“Nearly every weekday morning for a year and a half, I got up at 5:30, brushed my teeth, made a cup of coffee, and sat down to write about how some of the greatest minds of the past four hundred years approached this exact same task—that is, how they made the time each day to do their best work, how they organized their schedules in order to be creative and productive. By writing about the admittedly mundane details of my subjects’ daily lives—when they slept and ate and worked and worried—I hoped to provide a novel angle on their personalities and careers, to sketch the entertaining, small-bore portraits of the artist as a creature of habit. ‘Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are,’ the French Gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once wrote. I say, tell me what time you eat, and whether you take a nap afterward. …
My underlying concerns in this book are issues that I struggle with in my own life: 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?
I don’t pretend to answer these question in the following pages—probably some of them can’t be answered, or can be resolved only individually, in shaky personal compromises—but I have tried to provide examples of how a variety of brilliant and successful people have confronted many of the same challenges. I wanted to show how grand creative visions translate to small daily increments; how one’s working habits influence the work itself, and vice versa.”
~ Mason Currey from Daily Rituals
I’ve had this book for years. Then, one day, it just sort of starting screaming at me from the shelf so I picked it up and started reading it.
One word: WOW.
If you’ve ever wondered how some of the greatest mind’s in history—from poets, painters, and philosophers to playwrights, scientists and mathematicians—structured their lives to get their great work done then this may just be the book for you.
Mason Currey has done a brilliant job of providing super concise and equally fascinating portraits of the idiosyncratic habits of 161 (!) iconoclasts ranging from W.H. Auden, Charles Darwin and Carl Jung to Stephen King, Benjamin Franklin and Mozart.
The variety of approaches is inspiring and, more than anything (for me), feels like a permission slip to *really* (unapologetically!) own my own idiosyncratic style. If that sounds like fun, I think you’ll love the book as much as I do. It’s a great, leave it on your coffee table and open-it-on-any-page kinda classic. (Get a copy of here.)
I’m excited to share a few of my favorite snippets from my favorite vignettes so let’s jump in!
Unlock this PhilosophersNote (and over 600 more) for free!
Sign Up for Free
The Optimize membership used to be $100/year. It’s now
free. No credit card required. No strings attached. Just more
wisdom in less time.