Franz Kafka, frustrated with his living quarters and day job, wrote in a letter to Felice Bauer in 1912, "time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers." Kafka is one of 161 inspired - and inspiring - minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks. Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up in the kitchen, the top of the refrigerator as his desk, dreamily fondling his "male configurations..." Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on Corydrane tablets (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin), ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day... Descartes liked to linger in bed, his mind wandering in sleep through woods, gardens, and enchanted palaces where he experienced "every pleasure imaginable." Here are: Anthony Trollope, who demanded of himself that each morning he write three thousand words (250 words every fifteen minutes for three hours) before going off to his job at the postal service, which he kept for thirty-three years during the writing of more than two dozen books...Karl Marx...Woody Allen...Agatha Christie...George Balanchine, who did most of his work while ironing...Leo Tolstoy...Charles Dickens...Pablo Picasso...George Gershwin, who, said his brother Ira, worked for twelve hours a day from late morning to midnight, composing at the piano in pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers... Here also are the daily rituals of Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, John Updike, Twyla Tharp, Benjamin Franklin, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, Anne Rice, and Igor Stravinsky (he was never able to compose unless he was sure no one could hear him and, when blocked, stood on his head to "clear the brain"). Brilliantly compiled and edited, and filled with detail and anecdote, Daily Rituals is irresistible, addictive, and magically inspiring.
©2013 Mason Currey (P)2013 Timothy Ferriss
More of Mason Currey's irresistible Daily Rituals, this time exploring the daily obstacles and rituals of women who are artists - painters, composers, sculptors, scientists, filmmakers, and performers. We see how these brilliant minds get to work, the choices they have to make: rebuffing convention, stealing (or secreting away) time from the pull of husbands, wives, children, and obligations in order to create their creations. From those who are the masters of their craft (Eudora Welty, Lynn Fontanne, Penelope Fitzgerald, Marie Curie) to those who were recognized in a burst of acclaim (Lorraine Hansberry, Zadie Smith)...from Clara Schumann and Shirley Jackson, carving out small amounts of time from family life, to Isadora Duncan and Agnes Martin, rejecting the demands of domesticity, Currey shows us the large and small (and abiding) choices these women made - and continue to make - for their art: Isak Dinesen, "I promised the Devil my soul, and in return he promised me that everything I was going to experience would be turned into tales," Dinesen subsisting on oysters and champagne but also amphetamines, which gave her the overdrive she required...and the rituals (daily and otherwise) that guide these artists: Isabel Allende starting a new book only on January 8...Hilary Mantel taking a shower to combat writers' block ("I am the cleanest person I know")...Tallulah Bankhead coping with her three phobias (hating to go to bed, hating to get up, and hating to be alone), which, could she "mute them", would make her life "as slick as a sonnet, but as dull as ditch water"...Lillian Hellman chain-smoking three packs of cigarettes and drinking 20 cups of coffee a day - and, after milking the cow and cleaning the barn, writing out of "elation, depression, hope" ("That is the exact order. Hope sets in toward nightfall. That's when you tell yourself that you're going to be better the next time, so help you God.")...Diane Arbus, doing what "gnaws at" her...Colette, locked in her writing room by her first husband, Henry Gauthier-Villars (nom de plume: Willy) and not being "let out" until completing her daily quota (she wrote five pages a day and threw away the fifth). Colette later said, "A prison is one of the best workshops"...Jessye Norman disdaining routines or rituals of any kind, seeing them as "a crutch"...and Octavia Butler writing every day no matter what ("screw inspiration"). Germaine de Staël, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, Edna Ferber, Doris Lessing, Pina Bausch, Frida Kahlo, Marguerite Duras, Helen Frankenthaler, Patti Smith, and 131 more - on their daily routines, superstitions, fears, eating (and drinking) habits, and other finely (and not so finely) calibrated rituals that help summon up willpower and self-discipline, keeping themselves afloat with optimism and fight as they create (and avoid creating) their creations.
©2019 Mason Currey (P)2019 Random House Audio