Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

One of our favorite things to do in New York is pop into an independent bookstore and walk out with the first three titles that grab our eye. Yes, we’re knowingly overpaying for titles (thank you, Amazon) but we tell ourselves that we’re paying for the experience of discovery. Overnight it seems we’ve become voracious readers. It’s the subways here. Spend two hours a day on a train and see how long it takes for your “incredibly original” band’s new album to get old. We’ll spare you the social experiment—it’s three days.

We judge books by their covers. It may not be fair but it’s the world we live in—first impressions are everything (the occasional insufferable meth-head zombie thriller being only of little consequence to this approach). Daily Rituals: How Artists Work is beautiful—on the inside and out. Mason Currey brilliantly compiles and edits vignettes of writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, poets, philosophers, sculptor, filmmakers, and scientists on how they create (and avoid creating) their creations.

Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) had to have a stiff drink before she began writing. She kept a bottle of vodka by her bedside, reaching for it as soon as she woke and marking the bottle to set her limit for the day. F. Scott Fitzgerald, although, eventually concluded the contrary—”It has become increasingly plain to me that the very excellent organization of a book does not go well with liquor.” Capote couldn’t write unless he was lying in bed, and with a coffee and cigarette in hand at that. Picasso would shut himself in his studio at 2p.m. and typically paint until dusk. Hemingway wrote standing up at a typewriter resting on top of a chest-high bookshelf (and no, contrary to popular lore, he did not begin each session by sharpening twenty number-two pencils). George Gershwin composed at his piano in his pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers—a fitting uniform considering he typically worked for twelve hours or more a day.

If you're a freelance creative, Daily Rituals is a magically inspiring read. There’s a calming sense of relief discovering your routine is not all that different from the greats who came before. Hell, you might realize you're the weird one for not being more eccentric.