Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Daily Rituals and Secret Rotten Apples

It is early in the morning and I'm in the midst of trying to form new morning habits. Naturally this means cramming in some blogging/writing time in the tiny corners of free moments. I've been reading a book called Daily Rituals by Mason Currey which details the creative habits of writers, artists, composers, philosophers and other people throughout history who became immortal through their work. I love this book. I love the glimpse into the human behind the creative genius of so many creators of art, not to mention how it satisfies the voyeur all of us has about other people when we observe them and think, "Just what the hell is it that you DO all day?" Am I the only one who thinks these things? Some of these artists were morning people, some had 9-5 jobs, some had no jobs, worked at home or in their studios or in cafes. Some of them drank booze all afternoon and night and worked like demons through the early morning, some slept a full eight hours, dressed and fed their families and managed to squeak out masterpieces while their children were at school and their husbands at work. Some of them worked for 12 hours a day, others for 2-3 hours a day. Some of them had truly bizarre habits. Friedrich Schiller comes to mind as he had a need to have rotting apples in the drawer of his desk at all times because the smell inspired his creativity. Patricia Highsmith bred snails. (Ew.) What ties them all together is that they put in the work, they sacrificed time and effort and they completed something. I find it inspiring that someone like Wallace Stevens could work his entire career at something as dull as processing insurance claims during business hours and then go home to write. Same with T.S. Eliot.

This book got me thinking about my own habits and routines and in doing so I hoped to understand why and how I went from writing every day and finishing things in my early 20s to only ever writing about beginnings and endings and/or writing about why I can't write. I don't have definitive answers yet but I'd love to be able to blame the internet and adult responsibilities and my delusional perception that time is on my side (despite knowing that time is never on anyone's side, ever and never will be.) In recent years, I've come to understand that I am thoroughly a morning person and am trying to form morning habits that will foster and fuel my creativity the rest of the day. This isn't terribly easy with such limited time and two jobs and all that other crap one is supposed to do as one becomes an adult. Yet I can no longer deny that I'm best on a freshly awake brain. The sunlight erases everything from the night before. So that's when work needs to be done.

I know my body will rebel against me on this most mornings. But frankly, if Toni Morrison can take care of her 9-5 corporate job and raise two children as a single parent and STILL manage to crank out her body of work, well that just proves it can be done.

And on another note, I would just love to find out the daily rituals of people I know. There is something so satisfying to me about knowing what all everyone gets up to on a typical day. I'd love to someday come to discover that someone with whom I share an office keeps a drawer full of rotten apples in their desk drawer at home or that the genial guy who serves my coffee at the local bagel shop is a ghostwriter for James Patterson. Until that day, I suppose I could just make it up...


  1. I used to write a lot before work-morning person. Writing and reading was my "me" time- it made me feel like myself when I worked in enviornments that were all wrong for me. But when I started working in the book world all of a sudden that seemed to dry up, like I didn't need it anymore, and when I have "me" time I have to force myself to write or read. All I want to do is sew, lol.

    1. If all you want to do is sew then let me quote the "Three Amigos": "Sew! Sew like the wind!" :)