“We have failed to recognize our great asset: time. A conscientious use of it could make us into something quite amazing.” – Friedrich Schiller (1759 – 1805)
In high school, my art teacher advised his students to sketch every day. Even if it was just for a few minutes, he said that daily practice would result in dramatic improvements in our work. It seemed like sound advice, but I could never last more than a few days before I got side tracked by some other activity.
In the last two years, I have been better about finding time to draw, but until recently, I have struggled with doing it every day. But the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which I read based on Tim Ferriss’s recommendation, convinced me that not only could I manage my time better, but also that in doing so, I could draw and paint more often.
In Daily Rituals, Mason Currey writes about the habits of 161 creative people (writers, painters, scientists, composers, etc.), “to show how grand creative visions translate to small daily increments; how one’s working habits influence the work, and vice versa.” Currey just describes the respective rituals, and does not suggest which ones might be better than others – although, I would not advise adopting Jean Paul Sarte’s daily habit of chewing twenty pills of Corydrane (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin that was “legal in France until 1971, when it was declared toxic and taken off the market”) to increase your writing productivity.
Although some favored creating whenever they felt the desire, many stuck to specific schedules, and would work at their craft at the same time every day. Some had other jobs or obligations, so they would have to create either early in the morning, or late in the evening. For example, in order to earn extra money to support her six children and sick husband, Frances Trollope, mother of novelist Anthony Trollope, “sat down at her desk each day at 4:00 A.M. and completed her writing in time to serve breakfast.” Since my evenings are not always predictable, I decided I would try to draw early in the morning. Since the beginning of June, with few exceptions, I have woken up at approximately 5:15 A.M. and sketched for 30 minutes.
My morning ritual looks like this. After I wake up, I go to the kitchen and make coffee. I could make it the night before, and set the timer to brew so it’s ready for when I wake up, but I like the process of making coffee in the morning. Doing so also allows me to start my day by completing a simple task.
Then I make a smoothie, or bacon and eggs, and once I finish breakfast, I draw for at least 30 minutes. After which, I pack up my materials, have a shower, change for work, and then join my family for 20 minutes or so before I leave to take the train to San Francisco.
If you want to increase your creative output or productivity, I highly recommend reading Daily Rituals for inspiration. And wherever you are Mr. S____y, thank you for your advice. I wish I had followed it 20 years ago.
P.S. “Be regular and orderly in your life like a Bourgeois so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert