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

Click the image above to access the inter­ac­tive info­graph­ic.
The dai­ly life of great authors, artists and philoso­phers has long been the sub­ject of fas­ci­na­tion among those who look upon their work in awe. After all, life can often feel like, to quote Elbert Hub­bard, “one damned thing after anoth­er” — a con­stant mud­dle of oblig­a­tions and respon­si­bil­i­ties inter­spersed with moments of fleet­ing plea­sure, wrapped in gnaw­ing low-lev­el exis­ten­tial pan­ic. (Or, at least, it does to me.) Yet some peo­ple man­age to tran­scend this per­pet­u­al bar­rage of office meet­ings, com­muter traf­fic and the unholy allure of real­i­ty TV to cre­ate bril­liant work. It’s easy to think that the key to their suc­cess is how they struc­ture their day.

Mason Currey’s blog-turned-book Dai­ly Rit­u­als describes the worka­day life of great minds from W.H. Auden to Immanuel Kant, from Flan­nery O’Connor to Franz Kaf­ka. The one thing that Currey’s project under­lines is that there is no mag­ic bul­let. The dai­ly rou­tines are as var­ied as the peo­ple who fol­low them– though long walks, a ridicu­lous­ly ear­ly wake up time and a stiff drink are com­mon to many.

One school of thought for cre­at­ing is summed up by Gus­tave Flaubert’s max­im, “Be reg­u­lar and order­ly in your life, so that you may be vio­lent and orig­i­nal in your work.” Haru­ki Muraka­mi has a famous­ly rigid rou­tine that involves get­ting up at 4am and writ­ing for nine hours straight, fol­lowed by a dai­ly 10km run. “The rep­e­ti­tion itself becomes the impor­tant thing; it’s a form of mes­merism. I mes­mer­ize myself to reach a deep­er state of mind. But to hold to such rep­e­ti­tion for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of men­tal and phys­i­cal strength. In that sense, writ­ing a long nov­el is like sur­vival train­ing. Phys­i­cal strength is as nec­es­sary as artis­tic sen­si­tiv­i­ty.” He admits that his sched­ule allows lit­tle room for a social life.

Then there’s the fan­tas­ti­cal­ly pro­lif­ic Bel­gian author George Simenon, who some­how man­aged to crank out 425 books over the course of his career. He would go for weeks with­out writ­ing, fol­lowed by short bursts of fren­zied activ­i­ty. He would also wear the same out­fit every­day while work­ing on his nov­el, reg­u­lar­ly take tran­quil­iz­ers and some­how find the time to have sex with up to four dif­fer­ent women a day.

Most writ­ers fall some­where in between. Toni Mor­ri­son, for instance, has a rou­tine that that seems far more relat­able than the super­man sched­ules of Muraka­mi or Sime­on. Since she jug­gled rais­ing two chil­dren and a full time job as an edi­tor at Ran­dom House, Mor­ri­son sim­ply wrote when she could. “I am not able to write reg­u­lar­ly,” she once told The Paris Review. “I have nev­er been able to do that—mostly because I have always had a nine-to-five job. I had to write either in between those hours, hur­ried­ly, or spend a lot of week­end and predawn time.”

Above is a way cool info­graph­ic of the dai­ly rou­tines of 26 dif­fer­ent cre­ators, cre­at­ed by And if you want to see an inter­ac­tive ver­sion of the same graph­ic but with rollover bits of triv­ia, just click here. You’ll learn that Voltaire slept only 4 hours a day and worked con­stant­ly. Vic­tor Hugo pre­ferred to take a morn­ing ice bath on his roof. And Maya Angelou pre­ferred to work in an anony­mous hotel room.

Note: The info­graph­ic above is very light on women. For any­one inter­est­ed in the dai­ly habits of female cre­ators, see this post and Mason Cur­rey’s relat­ed book: The Dai­ly Rit­u­als of 143 Famous Female Cre­ators.

An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in Jan­u­ary 2015.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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Comments (3)
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  • Lonnie says:

    I wish they had put Hemingway’s dai­ly rou­tine. It was like he squeezed 40 hours into 24!

  • Tim says:

    So if you want to be a famous writer don’t work a full time job, eat and sleep a lot.

    Nice for some.

  • Infographic says:

    I loved your blog and thanks for pub­lish­ing this con­tent about the dai­ly rou­tines of well known cre­ative peo­ple!! I am real­ly hap­py to come across this excep­tion­al­ly well writ­ten con­tent. I like how you have researched and pre­sent­ed these exact points so clear­ly. Thanks for shar­ing and look for more in future!! Come across and hope you can vis­it this too to get more infor­ma­tion.

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