Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey (Picador), has for its subtitle, How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work. It is a quirky, but highly entertaining book of anecdotes about how writers (as well as visual artists and composers) organize their working day. It is not about their process of creativity, but their day-to-day habits of work. Thus, Gertrude Stein wrote outside in the sought out presence of rocks and cows for fifteen minutes a day. Hemingway rose at 5:30 AM to write. Woody Allen takes many showers. Dickens liked silence and his desk arranged just so. Certain things come through. Early rising and working is more prevalent than night work. Long walks are common. Coffee is more important than alcohol. (Balzac drank fifty cups of coffee a day!)
What is shared by all of these creative artists is discipline. Even when these habits are idiosyncratic, they are regular habits, the daily means for the individuals to get down to work, even though Melville and Thomas Wolfe stood up when writing.
If I were teaching a writing course this would be the first book I would have students read. The message: I don’t care how you get to work, just get there.