Sunday, February 15, 2015

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey was an interesting book that he compiled on the creative process, or daily routine of creative work, employed by 161 writers, artists, composers, and other creative types. Currey in 2007 began writing a blog devoted to writing up the daily rituals of creative people and he later was contacted by a literary agent who thought it could be a book and in the introduction Currey describes the book as a greatly expanded and better researched collection.

Currey in the beginning notes that the people featured in the book (sometimes in their own words, sometimes not) ran the gamut in terms of daily routine around creative production, with some free from angst about their work, some tortured, and most somewhere in the middle. A definite common theme throughout is of people being the most productive in the morning, with an idea that comes up from a few of the people being to wake up with the sun. Many of those featured would be done by noon with creative work and some worked at night, but they seemed the exception.

Additionally, I found of interest the concept of triggers to starting creativity, whether the aforementioned concept of starting work with the sun in the early morning or the story of Twyla Tharp, dancer and writer of The Creative Habit, whose ritual is hailing a cab to go to the gym after waking at 5:30 each morning.

To aid in getting going each time, Earnest Hemingway wrote of stopping at a point that he knew what would happen next so he could pick it up easily the next day. Related to this idea of steps towards creativity was the section on author Jonathan Franzen as even then it wasn't noted in the book, it reminded me of reading in Time Magazine how Franzen would write on a computer without Internet access to avoid the temptation of distraction.

Even with these various habits and tricks, author Joyce Carol Oates wrote of how difficult it is to get a first draft of something done, which completely brought to mind writer Anne Lamott, who in her great book on writing, Bird by Bird (which I wrote about in 2012), wrote of the concept of starting out a writing project by producing "shitty first drafts" and being totally ok with that.

In terms of output from routine, I liked the story of writer Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) who rose early, was at his writing table daily at 5:30, and wrote for three hours daily. Trollope felt that three hours would produce what someone should in a day and took his routine to the level that if he would finish a novel in the middle of his three hour stretch, he would then start writing a new one. Another person featured with a set daily plan was Stephen King, who starts writing around 8:00 or 8:30 and has a daily quota to reach of 2,000 words, usually hit around 1:30.

I liked the book by Currey as it had a lot of interesting material on the creative process, but at times found myself wishing it had a fewer number of people (and perhaps more current ones) featured, with text that went deeper on them. Additionally, one thing that might have been nice would have been an organizing of the book into categories of creative work done by those featured as that would have made more apparent any commonalities between how those in different fields, such as writing, art, music, approached the creative process. All that said, it was an interesting read on a fascinating topic.