Daily Rituals: How Artists Work - by Mason Currey

W. H. Auden

"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."

Haruki Murakami

When he is writing a novel, Murakami wakes at 4:00 A.M. and works for five to six hours straight. In the afternoons he runs or swims (or does both), runs errands, reads, and listens to music; bedtime is 9:00. "I keep to this routine every day without variation," he told The Paris Review in 2004. "The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it's a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind."

Chuck Close

"In an ideal world, I would work six hours a day, three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon," Close said recently. "If I work more than three hours at a time, I really start screwing up. So the idea is to work for three hours, break for lunch, go back and work for three hours, and then, you know, break. Sometimes I could go back and work in the evening, but basically it was counterproductive. At a certain point, I'd start making enough mistakes that I would spend the next day trying to correct them." When he does find the time to work, he never lacks for ideas. "Inspiration is for amateurs," Close says. "The rest of us just show up and get to work."

John Adams

"My experience has been that most really serious creative people I know have very, very routine and not particularly glamorous work habits,"

Nicholson Baker

"What I've found with daily routines," he said recently, "is that the useful thing is to have one that feels new. It can almost be arbitrary. You know, you could say to yourself, ‘From now on, I'm only going to write on the back porch in flip flops starting at four o'clock in the afternoon.' And if that feels novel and fresh, it will have a placebo effect and it will help you work. Maybe that's not completely true. But there's something to just the excitement of coming up with a slightly different routine.

William James

James argued that the "great thing" in education is to "make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy." 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.

Jean-Paul Sartre

"One can be very fertile without having to work too much," Sartre once said. "Three hours in the morning, three hours in the evening. This is my only rule."

Leo Tolstoy

"I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine."

Jerzy Kosinski

"I wake up around 8 A.M. ready for the day, and sleep again for four hours in the afternoon, which allows me to remain mentally and physically active until the early dawn, when again I go to sleep."