I’ve enjoyed reading the first of Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals books. As noted, this one includes men and women but is far more focused on the rituals of men than women. Ergo the second book that focuses exclusively on women.
Personally, I found the book on creative women’s daily work rituals far more illuminating and more like my own life than the one focused more on men. First, the women live a life closer to my own. As a single parent trying to maintain a life as a writer and pay the bills I constantly feel that I’m like the guy who balances spinning plates on sticks.
This guy appeared every so often on the old Ed Sullivan Show. He’d spin a plate on the end of a stick and balance it on a table. Then he’d add another and another until he was chasing down plates at risk of toppling over while he added even more spinning plates. The guy was running all over the stage trying to keep everything up in the air.
Being a parent is a lot like this. Being a single parent is very much like this. Being a single parent who wants to write for a living is… well, I have to hand it to the women in the second book because for the most part they also had to wrestle with the patriarchy and spoiled men, even if they loved the spoiled man.
In the first book, there are too many men who work from about 9 am to noon and call it a day. The remainder of their time is spent writing letters, socializing, exercising, thinking deeply, eating and drinking. I wonder what their put upon wives were up to?
The one lesson that does come through is it doesn’t matter what your routine is, just have something you can stick to so you can get work done. Even if it is just an hour in the evening, do your best to never give that hour away.
And then, of course, there are those fanatics out there who sleep for about two hours and get up and work every waking moment before sleeping for another restful two hours.
One of these folks—the evolutionary biologist and writer Stephen Jay Gould—said something I thought was worth noting:
“You have to have high levels of bodily energy and not everybody has it. I’m not physically strong, but I have very great intellectual energy. I always have. I’ve been able to work all day. I don’t have to get up and get a drink of water or watch TV for half an hour. I can literally sit and work all day once I get going. Not everybody can do that. It’s not a moral issue. Some people seem to see that as a moral question. It isn’t. It’s a question of body type and temperament and energy levels. I don’t know what makes us what we are.”
We should all be so blessed with such productivity.
And yet, I like that he says his work ethic is not a moral question. It is what he likes to do and is capable of doing. I think that really is the key to it. What are you capable of doing to move the ball forward on your writing? It’s not a challenge to consume yourself in writing work as much as it is a supportive question to consider.
What can I realistically do?
Once you have your answer, figure out how you can do at least that much.