As part of my quest to “figure this shit out,” I’ve been reading the book Amanda from Fig and Thistle referred to in her post about this blogging malaise/pandemic that has hit our small community as of late. Called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, author Mason Currey has taken it upon himself to cull the work practices of some of the world’s most famous authors, painters, composers, philosophers, psychologists…basically anyone who is somewhat creative for a living.
Y’all, this book is surprisingly interesting and insightful! So many interesting people are included too. Currey has culled letters, books, and other ephemera to find the work ethics of artists both long gone (Austen, Mozart, Toulouse-Lautrec, Freud, Hugo, Kafka and more) and current (Murakami, Toni Morrison, Patricia Highsmith Gershwin, Philip Roth, and more). And there is one thing that stands out to me, and dude, I’ve only read 28% of this book.
There is no wrong way. There is no right way. There is only YOUR way.
Currey writes in the introduction:
How do you do meaningful creative work while also earning a living? Is it better to devote yourself wholly to a project or to set aside a small portion of each day? And when there doesn’t seem to be enough time for all you hope to accomplish, must you give things up (sleep, income, a clean house), or can you learn to condense activities, to do more in less time, to “work smarter, not harder,” as my dad is always telling me? More broadly, are comfort and creativity incompatible, or is the opposite true: is finding a basic level of daily comfort a prerequisite for sustained creative work?
Isn’t Aren’t those the questions of the ages?
Currey makes it clear where he stands:
A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.
Could this be my problem? But, then, witness my reaction to Auden:
“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition,” Auden wrote in 1958. If that’s true, then Auden himself was one of the most ambitious men of his generation. The poet was obsessively punctual and lived by an exacting timetable throughout his life. “He checks his watch over and over again,” a guest of Auden’s once noted. “Eating, drinking, writing, shopping, crossword puzzles, even the mailman’s arrival-all are timed to the minute and with accompanying routines.”
Doesn’t that sound like the worst way to live? Yet, when compared to Frances Bacon,
To the outside observer, Bacon appeared to thrive on disorder. His studios were environments of extreme chaos, with paint smeared on walls and a knee-high jumble of books, brushes, papers, broken furniture, and other detritus piled on the floor. (More agreeable interiors stifled his creativity, he said.) And when he wasn’t painting, Bacon lived a life of hedonistic excess, eating multiple rich meals a day, drinking tremendous quantities of alcohol, taking whatever stimulants were handy, and generally staying out later and partying harder than any of his contemporaries.
Well, that doesn’t really sound like anyway to live either!
Although maybe more fun.
I’m thinking I like Anne Beattie’s way of thinking:
She doesn’t write every night, however. “I really don’t adhere to schedules at all, and don’t have the slightest desire to do that,” she said. “The times that I’ve tried that, when I have been in a slump and I try to get out of it by saying, ‘Come on, Ann, sit down at that typewriter,’ I’ve gotten in a worse slump. It’s better if I just let it ride.”
“I certainly am a moody and, I would say, not very happy person.”
This made me chuckle.
I’m looking forward to reading what more artists and such have to say. I’ll report back if anything interesting pops up. I just had to share these thoughts early, because I find them so interesting right now. I think I know where I fall on the spectrum, but more research is always good.
*I am an Amazon affiliate and yada yada yada, you know the drill.