Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey:
I was interested in this book because I was hoping that it would reveal some secret that all artists know and abide by, a routine in which they can attribute their amazing success. Perhaps every artist wakes up at 6:00am sharp. Perhaps every artist has exactly 3 cups of coffee in the morning. Perhaps every artist takes an afternoon nap. Maybe if I found out the secret, I could join their ranks.
Sadly, there is no common theme among the writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, poets, philosophers and scientists profiled (there are 161 artists total). I wish "hard work" could be accounted for, but not all of them did that - some of them preferred to loaf about, putting in only an hour or two every day on their work. Some of them only work sporadically, when inspiration calls. Others follow a strict schedule and work whether they feel like it or not.
Even though a common theme can't be found, there's certainly a lot of inspiration here. I especially enjoyed reading about artists who had to take care of household responsibilities &/or raising children while at the same time working on their creative endeavors, like Sylvia Plath. Reading through the book sort of felt like picking through a box of buttons - picking each one up, examining it for a moment, then setting it down to look at another one. Each button/artist is a new thing, a little different from the last one. Many of the artists are well known, but some of them aren't - I enjoyed them all, regardless of whether I'm familiar with their work or not.
More inspiration can be found in the way some artists approach their work, not just the details of their routine. I appreciated Joseph Heller's comment "I don't have a compulsion to write, and I never have. I have a wish, an ambition to write, but it's not one that justifies the word 'drive.' " I loved that most artists seemed very open about their work and their routines, like Heller or Philip Roth, who commented "writing isn't hard work, it's a nightmare." John Updike kept a regular routine, which he felt "saves you from giving up."
No matter the schedule they follow, the help that they may (or may not) receive with their domestic duties or their ultimate success in their chosen path, I found it inspiring to read about creative people leading creative lives, and just how they manage to do so. Notes Twyla Tharp, "when it all comes together, a creative life has the nourishing power we normally associate with food, love, and faith."