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Daily Rituals of Famous Authors

05/13/2013 02:58 pm ET | Updated Jul 13, 2013
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All of us have the same 24 hours a day to do things we need and want to do. But it often seems that certain people manage to do more with their allotted hours. How is it that some of us can barely manage to stay on top of our laundry (I'm speaking from personal experience here) while others manage to write plays, compose operas, or paint landscapes? Do these remarkably accomplished people have fewer daily commitments? Are they more efficient, more driven, or more disciplined? Where do they find the time?

Those are some of questions behind my new book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which looks at the routines and working habits of 161 inspired minds--among them, novelists, composers, painters, playwrights, philosophers, filmmakers, and scientists. In researching the book, I aimed to find out how exactly these artists made the time each day to do their work, and what rituals helped (or hindered) their creative processes. My primary goal was to present entertaining sketches of these figures' daily lives--but I also wanted to show how lasting works of art can arise from small increments of labor. And I hope that aspiring or practicing creative artists will find some useful strategies for their own projects.

Of all the different types of artists in the book, writers seem to be the most prone to unshakeable routines and elaborate superstitions. In this slideshow, I present the daily rituals of eight literary legends--from John Milton working in bed at 4 a.m. to Maya Angelou hiding out in a motel room with a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards, and a bottle of sherry.

Famous Authors' Daily Rituals