Saturday, June 20, 2009

Daily Routines

Inspiration can be a fickle mistress, and part of the artist's work is to develop an effective seduction strategy.  Sometimes it can take a great deal of finesse in order to entice the muse of productivity to come out and play.   Encompassing favored locations, drugs of choice, or even requisite lunch menus, many artists have come to be known for their very specific (and often peculiar) work habits, which can be as interesting and unique as the work they help produce--sometimes more so.

Daily Routines is an amazing collection of interviews with artists, writers and great thinkers about the way they structure their days.  I love being able to get a firsthand account of extraordinary people doing ordinary things.  It's somehow simultaneously comforting and inspiring. (hey, even Virginia Woolf needed a snack break sometimes...)

Many thanks to Tim for the great find!

Here is an excerpt from Daily Routines, which details Simone de Beauvoir's day-to-day working habits. 


Simone de Beauvoir
INTERVIEWER: People say that you have great self-discipline and that you never let a day go by without working. At what time do you start?

DE BEAUVOIR: I'm always in a hurry to get going, though in general I dislike starting the day. I first have tea and then, at about ten o'clock, I get under way and work until one. Then I see my friends and after that, at five o'clock, I go back to work and continue until nine. I have no difficulty in picking up the thread in the afternoon. When you leave, I'll read the paper or perhaps go shopping. Most often it's a pleasure to work.

INTERVIEWER: When do you see Sartre?

DE BEAUVOIR: Every evening and often at lunchtime. I generally work at his place in the afternoon.

INTERVIEWER: Doesn't it bother you to go from one apartment to another?

DE BEAUVOIR: No. Since I don't write scholarly books, I take all my papers with me and it works out very well.

INTERVIEWER: Do you plunge in immediately?

DE BEAUVOIR: It depends to some extent on what I'm writing. If the work is going well, I spend a quarter or half an hour reading what I wrote the day before, and I make a few corrections. Then I continue from there. In order to pick up the thread I have to read what I've done.

INTERVIEWER: Do your writer friends have the same habits as you?

DE BEAUVOIR: No, it's quite a personal matter. Genet, for example, works quite differently. He puts in about twelve hours a day for six months when he's working on something and when he has finished he can let six months go by without doing anything. As I said, I work every day except for two or three months of vacation when I travel and generally don't work at all. I read very little during the year, and when I go away I take a big valise full of books, books that I don't have time to read. But if the trip lasts a month or six weeks, I do feel uncomfortable, particularly if I'm between two books. I get bored if I don't work.

The Paris Review, Spring-Summer 1965
(Thanks to Marcine Miller.)

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