What We Can Learn from Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

ImageAt first glance at the Dickens infographic created by RJ Andrews on Info We Trust and my lame attempt to copy it for myself, you would say Charles Dickens and I have nothing in common.

According to the chart, Dickens slept a good seven hours while I fitfully get my 3 hours in between my writing and my four-year old jumping on my stomach to wake me up.

Dickens had no “making ends meet” job, while I put in my eight hours in the trenches of higher education.

Dickens wrote for five hours a day while I’m lucky if I can cram in four at the end of a long day of working and running errands and spending time with my wife and taking care of my son and eventually falling asleep on the sofa with my laptop burning my thighs.

One similarity we do have, however,  is that Dickens spent five hours at the end of his day with friends and family.

I like to do that, too, but my time is often spent with them on social media because we are so scattered around the world. I like to Twitter and Facebook and Google Hangout and  Skype, ways of communicating Dickens didn’t have.

As part of the digital age,  these are some of the many ways we spend time with our friends and family.  Using these technologies have allowed us to engage in our communities in deeply meaningful ways and reach wider audiences for our stories.

That being said, I do think we as creative people need time away from social media and technology so we can hear what our true selves are trying to communicate. With so much constant demand for our attention from the interwebs, how do we listen to that still small voice crying out to be heard over the roar of the infinite variety of content instantly available to us?

Netflix. Reddit. YouTube. Hulu. Google Play. Amazon On Demand. Funny or Die. After being on the internet for too long, clicking on link after link, I start to feel like I might have had Balzac’s 50 cups of black coffee.

Andrews says in an interview with Jillian Steinhauser on Hyperallergic.com that it’s harder for us to have dedicated time like the people on his poster because “technology completely fragments lives and fewer and fewer people live creative routines for every hour of the day.”

Some people looking at the poster might lament that the famous people listed were able to  “live creative routines for every hour of the day,” but I find Andrews’ infographic comforting in many ways. The details of each famous person’s schedule seem “of the past” and different from our experiences but all of them are still very universally human here in the present.

Victor Hugo liked to wake up every morning by “Daily gunshot from fort” and Charles Darwin had a leisurely two hours at night to just think about the problems of the day. Maya Angelou would go to a hotel or motel room to write for seven hours a day. Thomas Mann would listen to gramophone records.

All of these details show creative people working out ways to set up their lives to be creative. Also, these infographics are only a sample of their real days, much like my silly one, of a specific time period in a person’s life, edited for public consumption. My routine is never exactly the same every day (this one is exaggerated to prove a point) and I’m sure most of theirs weren’t either.

While working on this post, I decided to change my routine a bit and try something from Dickens’ routine. Instead of taking a “vigorous walk through the countryside” though, I took a vigorous bike ride on our rail trail. I actually rode more than 10 miles for the first time in a long time. It was exhausting, but felt really good to ride through the woods on a gorgeous evening. When I came home, I was able to finish this post and get a lot more creative work done as well.

So you see, Charles Dickens and I have a lot more in common than you may have originally thought.

Part of my nightly routine is that I also have a glass of red wine or two at night. (Thank you, Tim Ferriss and The Four Hour Body!) Yes, it’s milder than W.H. Auden’s four-and-a-half hours of guests, “strong vodka martinis” and dinner, but then again, I don’t have to go to bed with the help of Seconal. Something else I’d like to add to that routine is Ben Franklin’s ritual of asking, “What good have I done today?”

I hope this post is one of those things.

Keep searching for your creative routines and let me know in the comments anything interesting that you do to support your creative life. I love hearing from you.

PJ

For a great video on the cool things we did BEFORE the internet, click HERE.

 

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