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From Ritual to Performance
May 6, 2013 2:08 PM   Subscribe

Great artists rise early, stay up late, float themselves in coffee, flirt with amphetamines, drink carefully, eat if necessary, take morning walks followed by afternoon naps, procrastinate, amuse themselves, avoid their friends, hold down jobs, indulge their oddities, and workwork like draft horses.

(Daily Routines previously.)
posted by Iridic (35 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite

 
I recommend a wife that believes in your work. I also believe in rainbows.
posted by uraniumwilly at 2:10 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard "had his own quite peculiar way of having coffee," according to the biographer Joakim Garff. "Delightedly he seized hold of the bag containing the sugar and poured sugar into the coffee cup until it was piled up above the rim. Next came the incredibly strong, black coffee, which slowly dissolved the white pyramid." Then he gulped the whole thing down in one go.

Wow.
posted by shivohum at 2:17 PM on May 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I feel like there's an Either/Or joke in there that I'm too many years away from having read it to make.
posted by scody at 2:19 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you can truly only spare a couple hours a day for a particular task, it is amazing how much you can get done in those hours. As Nicholson Baker told me—referring to a time in his life when he was writing and running a nonprofit at the same time—“You find out a way to get more done when you’re really busy. You just learn how to fit it in.”

Yeah holding a day job, and in my spare time working on a video game *plus* a comic this staying up until 2am is.. well I'm not sure how much longer I can keep that up. It's also slightly depressing to know my output speed is cut in half because I spend 8 hours in a cube all day when I could be coding or something...productive.

also: holy shit inking a comic is incredibly work-intensive. Don't do it kids!
posted by hellojed at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard "had his own quite peculiar way of having coffee," according to the biographer Joakim Garff. "Delightedly he seized hold of the bag containing the sugar and poured sugar into the coffee cup until it was piled up above the rim. Next came the incredibly strong, black coffee, which slowly dissolved the white pyramid." Then he gulped the whole thing down in one go.

All this time we thought it was the anxiety. Turns out he was just sugar crashing.

A sickness unto death indeed.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:26 PM on May 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also: reading this Onion article triggered a small existential crisis.
posted by hellojed at 2:28 PM on May 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


That sounds exhausting - im goimg to drink margaritas by the pool until this fit of creativity passes.
posted by The Whelk at 2:30 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


As Nicholson Baker told me—referring to a time in his life when he was writing and running a nonprofit at the same time—“You find out a way to get more done when you’re really busy. You just learn how to fit it in.”

Yeah but Nicholson Baker has that thing where he can snap his fingers and pause time so it's not really an apt comparison.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:30 PM on May 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


I always feel conflicted when I read about artists with day jobs. It's true that most of the great ones had day jobs. And I'm consoled by that because, like, all of us millenials are confused about why we're not raking in the big bucks with our art. like we always thought we would. And I read things like this and I think, hey, I can still make good art without making it pay my rent.

But then I remember that my day job can be so exhaustive and time consuming that I don't know how anyone does it. I still think it's doable, but it doesn't seem all that fair to compare someone like Ives or Faulkner to what it's like trying to be creative and make a living in contemporary culture. Like, part time jobs aren't really sustainable because of the need for health insurance and such, and full-time jobs are increasingly not just 40 hours a week and no take home work kinds of gigs. It seems like these days if you want any time to make art, you have to get a nothing job, in which case you live pretty much in poverty and an accident away from being totally screwed. It's hard for me to imagine a moderately successful insurance salesman in today's world composing some of the great American symphonies and piano sonatas.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:37 PM on May 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah but Nicholson Baker has that thing where he can snap his fingers and pause time so it's not really an apt comparison.
Not to mention his absurdly long trains-of-thought while riding an escalator.
posted by knile at 2:43 PM on May 6, 2013


something something phone sex
posted by shakespeherian at 2:51 PM on May 6, 2013


hellojed, I don't even need to look at that article to know which one you're talking about. Jesus. I've been getting up at 5:00AM every week day to put 1000 words into The Novel ever since I read it.
posted by dobie at 2:52 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


But then I remember that my day job can be so exhaustive and time consuming that I don't know how anyone does it. I still think it's doable, but it doesn't seem all that fair to compare someone like Ives or Faulkner to what it's like trying to be creative and make a living in contemporary culture. Like, part time jobs aren't really sustainable because of the need for health insurance and such, and full-time jobs are increasingly not just 40 hours a week and no take home work kinds of gigs. It seems like these days if you want any time to make art, you have to get a nothing job, in which case you live pretty much in poverty and an accident away from being totally screwed. It's hard for me to imagine a moderately successful insurance salesman in today's world composing some of the great American symphonies and piano sonatas.
I've found the contemporary American workplace is a bit of a crap-shoot as far as friendliness toward art. I have had several office jobs that served perfectly as a day job but were supposedly challenging professional positions with advancement opportunities. I've also held crappy part-time jobs that I endured because I was supposed to have more time to write, but were so demoralizing that I never did.
posted by deathpanels at 3:04 PM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


A good friend of mine once said (about working late in science) that the way to go is you drink coffee until you can't drink any more coffee and then you smoke cigarettes until you can't smoke any more cigarettes and then you eat sugar until you can't eat any more sugar. I guess we should have added dexedrine? Or maybe it's a good thing we didn't.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:28 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or take Provigil until your skin falls off ( really )
posted by The Whelk at 3:34 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Before I was lactose intolerante I did this thing where I'd buy a big cup of coffee and then drink half of it then fill it up again with sugar and cream.

I got a lot done back then when the rave in my head would let me operate my hands.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:43 PM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I dunno I have a job now that's perfectly happy to let me do whatever in my free time and I work for a guy who is just as defensive of his own free time as mine, but I'm a freelancer/contractor and my career and income has pretty much peaked barring a miracle or a willingness to sacrifice writing for work or a massive lottery win. And I'm pretty much dependent on my wife's job--thankfully normal and stable--for health insurance and such. And yeah, having the understanding spouse helps. I know a lot of really great artists that don't have health insurance and people far more talented than I am that just can't get anywhere because Life Is Hard And Shit Happens.

However, with that said, I know a lot of would-be writers and artists that complain they never have time, but have near-encyclopedic knowledge of Mad Men or Game of Thrones or World of Warcraft or whatever the latest media property of the moment is. Or, you know, Facebook or Farmville or Netflix or whatever their massive time suck indulgence may be. I know one in particular who quit her job to be A Writer but basically spends all her time locked in internet feuds or posting about how hard it is to be A Writer but she hasn't actually written anything in two years save a bunch of angry message board posts and angsty Facebook posts. Sometimes it's poor time management, not oppression by The Man.

Very few people get the combination of free time to work, a reliable stream of income that allows a good lifestyle, and health insurance, unfortunately.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:43 PM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


monsignor intolerante is not putting up with your shit today
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:44 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


> health insurance

One of the reasons why working in the arts is much more accessible in [archly] civilized countries.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:46 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


However, with that said, I know a lot of would-be writers and artists that complain they never have time, but have near-encyclopedic knowledge of Mad Men or Game of Thrones or World of Warcraft or whatever the latest media property of the moment is.


SHHHHHhhhh man, don't blow it for the rest of us.
posted by The Whelk at 3:47 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the emphasis on "Just work; inspiration will come later" is incredibly important, if only as a counter to the popular representation of creative work as the exact opposite: the message that people should sit in their chairs all day waiting for the muses to take an inspirational dump in their brains. I call it the "Don Draper Montage Effect": for the sake of narrative structure the creative process is shown as inspiration A leading directly to product B, with little of the stymied frustration and endless rewrites that actually take place. (To be fair to Mad Men, the latter has been shown far more frequently as the seasons progress and a little more of Don's golden shine has been rubbed off to reveal the brass beneath).

I have a significant number of design students who, at the start of every major project, claim they "don't know what to do." Aside from a little helpful analysis (and an attempt to hide my horror: to my mind, designers should wake up with a dozen different ideas every morning), my advice is always the same: "just start something, anything. Inspiration is a product of work."
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 4:09 PM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


drink coffee until you can't drink any more coffee .
This is functionally true for me. When I've had too much coffee, I turn into a velociraptor and the winged forearms are not able to plunge the french press very well. Most baristas won't give non-mammals the time of day, let alone make them a latte, so once it's raptor o'clock, coffee time is done.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 4:15 PM on May 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hmmm. Maybe the world would be a better place if Ayn Rand did not flirt with amphetamines.

I have no real reason to believe that's true. It's just... there's... there's got to be something she could've done differently. There's got to.
posted by Flunkie at 4:16 PM on May 6, 2013


Wallace Stevens had a nice cushy job in the insurance industry. Having dipped my toe in that sector myself briefly, I am full of admiration for anyone who can keep their souls intact - let alone be able to write damn fine poetry at the end of a working day.
posted by kariebookish at 4:17 PM on May 6, 2013


Yeah but Nicholson Baker has that thing where he can snap his fingers and pause time so it's not really an apt comparison.
Not to mention his absurdly long trains-of-thought while riding an escalator.


And also [JOKE ABOUT PHONE SEX GOES HERE]
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:18 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a significant number of design students who, at the start of every major project, claim they "don't know what to do."

They probably know that they want to be a designer, though, don't they? You see this most clearly, I think, with writers. The really bad ones basically have nothing to say but "look, I'm a writer".
posted by thelonius at 4:25 PM on May 6, 2013


As an aside I'm somewhat shocked by the number of people who get a reference to The Fermata.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:26 PM on May 6, 2013


And you're not wearing any underwear.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:27 PM on May 6, 2013


Honestly I think that sort of "I want to write/paint/sing/whatever but I don't know what" state gets too much of a bad rap.

Yes, okay, some people flounder around in it forever and it's painful to watch. And okay fine for some of those people, it's because they're shallow idiots who only ever really wanted to say "I am a writer" or whatever. But I think for a lot of people it's more like "There's this thing I want to write, but I have absolutely no idea how to articulate it in words yet, so I don't know where to start and I'm terrified it won't work." And at that point sure enough the answer is just "try shit; eventually maybe you'll make something that fulfills your Inexpressable Vision, but until then keep busy and you'll probably find other shit that's worth doing too."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:31 PM on May 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Keep your day job until your night job pays

Hunter, in his Box of Rain, notes that

"This song was dropped from the Grateful Dead repertoire at the request of fans."

posted by bukvich at 4:40 PM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


This afternoon I hung my art up at the company's art contest and my boss saw it, asking "Why are you working here if you can draw like that?!" and I'm like "there's no money in it"

That said, I have the prices for my stuff at $500 each to see if anyone bites.
posted by hellojed at 4:50 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Goddamnit this post just makes me even more upset that I haven't finagled a Dexedrine prescription yet.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:51 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fuller embarked on an experiment in “high-frequency sleep”: For every six hours of work, he napped for 30 minutes.

See also: Kramer, Cosmo.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:54 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


. . . . and work -- work like draft horses

I draft like a work horse -- close enough?
posted by hawkeye at 8:10 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I personally like the caffeine/provigil/cannabis/alcohol regimen. It is unfortunate, but I'm unable to do my best work unless I'm pretty cranked - somehow. It doesn't have to be huge amounts but it has to be something. I get up late, spend much of the day distracted and attempting to focus and failing, but a certain point the correct drug usually balance hits and I'm suddenly a demon until I drop from weariness around 5AM.

You'll note that there aren't any strong stimulants there - no cocaine or amphetamines or such. (Strong French press, I often take a half provigil around breakfast, but that's as far as I go.) I just don't think those things are sustainable. Actually, I never liked cocaine much, but I tried ritalin and aderall and liked them a lot - enough that I have yet to do them twice in the same year.

When it works, I sometimes compare it to elves, as in the fairy story where the elves finish the shoemaker's work while he's asleep. Of course, I remember everything, but I'm still often astonished by the amount of work I do.

And you have to manage your creative trance. Subtle debugging is best done in the day with a glass of fizzy water and patience. At night is best for writing brand-new things from scratch. If I were writing, revising in the day, writing at night.

What's strange is that most of my work is actually quantified and measured so I can actually see myself doing it. Most of my work is on a single open-source project so I have a collection of fascinating graphs like this one that tell me secrets about how and when I work.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:42 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


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