Designed by Dmitry Baranovskiy for the Noun Project

Designed by Dmitry Baranovskiy for the Noun Project

The creative routines of famous creatives has been popular internet fodder this year. The Pacific Standard thinks this obsession and trend of emulating famous artist’s habits is problematic, to say the least. The larger picture, says Casey N. Cep, is that most artists did not always followed these routines they’re known for anyways. In the end they would have still produced genius work regardless of the kind of breakfast they ate, hours they worked, or whatever office supplies they used.

The idea that any one of these habits can be isolated from the entirety of the writer’s life and made into a template for the rest of us is nonsense. What none of these lists tell you is that sometimes these highly creative people weren’t waking so early on their own, but were woken by domestic servants. Or that some of these highly productive writers also had spouses or children or assistants enlisted in the effort. Or that often the leisurely patterns of drafting and revising were possible only because generous familial support made the financial demands of everyday life irrelevant.

Some of the more scandalous aspects of these artistic routines are also tragically stripped of context. The writer who never wrote without a few gin and tonics died young from cirrhosis. The journalist who relied on barbiturates died of an overdose. The painter who once said it was impossible to paint while listening to music married a violinist who then played constantly in his studio.

We often talk about process at 99U, so we think this is a great debate. Are we interested in the routines of great artists because we think replicating parts of their process will be what we were missing to succeed all along? While we believe strongly that the creative process matters, it’s worth contemplating whether it’s our process that needs tweaking or the work itself. It’s easier to put the fault on something we can change easily and control, like a routine, than it is to dig into the deep, personal issues within the work we’re putting out.

Read the rest of the article here.

  • Jena Binderup

    I just posted a blog about exactly this:

    A routine isn’t a magic sauce that will make us more creative. Creativity is about pulling the clogs out of ourselves and letting ourselves fly, and there are so many ways to do that.

  • Madeliene Rose

    We all know how Hemingway died so that’s one point against this new trend…

    Secondly, we tend to glorify the past and everything that belongs to it and we shouldn’t.

    A routine is just a crutch to help you work…

  • Laetitia

    I think everyone needs to find is own muse, I’m in the process to find back my creativity lost in some practical life that doesn’t fit me well and it is not easy. We should all look inside our “younger version of me”, the dynamic, the creative, the simply mind that we used to be to learn again how to make things without thinking about it and create beautiful things who looks like us. Because this is the point the only thing we can give to the world is a part of us that we are not aware of.

  • Dave Rothacker

    I think one reason we’re interested in the routines of great artists is validation. I feel validated when I read a rock star writer does something the same way that I do. Course our results / outcome are usually different LOL!

    I am currently reading Mason Curry’s Daily Rituals. I get a stomach ache thinking about a couple of themes than course this book: drinking & drugs. I dig another: walking or physical activity.

    I think routines are fine. But we have to discover our own. The more effective routines have a direct correlation to our personal growth and development.

    @ Laetitia – superb advice looking into our younger version!

  • Mitchell Francis

    At the old “Change of Hobbit” in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, Ray Bradbury told us eager listeners he liked to watch Looney Tunes in the morning and then go for a bike ride before writing. My routine tends toward just having a cup of coffee nearby.

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