Does good health play a role in the creative process? It can, argues Mason Currey, who spent more than two years blogging about the way some of the greatest artists and thinkers worked. Now he’s collected his findings in his new book Daily Rituals. And while there’s plenty of alcohol and coffee in the 161 short profiles, there are also long walks (Georgia O’Keeffe liked to kill rattlesnakes on her morning constitutionals) and power napping (Frank Lloyd Wright would nod off three times a day).
There are some oddballs for sure: Victor Hugo would swallow two raw eggs every morning, while the German poet Friedrich Schiller kept rotting apples in his study; the smell apparently reminded him to get back to work. And Benjamin Franklin swore by his “air bath.” “I rise early every morning, and sit in my chamber without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour,” he wrote in his Autobiography. “And if I return to bed… I make a supplement to my night’s rest of one or two hours of the most pleasing sleep that can be imagined.”
Whether it was the bath or the extra two hours of sleep, Franklin’s ritual made his mind really crackle.
Mostly these artists share a ferocious focus on their subjects that veers into obsession. There’s probably a gene for that, but that’s another book.