Daily Rituals (2013) is an entertaining and illuminating collection of the daily routines of great minds and artists. Including the work habits of people such as Jane Austen, Ludwig van Beethoven and Pablo Picasso, it offers insights into the best ways to maximize efficiency and prevent writer’s block, as well as tips on how to get by in the creative world.
We’re all familiar with the romantic image of the disheveled artist toiling through the night, typing or painting feverishly to finish their work. But this certainly isn’t how all creatives function.
Poet W.H. Auden, for instance, doesn’t fit the stereotype. He was particularly vigilant about his working hours, once declaring that “Only the Hitlers of the world work at night; no honest artist does.” Though not all artists take such a radical stance, many certainly prefer daytime working hours.
A slew of creatives give compelling reasons for working at dawn or in the early-morning hours. Take author Toni Morrison, for example, who likes to rise at around 5 a.m. and witness the dawn of each new day. For her, it’s important to wake before the light and observe the transition into day. She considers this a mystical moment that inspires her to write.
Some people get such a boost from this morning energy that one morning simply isn’t enough. Novelist Nicholson Baker, for example, reaps the benefit of two mornings in one day by waking up for a spell of writing at 4 a.m., then going back to sleep, and rising once again around 8:30 a.m. for his second morning.
But this penchant for early mornings is far from universal. There are many for whom nights are the optimal time for creative work.
For instance, author Ann Beattie is an absolute night owl. A great condoner of the idea that we are all attuned to different clocks, her preferred working hours are from 12 a.m to 3 a.m.
Gustave Flaubert is another example of someone who favored working at night. He had a routine that allowed him to fulfill his social and familial commitments during the day; this freed up the quiet hours of the night, when he found it easiest to write.