At Improvised life,  we’re always interested in ways to become more creative and productive. So when we came across Mason Currey’s latest book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work we were excited. Currey describes personal quirks and daily rituals developed by many of the world’s great artists, musicians and film makers.

From the bizarre right through to the strikingly simple – the book reminds us that we all work in individual and often improvised ways:

Long afternoon walks are a popular theme in the book, as is waking up early: Benjamin Franklin, WH Auden, and Sylvia Plath all rose before 6am every morning to write. There are many pictures of Plath writing on her portable typewriter outside.

Benjamin Franklin took this morning routine a step further by taking his self-titled “air baths”.  He spent 30 minutes every morning reading and writing while bathing “in another element, I mean cold air.” Thomas Wolfe also found himself more productive if he wrote naked. (We wish we had pictures.)

On the other end of the spectrum, David Foster Wallace would rise at 11am or noon, and take intermittent naps throughout the day between writing.

Daily Rituals DF Wallace

Wallace also liked to break up his writing with social occasions, or “do-something-with-other-people-things”. While for writer Maya Angelou, loneliness was an important part of her productivity, and to this end she would rent out a lonely motel room to write.

Daily Rituals Maya Angelou
Whatever our personal rituals for enhancing our own creativity, we like the words of Gertrude Stein:

“If you write a half-hour a day, it makes a lot of writing year by year.”


Daily Rituals Gertrude Stein

The lesson is clear: more afternoon walks, and earlier mornings, and if we’re struck with a bout of writers block – an “air bath” might be just the cure.

Read more about Daily Rituals at Brain Pickings

Eleanor Findlay

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