes his priorities in this way: “People are offended when you repeatedly turn down their invitations … My readers would welcome whatever lifestyle I chose, as long as I made sure each new work was an improvement over the last. And shouldn’t that be my duty—and my top priority—as a novelist?”
How about you, reader? When you’re being creative, what routines benefit you?