Oct 23, 2013

Daily Working Schedule

I've never really kept a consistent working schedule. This hasn't been from lack of trying. I'll go for weeks at a time getting up early, going to the gym, keeping a journal, making steady progress on projects. Then, I'll get off the mark a little and the whole thing crumbles. I'll go from getting up early to sleeping far into the day. Most of my time is spent drifting through life from day to day, making occasional strides forward. Sometimes, I'll get really obsessed with a project and single-mindedly dedicate my life to it for the amount of time it takes to complete. The whole pattern consists of an absence of any recognizable patterns. I operate in fits and bursts. 

Lately, I've spent a lot of time reading and thinking about artists' schedules and working habits in Mason Currey's excellent book, Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration And Get To Work. It might be expected that I would have some insight into what makes for an ideal daily routine. Is there some combination of sleep, work, exercise, coffee, and reflection that is most likely to lead to consistent creative breakthroughs? Or, at the very least, are there some basic guidelines that will stave off blocks and distractions and, you know, guarantee a minimum level of intellectual output? 

Well, kind of, but not really. What I have gleaned from the book is twofold. First, for every kind of artist there is a different approach to doing art. Just starting the day varies greatly from person to person... Benjamin Franklin spent his mornings naked taking "air baths." Writer Patricia Highsmith ate only bacon and eggs. Marcel Proust breakfasted on opium and croissants. Beethoven personally counted out the 60 beans his morning cup of coffee required.

Some artists stayed up late, some got up early. Some took walks, some swam. Some drank coffe, some took tea. Some hit the bars, taverns and cafes in the evenings, others stayed in and read. Currey lays out as many different ways people went about harnessing their creativity as there are people profiled in the book.

The second thing that stands out is that all the creative people in the book - composers, painters, dancers, novelists, poets, playwrights and so on - they all had some sort of consistent daily routine. Even though each system varied, everyone pretty much had a system. Most tackled their work everyday, at least for several hours.

The lesson I glean is that I need to pin down a system for myself. I need a set of routines and an approach to my creative work that consistently turns out the goods. This floating from project to project is kind of a spinning-my-wheels approach, if it is any kind of approach at all.

I'll be paying attention to this stuff over the rest of the year. I mean, I'm a pretty prolific dude now, but imagine what I could put out into the world if I had my ducks in a row.

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