The Daily Rituals of Ten of the World’s Most Creative People

Do you have a daily ritual when you write? I don’t know of a single writer who does not.  Maybe it’s summoning the Muse…everything must be just so if there is any hope of words appearing on paper.  Most of us are NOT like the writer, Muriel Spark who, Ann Lamott notes, “is said to have felt that she was taking dictation from God every morning — sitting there, one supposes, plugged into a Dictaphone, typing away, humming. But this is a very hostile and aggressive position. One might hope for bad things to rain down on a person like this.”stephen_king_desk

No, most writers have certain things they are committed to doing every day: common milestones are a starting time, and ending time, and a number of words that must be met. Oh, and a reward at the end (or perhaps that’s just me…. but I doubt it). Here are ten creative people who know that while the result may appear effortless, the process is paramount.


1.  Charles Dickens 

The author was another proponent of strict routine–and walking. He worked from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., without fail, and needed complete silence. At 2 p.m., he would go for a three-hour walk and returned bursting with energy and ideas.


2.  W.H. Auden

The poet was a fan of routine, strictly adhering to a schedule of working in the morning from 7 to 11:30. He said: “Only the ‘Hitlers of the world’ work at night; no honest artist does.” He also took lots of drugs.  Mason Currey,  in his new book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work  says that  “Auden regarded amphetamines as one of the ‘labor-saving devices’ in the ‘mental kitchen,’ alongside alcohol, coffee, and tobacco— although he was well aware that ‘these mechanisms are very crude, liable to injure the cook, and constantly breaking down.'”


3. Ingmar Bergman

The famed director also wrote scripts–he wrote in the morning, at lunch (the same meal on most days) and then wrote from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., followed by a walk.


4.  Truman Capote

The In Cold Blood author preferred to write in bed and was somewhat compulsive–among his “superstitions,” he couldn’t stand any more than three cigarette butts in an ashtray at once.


5.  Maya Angelou 

Maya Angelou favors writing in sparse hotel rooms. She typically works from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., accompanied by a dictionary, a Bible, and a bottle of sherry.


6.  David Lynch

In addition to consuming a lot of sugar, Lynch has an ongoing ritual–transcendental meditation. He started the practice in 1973 and has remained an advocate.


7.  Stephen King 

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”


8.  Patricia Highsmith

Liked her sugar and her nicotine. In the morning, she worked in bed with matches, cigarettes,  ashtrays, coffee, donuts, and cup of sugar. And at night, a stiff drink. One presumes the donuts were gone by nightfall.


9.  Joseph Heller

Usually worked for about three hours in the evening after his “regular” job as an advertising executive. Even when he quit his day job following the success of Catch-22he still only wrote a few hours a day.


10.  JK Rowling

“Whatever job I had, I was always writing like crazy. All I ever liked about offices was being able to type up stories on the computer when no one was looking. I was never paying much attention in meetings because I was usually scribbling bits of my latest stories in the margins of the pad or thinking up names for my characters. This is a problem when you’re supposed to be taking minutes of the meeting.”