Coffee, air baths and a lunchtime martini
October 6, 2013 8:03 AM   Subscribe


 
For example: did you know that lunchtime martinis aren't conducive to productivity?

True, but they are conducive to making you think you're being productive.
posted by Kitteh at 8:29 AM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a great little article, but I balked at this bit - maybe it was supposed to be ironic?

"Partly, that's because it's comforting to learn that even Franz Kafka struggled with the demands of his day job..."

I don't believe I ever pictured Franz Kafka doing anything else, really.
posted by koeselitz at 8:33 AM on October 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


I bet the "whipped sour milk" Ingmar Bergman was eating was yogurt. And maybe by having it with corn flakes he was trying to approximate muesli?
posted by HotToddy at 8:45 AM on October 6, 2013


Kierkegaard poured black coffee over a cup full of sugar, then gulped down the resulting concoction, which had the consistency of mud

The poor-man's turkish coffee?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:46 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have mixed feelings about this group of role models... Beethoven drank himself to death, Wallace and Plath commited suicide, Kafka hated his job and saw his frustration as a cause of the tubercolosis which killed him at the age of 40, Kierkegaard never married the love of his life and died at 42, and Ayn Rand was Ayn Rand.
posted by WalkingAround at 8:55 AM on October 6, 2013 [45 favorites]


My Swedish pal has crispbread crumbled into buttermilk for breakfast, usually with some sort of fruit thrown in.

I am disorganised and chaotic, but mostly very distractable. I set myself a goal of writing a novel by the time I was 40, and did it with a day to spare. That was only by finding a country retreat with no mobile signal or Internet, where I could spend fortnightly chunks with nothing but the radio and my laptop entirely undisturbed from getting up through to lunch, then from two till five or six. Took four lots of two-week stints, which were by far the most entrancing and exhilarating sustained effort I've ever experienced. I have never managed to create routine under any other circumstances.

If I could make a living wage at it, I wouldn't consider any other life. Iain Banks nailed it, and if he wasn't so selfishly dead I'd find him and drown him in Macallan out of of sheer cosmic jealousy.
posted by Devonian at 8:59 AM on October 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


For example: did you know that lunchtime martinis aren't conducive to productivity?

Lying liar who lies.
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 AM on October 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


"Ayn Rand took benzedrine"
posted by zippy at 9:01 AM on October 6, 2013


The poor-man's turkish coffee?

If your Turkish coffee involves sugar you're doin it rong.
posted by clarknova at 9:07 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a strict writing regimen.

1. Procrastinate until the last possible moment. This might take up to 2 years.
2. Editor sets sudden deadline.
3. Make coffee.
4. Write for several minutes.
5. Go outside and smoke.
6. Pace back and forth for several minutes.
7. Fend off angry emails from editor demanding copy NOW.
8. Repeat steps 3 through 7 until finished.

I once bemoaned my dysfunctional writing method to a friend who is a writing coach. I told her I spent more time pacing back and forth and smoking than I did writing. She said she used to do that, but once she smoked so much she had to go to the hospital emergency room with a nicotine overdose.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:09 AM on October 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


Try ecigs, Charlie. You can puff all day without dying.

usually
posted by clarknova at 9:14 AM on October 6, 2013


I find I am very productive when, say, researching productivity methods of famous writers. When I'm meant to be doing actual work, however...
posted by milkb0at at 9:16 AM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Productivity is for machines anyway
posted by The Whelk at 9:26 AM on October 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Implying that you can write like Hemingway or paint like O'Keefe by getting up early in the morning is kinda like saying you can play basketball like LeBron James if you only put 91 octane gasoline from Chevron in your car.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:34 AM on October 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


I bet the "whipped sour milk" Ingmar Bergman was eating was yogurt. And maybe by having it with corn flakes he was trying to approximate muesli?

Maybe filmjök, which is like a sour yogurt that you eat for breakfast or snacks.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:35 AM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I only took a quick glance through the article, but it didn't appear that a link to the blog was included.

And isn't that implication simply that one needs to put in the hours if one is looking for results, jimmythefish?
posted by mr. digits at 9:36 AM on October 6, 2013


jimmythefish: "Implying that you can write like Hemingway or paint like O'Keefe by getting up early in the morning is kinda like saying you can play basketball like LeBron James if you only put 91 octane gasoline from Chevron in your car."

Assuming that an article about the daily habits of famously productive people is implying you can be just like them if you imitate them is like assuming that every book about the music theory of Mozart is offering a money back guarantee on the quality of music you will produce if you follow his rubric.
posted by koeselitz at 9:38 AM on October 6, 2013


The article was explaining that in the path to greatness there are 6 emerging themes. So it is doing exactly that.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:40 AM on October 6, 2013


(It's also complete horseshit)
posted by jimmythefish at 9:44 AM on October 6, 2013


The path to greatness also generally involves being a human being with hair; but my saying so doesn't imply that the frizzy mop on my head entitles me to a Wikipedia entry.
posted by koeselitz at 9:44 AM on October 6, 2013


If your goal is to be a great writer, you're probably going to get a lot closer to that goal if you actually write and write often, and so finding out the daily habits of those who were able to write and write often is a useful thing. You might still never be like them, but you're definitely never going to be like them if you never write.
posted by Sequence at 9:45 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean: jimmythefish - is it truly never useful to examine the lives of people who were productive of great things? It seems to me that it's at least a thing worth thinking about when we're trying out routines in our own lives. It isn't imperious or haughty to do this - everybody has to come up with a routine, so why not consider some examples that might be useful? It seems worthwhile to note that the author here explicitly rejects some routines, like the daily martini; and it is said quite plainly that everyone has to work this out for themselves. This is just food for thought as we do that. Why is that so terrible?
posted by koeselitz at 9:48 AM on October 6, 2013


Benjamin Franklin spent his mornings naked.

But who doesn't, amirite?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:49 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The path to greatness also generally involves being a human being with hair; but my saying so doesn't imply that the frizzy mop on my head entitles me to a Wikipedia entry.


Uh...hair wasn't mentioned in the article, whereas getting up early was. What point are you trying to make exactly?
posted by jimmythefish at 9:49 AM on October 6, 2013


(My point there was just that there are a lot of preconditions of "greatness," and therefore that aspiring to some of them isn't somehow pretentious.)
posted by koeselitz at 9:50 AM on October 6, 2013


My writing routine is to fuck around until I realize I actually have to get paid sometime this year if I want to keep my house. Then the words flow.
posted by jscalzi at 9:53 AM on October 6, 2013 [26 favorites]


And my point is the whole article is a poorly conceived and written, disingenuous conflation of habits and skills that is as fucking useless to draw conclusions out of as tits on a bull. It should have been titled 'Here's some crazy shit some famous creative people did'. Or should I start up the opium pipe so I can finish my photo processing for the weekend. Maybe sitting around naked will make them better.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:55 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you should start up the opium pipe, yes. Please do.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:59 AM on October 6, 2013


Taking Jscalzi's advice, risking a loss of face also can motivate people to write. For example I gave RoryMarniach a deadline to complete this thing by Oct 21st, and if he doesn't, then he has to watch all of Teen Wolf AND provide a one paragraph review of each episode for a side blog.

In many ways a loss of honor is greater than a loss of money.
posted by The Whelk at 10:03 AM on October 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think you should start up the opium pipe, yes. Please do.

Sure, just go ahead and take that step over that personal attack line. Thanks for that.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:16 AM on October 6, 2013


Benjamin Franklin swore by "air baths", which was his term for sitting around naked in the morning, whatever the weather ...
According to an anecdote I read in some now lost book, and can find no trace of on the Web, Franklin's predilection for 'air baths' was known to Louis XVI during Franklin's tenure as ambassador to France, and deplored by the King in terms that suggest he didn't care for the implied comparison with Franklin's great endowments.
posted by jamjam at 10:20 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whenever my self-esteem has ebbed to its lowest lows, I content myself with the fact that, while I sometimes fear that my poor mother will have to wheel around a shopping cart full of my unpublished manuscripts in search of an advocate like a slightly less glorious version of John Kennedy Toole's mother in the event that I'm fatally speared by a deer's antler on a Vespa trip to bingo night at the blue collar sports drag military auto mechanic trivia bar here in town, I have at least amassed an impressive assortment of emotional tics colorful morning rituals that I can describe with the self-effacing wit of a raconteur and bon vivant if I ever manage to mail out a manuscript and thus, after a valiant struggle to recognition, end up in the hot seat on a resurgent Dick Cavett show.

For one thing, I almost invariably prepare daisy eggs on the first Monday morning of each month and enjoy them with a cool parisette in a cordial glass because I deserve a bit of a treat. I'm hoping Cavett will introduce a cooking segment so I can demonstrate the proper technique.
posted by sonascope at 10:21 AM on October 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


This was originally a blog, but I read the book that resulted from it (Daily Rituals) a couple months ago. It was strangely reassuring.
posted by Ouisch at 10:26 AM on October 6, 2013


And my point is the whole article is a poorly conceived and written, disingenuous conflation of habits and skills that is as fucking useless to draw conclusions out of as tits on a bull. It should have been titled 'Here's some crazy shit some famous creative people did'.

I wrote the article (though as explained, the occasion for the article is the UK publication of Mason Currey's excellent book, from which I drew heavily). I don't think I could have made it a lot more obvious in the intro that it's silly to think you'll become a genius by following the rituals of geniuses – or at least not without writing it in a crushingly tedious and heavy-handed way.

Personally, I think it's fun to learn about this stuff, and it can serve as an inspiration to test out a few techniques to see if they happen to work for you. That's enough, surely? No need to hold the article (or the book) to some kind of standard about population-wide infallible laws that it never claims to meet.
posted by oliverburkeman at 10:31 AM on October 6, 2013 [24 favorites]


I just thought it was a fun read of all the different ways people get into the groove, as so many of us wish we knew 'the trick' to getting there ourselves.

Were we supposed to get angry?
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 10:34 AM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I made a flippant comment initially, was called on the logic, and felt I had to explain myself. I stand by my comments.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:37 AM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


For example I gave RoryMarniach a deadline to complete this thing by Oct 21st, and if he doesn't, then he has to watch all of Teen Wolf AND provide a one paragraph review of each episode for a side blog.

Yeah, in retrospect my "write your spec Archer script or you have to draw me things" wasn't nearly humiliating enough a challenge. I should've asked you to shave your head.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:40 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I made a flippant comment initially, was called on the logic, and felt I had to explain myself.

Your first comment was indeed funny.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:44 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find that getting up early in the morning is the key to a productive day. If I can get my mind straight before the day gets noisy and people intrude, then marvels can be accomplished. The prospect of a martini only serves to motivate.
posted by arcticseal at 10:45 AM on October 6, 2013


Yeah and I wish now that I'd just had ended there.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2013


I should've asked you to shave your head.

You don't want to know what's under my hair.
posted by The Whelk at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2013


( anyway that's why I prefer to work late at night, no one is around to bug me and I'm still kinda used to a night shift feeling " right" . If it was up to me I'd only see sunlight on my terms.)
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Get up really early, get naked, smoke an opium martini, done.
posted by colie at 10:56 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why I like having a job with a boss who tells me what to do. If I had to rely on my internal motivation to pay the mortgage, I'd be out on the bricks quickly. That and that I have no actual creative talent.
posted by octothorpe at 11:22 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


And isn't that implication simply that one needs to put in the hours if one is looking for results

Absolutely not. You could put in the hours and still get nothing done. I remember when I learned what writing was about, when I read a quip by William Zinsser, I think it was from "On Writing Well." He said, "A writer is inexorably alone with himself." Then he went on to describe how a writer is not necessarily grappling with the content he is producing. He is grappling with himself. The distraction of an itchy nose or acid stomach is capable of completely eliminating his capacity to write, for that moment.

Of course there are external distractions but they are only significant to the extent we internalize them. So a writer's primary task is self-management. He must find a way to sit "inexorably alone" with himself, ignoring the distractions he generates for himself, and focus on the writing. Writers can develop strange "goal displacement" activities, which can either help soothe distractions, or become another distraction.

Just to give a specific example, while writing this comment, I felt cold so I got up and adjusted the thermostat. Then I reheated my coffee and went outside for a cigarette. I felt even colder so I put on a sweater. I ruminated over my comment during this process, it took many years to ritualize this process sufficiently so that I could ignore it and continue thinking. Then I sat down and finished writing this.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:26 AM on October 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Usually when you're doing something tedious, like cleaning the bath or stuffing dumplings, at the end you have a concrete, objective end result that you can set against a standard to see if you've accomplished something (the bath is clean, the dumplings are stuffed, etc). Not so with writing.
posted by The Whelk at 11:36 AM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I may have to buy this book, if only to find out whether there is someone highly productive or genius like who kept looking back at Metafilter on his browser when he should have been doing something - anything - else.
posted by biffa at 11:49 AM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


No Hunter S Thompson?

3:00 p.m. rise
3:05 Chivas Regal with the morning papers, Dunhills
3:45 cocaine
3:50 another glass of Chivas, Dunhill
4:05 first cup of coffee, Dunhill
4:15 cocaine
4:16 orange juice, Dunhill
4:30 cocaine
4:54 cocaine
5:05 cocaine
5:11 coffee, Dunhills
5:30 more ice in the Chivas
5:45 cocaine, etc., etc.
6:00 grass to take the edge off the day
7:05 Woody Creek Tavern for lunch-Heineken, two margaritas, coleslaw, a taco salad, a double order of fried onion rings, carrot cake, ice cream, a bean fritter, Dunhills, another Heineken, cocaine, and for the ride home, a snow cone (a glass of shredded ice over which is poured three or four jig­gers of Chivas.)
9:00 starts snorting cocaine seriously
10:00 drops acid
11:00 Chartreuse, cocaine, grass
11:30 cocaine, etc, etc.
12:00 midnight, Hunter S. Thompson is ready to write

12:05-6:00 a.m. Chartreuse, cocaine, grass, Chivas, coffee, Heineken, clove cigarettes, grapefruit, Dunhills, orange juice, gin, continuous pornographic movies.

6:00 the hot tub-champagne, Dove Bars, fettuccine Alfredo
8:00 Halcyon
8:20 sleep
posted by modernserf at 11:53 AM on October 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Usually when you're doing something tedious, like cleaning the bath or stuffing dumplings, at the end you have a concrete, objective end result that you can set against a standard to see if you've accomplished something (the bath is clean, the dumplings are stuffed, etc). Not so with writing.
posted by The Whelk at 11:36 AM on October 6


Isn't that what the word count button is for?
posted by dng at 12:22 PM on October 6, 2013


A prominent trend in the descriptions of routines in this article:

Male artist: long morning periods in which to work, generously long nap/walk, dinner etc.
Female artist: snatches of work time interrupted by children, housework, guests, anyone with a claim to her time, etc.

(I was going to compose after writing this comment but it sounds like my 2-year-old is waking up....)
posted by daisystomper at 1:52 PM on October 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Word count. Bow down to it. Some say you must stop when you hit the session/day/weekly target - along the lines of breaking off when the words are really flowing, because it'll be easier to pick up at the start of the next session - but that's just masochism.

The thing, the only thing, without which you will not prosper, is the application of the seats of the britches to the bench. And not getting up until you've done the work. Word count = doing the work.

(Pukka geniuses may do as they please. But I'm not one, and neither are you.)
posted by Devonian at 2:18 PM on October 6, 2013


I am required, as per my schedule, to produce a high quality piece of writing each and every Sunday. And despite my chronic procrastination and petitions to Almighty God, Sunday never fails to arrive. My productivity is driven entirely and without exception by my loving wife, who will kill me if I am found writing on a Saturday. (It's our day to see one another).
Now, Sunday has once more come and gone. And yet I somehow secretly believe that next Sunday will never arrive. Such is the nature of this odd and wondrous calling.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:23 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


In a fantasy forum I asked Daniel Abraham how he managed to be so prolific. He first confirmed someone else's advice on the forum on getting your ass in the chair but also added that he was overpowered by a need to never work technical support again.
posted by Ber at 3:44 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Futzing about and finding the most quotidian of quotidian things fascinating, any old excuse really, to not draw or paint, then grinding down, often late at night when things are quiet.

Maybe not the most efficient of working methods but it's the one that has served me well over the years, with a fairly large output of drawings and paintings achieved while maintaining a day job.

Or, I have a full time job(which pays the bills) and a full time career(which doesn't).
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 3:53 PM on October 6, 2013


Turning on the computer and applying the butt to the chair is the easy part.

It's when the fingers fumble on the keys, and damn! There's metafilter.

I'm done for.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:05 PM on October 6, 2013


I try to write, then I think about all the things what would be more enjoyable, healthy and productive for me to do.

I think I'll just hire a ghostwriter, seems more cost effective.
posted by The Whelk at 4:14 PM on October 6, 2013


actually my word count today was 2125.

Is that good?
posted by The Whelk at 12:58 PM on October 7, 2013


“How many words a day do I write? Between six and seven thousand. And how many hours does that take? Three on a good day, as high as thirteen on a bad one”
~ John Creasey (564 books)

I know, I want to kill him, too. Seven thousand words a day, regularly! And some days that only took three hours to accomplish! I comfort myself with the knowledge that I haven't read any of his books, so they were probably absolute drivel anyway. Right? Harrumph.

Of course, to be fair, Asimov wrote up to 18 hours a day, and I have read most of his books (he has so many, I hesitate to say I have read them all!).
posted by misha at 11:21 PM on October 7, 2013


Yeah, but Asimov reads like stereo instructions.
posted by The Whelk at 5:51 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


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