How Artists Work

Do you believe creative artists should be disciplined? Honor routines?  Sit (or stand) at their desks, go to their studio every day? Or do you think they should be free spirits? Explore the world? Pound the pavements; hike in the woods? Visit coffee shops and saloons and meet people? Write or paint or compose as the feeling strikes them? Perhaps after delving into this book of 161 summaries of artists’ routines, you will change your mind.

It’s surprising how many of these creative spirits rise at sunbreak and commence work quickly. This book gets into the nitty gritty. Did you know that Beethoven made his own coffee every day? He routinely counted out sixty coffee beans.  He also loved to bathe before a sink, splashing pitchers full of water over himself, but unfortunately, this water spilled on the floor and dribbled downstairs to his landlord’s place,  forcing the owner to put a concrete base under the great composer’s sink. The esteemed composer’s servants also had a laugh-fest each time he bathed because he did so while “bellowing up and down the scales.”

Bizarre? Not really. In that category, I would put modern detective writer Patricia Highsmith who gathered all her favorite things on the bed: liquor, coffee, cigarettes, sugar—she wanted to be comfortable before starting writing. She said a stiff drink in the morning calmed her down. She once went to a party with a head of lettuce and a hundred snails insisting that that were her companions for the evening.

Thomas Wolfe wrote standing and leaning over his refrigerator. He was a tall guy; fridges were shorter in those days. Hemingway also wrote standing up. 

What about great movie directors? Fellini never slept more than three hours at a time. He would begin phoning his actors and crew at 7 am waking them up. His fellow director Ingmar Bergman had the same weird meal everyday: whipped sour cream with strawberry jam on top of Corn Flakes. No wonder his movies were so dark.

Painter Francis Bacon burned the candle at both ends: getting up early and staying up late, but he napped in between.

And Mozart spent the hour between 6 and 7 am getting his hair done. Not sure if they did his real hair or a wig. But his daily schedule including rehearsing, composing, and playing music was so heavy that his sister felt sorry for him.

Check out how these artists arranged their days. Be inspired by them or maybe sink into a deep refreshing nap on their behalf. If you are an artist yourself, how about checking out Eric Maisel”s Coaching the Artist Within: Advice for Writers, Actors, Visual Artists & Musicians from America’s Foremost Creativity Coach.