In Praise of Idleness

Here are some things I don’t do when I write: I don’t lie down (because it makes my tummy feel funny). I don’t go to dirty hotels (because that’s gross). I don’t fondle myself (because…just because).

However, some famous creatives rely on exactly these things to get their muses singing. The most interesting thing to me about the list of “Daily Routines of Famous Creatives” (from Farnam Street Blog, in a review of Mason Curry’s Daily Rituals), is the lack of any central theme, any unifying idea around what it takes to get the creative juices flowing. Apparently, it takes all kinds.

Here’s what I do:

I set the alarm on my phone for 5:30am, or two hours earlier than I otherwise would have in order to get to work on time. When it goes off, I dim the screen so it doesn’t burn my eyes, and I check my email. I play a phone game until my brain is working. Bathroom, then head to the home office to write.

I stretch a little if I remember to, because it’s supposed to be good for your circulation and your brain. But who can remember details like that when there’s writing to be done? Mostly I just check my blogs and my social networks, and head straight into my story for an hour. Sometimes I spend the whole time tapping away at the keys, and sometimes I spend half of it with my head on the desk or staring out the window as I try to untangle the next scene. I track my time and my word count in an Excel spreadsheet. It’s gratifying to watch those numbers rise.

After I write, I walk the dog. A nice brisk walk, around the lake three or four times, and I think about my characters, and the next scene, and how the plot is doing (sometimes it’s better than others). Then I come back and write in this blog, and then it’s time to dress for work. I’m pretty productive: I hit 70,000 words today, not quite two months in to the work. I think this story will top out around 120k before revisions.

But would I be even more productive with a new routine? Maybe I’ll try Rene Descartes’:

“Idleness was essential to good mental work, and he made sure not to overexert himself. After an early lunch, he would take a walk or meet friends for conversation; after supper, he dealt with his correspondence.”

Sounds nice. “Honey, I have to work tonight, so I won’t be able to cook dinner or clean the kitchen. Wouldn’t want to overexert myself. I have essential walks to take and friends to meet. See you later.”

What’s your daily routine? How do you make time for your creative pursuits, and what are the essential things you must do to get your creative juices flowing?

Find the right routine, and you could be this happy too