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Daily Rituals Paperback – 11 Sep 2014
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I just can't recommend this book enough (Lena Dunham)
A trove of entertaining anecdote and thought-provoking comparison (Toby Lichtig Daily Telegraph)
A chance to see what great lives look like when the triumphs, dramas, disruptions and divorces have been all but boiled away. It will fascinate anyone who wonders how a day might best be spent, especially those who have wondered of their artistic heroes, as a baffled Colette once did of George Sand: how the devil did they manage? (Guardian)
Utterly fascinating (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times)
Mason Currey has carefully compiled the daily habits and personal foibles of 161 great writers, artists, scientists and thinkers, including one who stood on his head to cure creative block. By the end of this book, our carpet-glue habit looks normal (DBC Pierre Guardian)
A fascinating little book (Financial Times)
An utterly fascinating compendium . . . This book is the ultimate retort to the flaneurs who dream about the novel/screenplay/painting they would create if only they had the time. Its message is that serious artists make the time, and most of them make it at the same time every day (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times)
A thoroughly researched, minutely annotated and delightful book, full of the quirks and oddities of the
human comedy . . . Its main lesson can be summed up simply enough: get up, have a cup of coffee, sit at your desk and begin
Some of the world's greatest minds had routines they stuck to to produce their works of genius. In Daily
Rituals, Mason Currey reveals their more bizarre habits
Fascinating . . . it also interestingly reveals that there is no universal formula to greatness, so in essence, it's a celebration of individuality and quirkiness (Huffington Post)
'Utterly fascinating' Daisy Goodwin, Sunday TimesSee all Product description
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This book does precisely what one would expect (especially if one has spent time searching for the daily rituals of important artists before, and has found the widely circulated image based on this book): it very clearly and methodically lists a huge variety of great minds (from Mozart to Woody Allen to Tolstoy) and their daily routines.
In this sense, it is invaluable: it is the sort of book that one can quite easily dip into (each subject is given a concise page or two), but it is also wildly addictive. I will address the reasons for this shortly.
For those who have asked for more 'analysis' and 'conclusions' to be drawn, I believe they misunderstand the very notion of what makes a great mind great. Echoing the author's introduction, the obvious principle that is drawn from a work such as this is that there is no one daily routine which works: it relies solely on the individual.
The idea that conclusions could be drawn is a naive one, and would detract from the power of this book. Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the book is the author's refusal to be drawn into moral commentary. The catalogue of drug use, sexual perversions and domestic oddities are covered matter-of-factly, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. After all, the reader may well require some of these things in order to maximise their productivity. This book is wonderful: it stimulates the mind. It does not preach.
As I hinted above, the concise nature of this book makes it very easy to pick up: you can scan for your favourite artist and see their daily routine. However, the more involved way to read this book is to read it completely. Rather than the author attempting to sum up the wealth of information here, each reader is able to draw their own conclusions. For example, it is hard not to notice the amount of people who smoke and drink—and consider this essential to their creative output—whilst many of the subjects in this book (writers especially) have two clear blocks of work, separated by a walk or exercise.
It is only by reflecting on the wealth of data here that a reader can truly structure their own daily routine. If the author were to have drawn conclusions, this would have made this book a far lesser proposition. As it is, however, it is an incredible resource. It is the sort of book almost no one would want to write, but anyone who is remotely interested in living a creative life will be very thankful someone did.
As such, I am very thankful to the author. Ignore the negative reviews of this text—unless you are seeking instructions—and buy this book without hesitating if you a self-reflective, ambitious human seeking to make the most of your life by conquering the day.
Weirdly by reading how others work and manage their time (and sometimes why they do it this way), it actually helped me to realise how I naturally work and which method would most suit my natural tendencies and what I wanted to achieve. I'd had ideas on this before but this really helped crystallise how I wanted to work myself. I was actually really disappointed when I finished it.
It is also the sort of thing that is very easy to dip into when you have a little spare time...
I'd like to see some revisions in a second edition (e.g. from the description in the book it is not clear how Kant made time for thinking and writing; and the entry for Spinoza is not where the index says it is - I have not finished the book yet so hopefully will come across it).
In sum definitely worth getting.
All the working practices and daily patterns of famous artists, writers and musicians have been brought together and it really is interesting to read about their productivity. It seems drinking and eating were the main priority for the creative mind.
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