Hemingway used to sit down to work at the first light of day. Kant woke, smoked a pipe, drank tea, and began drafting as the sun rose. Hakuri Murikami wakes at 4 a.m. to write. Nobokov used to work before he allowed himself to eat breakfast. The arbitrary rituals of artists—and thousands of other bizarre habits (air-baths, drug habits, preferences towards night and day)—have become the voyeuristic obsession for many aspiring creatives. Just recently, Mason Currey released a collection of interview snippets entitled Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (2012) following the near-viral success of the blog that started it all. If you look at the equation from the standpoint of Gee, I don’t have any eccentricities that make me stand out; I must not be as artistic as those people, you’re going to miss out.
I tend to agree with Casey N. Cep of the Pacific Standard’s “The Myth of the Artist’s Routine,” who writes the following:
1. Wake up earlier.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before. Okay, that’s lots of you. Sorry to repeat old news, but here’s why this still matters: it absolutely works. Studies have proven that early risers are not only happier, but are also more proactive in their education and career. The people who get the most out of this strategy build in a chunk of work hours before the rest of the world actually starts their day. Start yourself off by waking up 30 minutes earlier each week (and, inversely, going to bed 30 minutes earlier) until you reach your goal wake time.
2. Get it down.
One of the best ways to remain productive for the day is to get it all out early. “It” can be any number of things: your work to-do list, your dream from the night before, your grocery list. Whatever is simmering on the back burner of your mind, write it down and post it somewhere. Julia Cameron of the acclaimed creativity book The Artist’s Way suggests writing “morning pages,” three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. If a “to-do” list is more your style, try Lifehacker’s idea to make a “to-don’t” list to guard yourself against potential distractions. Either way, give your brain a good squeeze before you sit down to do focused work.
3. Honor your space.
What does your ideal morning look like? Is the room light or dark? What does your workspace look like? Books, your computer, a notebook? Whatever it is that makes the idea of getting up super early sound appealing, make it happen. Building in rewards makes the routine enjoyable in itself. For me, this means putting on a floral cotton robe (laugh all you want, but it’s been my best $2.99 thrifting purchase), making French press coffee, and retiring to my dark little office to hammer out some writing while my boyfriend and dog are still asleep. Here are some tips on how to make your workspace super comfy.