I’m just reading a book called “Daily Rituals”, about the working routines of more than a hundred and sixty of the greatest minds… and it had the strange effect on me of making me panic about how little I feel I achieve each day - even though routines varied so much for each of them, and some didn’t even have one at all. But for some reason, unless I adopt the most grueling, discipline requiring routine, I always feel I’m not doing it right.
Anyway, here’s a tiny selection of ‘tried and tested’ ways of handling it:
Stravinsky could only work once he made sure no one could hear him. After an hour of physical exercise he would work from 9 till one. When he felt blocked while composing, he cleared his head with a headstand.
Voltaire liked working in bed. He even dictated his new works to his secretaries while lying in bed. He rose at noon, recieved visitors, and skipped lunch in favour of coffee and chocolate. In total he worked about eighteen to 20 hours a day.
W.H. Auden was of the opinion that to “discipline passion” you had to “discipline time”, and therefore had a really rigid schedule starting at 6.30 am sharp - until cocktail hours at 6.30 pm. He tried to maintain this pace with alcohol, coffee, tobbacco and ampthetamines.
Sylvia Plath never had much of a routine, except for at the end of her life, when she got up at 5.am and wrote till her children woke up.
Ann Beattie’s favourite working hours are from 12 am to 3 am.
Although I still feel the panic of not achieving all I want to accomplish, at least my own routines seem less crazy to me now.