I love reading biographies. It’s a virtue and a vice–one third intellectual curiosity, one third gossip, and one third comfort that there are people out there weirder than me. Anna gave me a fascinating book for Christmas, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Written by Mason Curry, the book is an anthology of vignettes about how creatives have ordered their lives for work.
It’s a quick and enjoyable read, especially if you’re interested in how other writers and artists managed to be productive in the midst of the other things that occupied their lives–work, family, chores, and cooking. Writers and other creatives have always had a reputation for some degree of eccentricity. Mason’s book demonstrates that this stereotype is rooted in reality. Not all eccentricities are created equal. For example, Thomas Wolfe’s penchant for standing nude in front of his window while fondling his genitals (eccentric in a rather perverse sort of way) is rather more extreme than Ben Franklin’s rather pedantic attempt to account for every minute of the day by creating a rigorous daily routine.
Patricia Highsmith basically ate breakfast (bacon and eggs) for a every meal. Voltaire wrote from bed most of the day. Kierkegaard tools his coffee in a way that would set your teeth on edge. He took a cup and saucer and then proceeded to fill the cup to it’s top with sugar. Adding the coffee, he then stirred and drank.
The accounts are widely varied yet the thing that holds them together is that highly creative and accomplished people create a routine that works for them and then stick to it.