I’m reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. Currey has collected over 150 routines and rituals of artists, musicians, writers and philosophers. It’s a fascinating read that I’m taking very slowly. Like a book of poetry, it shouldn’t be consumed in one gulp. Some of the artists are so disciplined as to be discouraging, while others are clearly insane. Which is also discouraging.
Jane Austin hid her work even from the servants. Every morning, Keirkegaard made his secretary choose his coffee cup and saucer from about 50 mismatched pieces. Then Keirkegaard made the poor man justify his choice! Many of the artists seem to have been hopped up on caffeine or booze or drugs. Reading about Patricia Highsmith, I’m sure that to her mind the plots of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley were completely rational scenarios.
Trollope wrote before work because that was when he had the time. He worked at the General Post Office for 33 years and during that time he published two dozen books. “It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5:30 a.m.; and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy.” (pg 24)
While I worked, mornings were when I wrote, felt I could write. My stated routine for more than 6 years was to get up at 5:30am and be at my table to write at 6:00 a.m. But unlike Trollope, I allowed myself plenty of mercy.
Sometimes I didn’t make it to my table until 6:30. Sometimes not at all. Sometimes I did other things during this time of the day. If taxes needed to be done, most likely they were done at this time. Also, making time to write on the weekends was a crapshoot: errands, socializing, relaxing and getting ready for the coming work week, etc.
For the first couple of weeks after I stopped working, I still woke up at 5:30am. I’ve been getting up later and later, experimenting with being a night owl and staying up until 2:00am.
But this morning I was at my table, writing, at 7:00am. It felt right. My routine is still a work in progress.