The Daily Rituals of 143 Famous Female Creators: Octavia Butler, Edith Wharton, Coco Chanel & More

Cer­tain kinds of con­tent have flow­ered on the inter­net that we can’t seem to get enough of, and if you fre­quent Open Cul­ture, you may well have a weak­ness for one kind in par­tic­u­lar: the dai­ly sched­ules of notable cre­ators. When we know and respect some­one’s work, we can’t help but won­der how they spend their finite time on this Earth in such a way that allows them to cre­ate that work in the first place. Mason Cur­rey, cre­ator of the blog Dai­ly Rit­u­als, knows this well: not only did all his post­ing about “how writ­ers, artists, and oth­er inter­est­ing peo­ple orga­nize their days” lead to a book, Dai­ly Rit­u­als: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspi­ra­tion, and Get to Work, it just last month pro­duced a sequel, Dai­ly Rit­u­als: Women at Work.

“In the first Dai­ly Rit­u­als, I fea­tured far more men than women,” writes Cur­rey. “In this sec­ond vol­ume, I cor­rect the imbal­ance with pro­files of the day-to-day work­ing lives of 143 women writ­ers, artists, and per­form­ers,” includ­ing Octavia But­ler, “who wrote every day no mat­ter what,” Isak Dine­sen, “who sub­sist­ed on oys­ters and cham­pagne but also amphet­a­mines, which gave her the over­drive she required, Martha Gra­ham, “who eschewed social­iz­ing in favor of long hours alone in her stu­dio,” and Lil­lian Hell­man, “who chain-smoked three packs of cig­a­rettes and drank twen­ty cups of cof­fee a day (after milk­ing the cow and clean­ing the barn on her Hard­scrab­ble Farm).”

You can read a few excerpts of the book at the pub­lish­er’s web site. Coco Chanel, we learn, usu­al­ly arrived late to the office but “stayed until late in the evening, com­pelling her employ­ees to hang around with her even after work had ceased, pour­ing wine and talk­ing non­stop, avoid­ing for as long as pos­si­ble the return to her room at the Ritz and to the bore­dom and lone­li­ness that await­ed her there.” Edith Whar­ton, by con­trast, “always worked in the morn­ing, and house­guests who stayed at the Mount — the 113-acre estate in Lenox, Mass­a­chu­setts, where Whar­ton penned sev­er­al nov­els, includ­ing The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome — were expect­ed to enter­tain them­selves until 11:00 a.m. or noon, when their host­ess would emerge from her pri­vate quar­ters, ready to go for a walk or work in the gar­den.”

The oth­er sub­jects of Dai­ly Rit­u­als: Women at Work, a full list of which you can read here, include every­one from Maya Angelou to Diane Arbus, Joan Did­ion to Mar­lene Diet­rich, Dorothy Park­er to Emi­ly Post, and Agnès Var­da to Alice Walk­er. Not only do no two of these cre­ators have the same rou­tines, their strate­gies for how best to use their time often con­flict. “Screw inspi­ra­tion,” said Octavia But­ler, but her col­league in writ­ing Zadie Smith takes quite a dif­fer­ent tack: “I think you need to feel an urgency about the acts,” Cur­rey quotes her as say­ing in an inter­view, “oth­er­wise when you read it, you feel no urgency either. So, I don’t write unless I real­ly feel I need to.” For all tips as you might pick up from these 143 women, as well as from the cre­ators of both sex­es in the pre­vi­ous book, the most impor­tant one might be a meta-tip: devel­op the set of dai­ly rit­u­als that suits your per­son­al­i­ty and no one else’s.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ursu­la K. Le Guin’s Dai­ly Rou­tine: The Dis­ci­pline That Fueled Her Imag­i­na­tion

The Dai­ly Habits of Famous Writ­ers: Franz Kaf­ka, Haru­ki Muraka­mi, Stephen King & More

The Dai­ly Rou­tines of Famous Cre­ative Peo­ple, Pre­sent­ed in an Inter­ac­tive Info­graph­ic

74 Essen­tial Books for Your Per­son­al Library: A List Curat­ed by Female Cre­atives

A Space of Their Own, a New Online Data­base, Will Fea­ture Works by 600+ Over­looked Female Artists from the 15th-19th Cen­turies

The Dai­ly Habits of High­ly Pro­duc­tive Philoso­phers: Niet­zsche, Marx & Immanuel Kant

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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