The Daily Routine of a Genius

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Words by Billie Jenkins Image courtesy of Ewan Morrison Press Association

Thomas Wolfe used the top of his refrigerator as a desk, each day Sartre guzzled his way through ten times the recommended dose of Corydrane pills (an amphetamine and aspirin mix), David Lynch used to indulge in a daily milkshake but then replaced it with meditation. The daily routines of 161 of the greatest and most creatives minds history has to offered up can be poured over, and perhaps recreated by the more ambitious, in Daily Ritual by Mason Currey. There is huge diversity, as you expect, yet something that ties nearly all of the featured greats together is a lack of sleep, regular walks, a cheque of sorts and a commitment to their art.
Painters, writers, composers, artists and scientists all feature, with the eccentricities quickly mounting up. Writer John Cheever would dress in full suit and head downstairs with the early morning commuters, head to his basement storage room, then strip down to his pants until he redressed and returned home again for lunch. Kierkegaard would demand each morning his assistant explain the precise reasoning behind the choice of today’s cup. There are is as much substance abuse as cultural stereotypes would have have you believe, and coffee and cigarettes feature highly (Balzac was on 50 cups a day). Yet the moral of the story seems overwhelmingly to knuckle down, and if you can get an early night… being a morning person it seems is worth a thousand late night stories. In the words of Kafka “Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible, then one must try to wriggle through by subtle manoeuvres.”

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