daily rituals: how artists work

Commitment to one’s art requires a high degree of peculiarity.

~ Toby Lichtig in “Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey, review”

dailyrituals250Aren’t we longing for leisure to be peculiar?  Especially with heaps of poetry essays to grade.  Why, this book looks like the perfect something I would sit with for a spell in the corner of my favorite bookstore.  Not sure I would need to buy it, but I might pass some time flipping the pages, reading about the peculiar and profane practices of artists at work — or more like dreaming and blogging about them as I procrastinate for just a few more minutes.  I may not even need to read the book at all because in his UK Telegraph review, Toby Lichtig spills some of the more bizarre details:

Thomas Clayton Wolfe began work at midnight and took motivation from fondling his genitals; Schiller kept a drawer of rotting apples because he was stimulated by “their decaying smell”; Stravinsky liked to stand on his head.

I’m also not surprised to learn that my very own muse’s addiction to coffee is not so peculiar.  Apparently I am in good company as Lichtig’s review includes a laundry list of those artists who’ve relied on one stimulant or another to spark their fires.  He writes,

We are reminded throughout this collection of quite how many narcotics have gone into keeping the great minds of our world alert (or rested). Along with the heavyweight drinkers, such as Francis Bacon, we find a host of addicts on uppers and downers including amphetamines (Auden; Paul Erdos), barbiturates (Jean-Paul Sartre), Benzedrine (Graham Greene; Ayn Rand); opium (Proust); and even laxatives (Louis Armstrong).

Balzac – in what is surely an exaggeration – is said to have relied on 50 cups of coffee per day; Beethoven measured out exactly 50 beans per cup. Kierkegaard heaped his with a mound of sugar and required his servant to “justify” the choice of vessel.

Whether Kierkegaard preferred his joe in an earthenware mug or a porcelain teacup,  aren’t we all made comfortable by habits and daily ritual?  But do you have a creative ritual?  I think I’d like to be like Maya Angelou and go rent myself a swanky hotel room and stay for days in solitude with only my laptop and bread and cheese and top shelf wine for sipping in the afternoons.  But for now, I think the only peculiarities to my creative ritual are the need for uninterrupted seclusion in a comfortable space — in my downstairs den or propped up on pillows in my bed or splayed out in the easy chair, the lilac Blithe and Bonny candles I light around my desk.blithe-and-bonny-lilac-soy-candle-a_3  That’s enough for me.

I do still keep a hotel room in my hometown, and pay for it by the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible.

~ Maya Angelou: How I Write

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