I wrote a little recently about ordinary moments and routine and how in times of struggle, I can sometimes find solace there. Ordinary moments and routine after all, although less memorable in the grand scheme of things than the extraordinary and the novel, are what make up our lives.
This is something I think about a lot - like a lot - and not just due to recent events. And I’ve only gotten more interested in it as I’ve begun writing.
Which seems to be a thing.
It’s a thing that a fascination with routine exists; it gets written about all over the place. I used to read a blog, for instance, entirely dedicated to people’s morning routines. (And man, the things those people get done before I even get out of bed in the morning!)
And it’s also a thing that this fascination exists especially among creative people. Artists, in particular, seem to want to know about how other artists get their work done. Mostly I think, because we all seem to find it a bit difficult at times and for all different reasons.
Like creating can be lonely; you tend to spend a lot of time with yourself, in your head. So a daily routine or schedule or ritual or rhythm or whatever you want to call it is a big part of overcoming that loneliness; to work in spite of it or maybe even to harness it.
Imagine my delight then, when I came across Mason Currey’s book and blog not just about daily routines, but specifically about the routines of creative people! These routines that are everywhere - from both the past and present; in the artist’s own words or the words of their biographers or the words of their loved ones - distilled into a focused source.
There are examples of writers and painters and composers and architects and on and on and on, all with seemingly the same question as me: how to get the work done?
What strikes me is the variety.
There are those like Henry Miller: “Two or three hours in the morning were enough for him, although he stressed the importance of keeping regular hours in order to cultivate a daily creative rhythm. ‘I know that to sustain these true moments of insight one has to be highly disciplined, lead a disciplined life.’”
But there are also those like Gertrude Stein who “…confirmed that she had never been able to write much more than half an hour a day - but added, “If you write a half hour a day it makes a lot of writing year by year. To be sure all day and every day you are waiting around to write that half hour a day.”
And Ann Beattie: “‘The times when I’ve tried that, when I have been in a slump and I try to get out of it by saying, come on, Ann, sit down at that typewriter, I’ve gotten in a worse slump. It’s better if I just let it ride.’ As a result, she often won’t write anything for months. ‘I’ve learned I can’t force it,’ she said.”
Isn’t that great?!?
That one person says you can’t create without discipline and another says discipline kills their creativity?!?
I find this reassuring.
Mostly because this reminder allows me to strip out any comparison that might be creeping in and to see the lovely individuality that even something like writing words on a page can produce.
After all, as Currey quotes Bernard Malamud, author of The Natural:
“There’s no one way - there’s too much drivel about this subject. You’re who you are, not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe. You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place - you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time - not steal it - and produce the fiction. If the stories come, you get them written, you’re on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery is to crack you.”