Routine

I KNOW FOR A FACT that I am not the only writer who cannot resist reading about the daily routines of other creative artists. When I read one of The Paris Review's author interviews, I grow impatient waiting for the moment when the interviewer asked Hemingway or Kerouac or Auden about his writerly work habits. I own a whole book devoted to artists' routines, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. Post an artist's work routine online and I will find it.

I think I read these things with a combination of yearning and relief. Yearning for fulfillment of the ridiculous belief that I will learn something from how John McPhee or Edward Hoagland or Barry Lopez work that will unlock my own creative flow. Relief that some artists are as odd about their routines as I am, or wrestle with the same destructive tendencies, or also can waste a day by staring out the window. (I once heard Johns McPhee confess to this and was immensely pleased. Him too!)

So you can understand why this clever piece of graphic art by R.J. Andrews at Info We Trust snagged my attention. I was especially heartened by how few hours of actual work so many of these people logged on a daily basis. If Currey is right (the graphic was made from information found in his book), Thomas Mann scribbled for only about three hours a day, as did Milton, and Immanuel Kant labored for only one. Sure, Balzac put in more than 13 hours a day at the writing desk, but he was amped on 50 cups of coffee. Speaking of coffee, Beethoven believed the proper cup had to be made from 60 beans, which he would count out himself, and which makes him as big a coffee nerd as I am. My favorite bit from Andrews' chart may be Victor Hugo being awakened each day by a daily gunshot from a nearby fort. Sounds a lot like life in Baltimore.

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