How do you do meaningful, creative work, and earn a living at it?
That is a question that Daily Rituals: How Artists Work attempts to answer. This is another example of a blog (the now-defunct Daily Routines), that became a book. Mason Currey collected the daily rituals/regimens of many creative people. The implication is probably not intended to be that by studying them, we can find the rituals to make us creative. Oh, ’twere it so. But, if you are already creative but lacking regimen and ritual, the book could help you.
In a story on NPR about the book and rituals, they pass along an essay title from the satirical The Onion: “Find The Thing You’re Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life.”
That piece of satire digs at any of us who want to believe that “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That quote (often attributed to Confucius, but probably much more contemporary in origin) is such a wonderful goal – and seems so very unlikely to be attainable for most people.
The Onion essay may be satire, but it is more likely that you can pursue your passion outside of work hours and maybe that is not so terrible. It is certainly better than not pursuing a passion at all.
That passion may be painting, playing the guitar or writing. People do make a living at these things, but the number who do is quite small. I enjoy writing on my blogs. People turn blogs into books. I might be able to do that one day, but it’s not why I write or my goal in writing.
“Ritual” evokes something vaguely religious, and “regimen” and “routine” sound serious and boring. In the past, I have used the term “practice” which can be daily, but can vary and is certainly not anything perfected.
Currey’s book suggests by example the many little tricks that people use to push them to be creative, such as setting a quantity of work be completed (maybe 5 pages of that novel) before the reward of going out for lunch each day.
If your passion is not your job and you do it in your free time, you still might need incentives to move forward. Yes, you write those poems, but why aren’t you sending them out to be published and why aren’t you going to more readings and open mics?
James Joyce’s daily ritual of waking at 10 a.m, staying in bed for an hour, getting up, shaving, sitting at the piano, lunch and then writing in the afternoon with a reward of the cafes later that evening sounds like a pretty sweet life. I don’t hear a paycheck in there.
John Updike, who did make a living as a writer, “put the creative project first” by writing in the morning without waiting for the muse to visit because “the pleasures of not writing are so great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again.”
“Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working.
They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.” – V. S. Pritchett
“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.” – W. H. Auden
If the topic interests you, there is an excerpt from Daily Rituals online to get you started.