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Daily Rituals of Successful Artists

Nearing the end of the calendar year, it is my custom to review the year that has past, noting areas of success as well as those that need improvement. But mostly I look outside myself for inspiration to achieve more and better results in the coming year. Inspiration may be found with lists, such as new, fun, challenging goals or places to visit or people to meet or lessons to learn or other daydreams to manifest. It could be energized with a new day planner with matching whimsical stickers and colorful pens. And it can be found in studying and modeling the goals, habits and routines of other successful artists and creatives. It was this path that led me to Mason Currey.


There is a stereotype that artists are frustrated, moody and nocturnal, either drinking copious amounts of coffee or alcohol, smoking, and working to exhaustion in the wee hours of the morning or agonizing to despair over elusive inspiration. Vacillating between angst and ennui, they are tormented by their overwhelming drive to create, and despite their best attempts, they live on the edge of sustainability chasing the muse, but with empty pockets.


And that is so not me. For someone who makes a living being creative, it's almost boring and bourgeois how routine my daily schedule can be. And for years, I thought I was the only one.


It was validating to read Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. And a bit surprising, but above all deliciously inspiring. Daily Rituals is a collection of stories, habits, routines and sometimes odd superstitions of some of the most successful creatives through history. And clearly every artist is different, but it seems the vast majority are up early and hold dearly their daily routines.


The daily routines of the painters were the most interesting to me, but I still gained nuggets of wisdom peeping into the daily lives of novelists, poets, playwrights, photographers, philosophers, psychologists, choreographers, musicians and mathematicians.


None was more fascinating than Andy Warhol. In the 1970s his face was the poster child for Free Love, Drugs, Sex and Rock n' Roll at Studio 54. He was one of the first people who was famous for being famous. Yet every weekday morning from 1976 until his death in 1987, Warhol would call his friend and collaborator Pat Hackett and relate the events of the previous day. Hackett would type up the pages which would be stapled to the weeks receipts to be sent to the CPA for tax purposes. Warhol, as evidenced in these reports, stuck to basically the same daily routine. He may have partied on the weekends, and occasionally during the week, but not to the detriment of his career and calling.


Some of the takeaways I found helpful:

  1. It is possible to get a full day's worth of work completed by noon.

  2. Long, solitary walks are vital to the creative process whether it's to strengthen the body that has to sit for long spells at the computer, typewriter or easel or just to let the creative juices flow.

  3. Having a supportive partner is invaluable.

  4. When inspiration hits, it needs to find you working.

  5. Fixed routines are an indispensable tool for artists

  6. Time is our greatest asset.

  7. There is no one right way to spend your day.

  8. For artists, there really is no work. It's just life.


Next books on my list to read.... Daily Rituals: Women at Work by Mason Currey, Monet's Palate Cookbook: The Artist and his Kitchen Garden at Giverny by Aileen Bordman and Derek Fell, and Monet's House: Impression of Interiors by Heidi Michels. If you want to purchase a copy of these books for yourself and follow the links in the article, a small portion of the purchase price is sent to me as a thank you for the referral.


For a sneak peek inside the book, take a look at Currey's Daily Routines blog.

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