Summary: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Summary: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Quick Summary

Mason Currey’s “Daily Rituals” is a collection of records on the daily routines and rituals of 161 famous writers, performance artists, painters, mathematicians, physicists, composers, and other creative figures in human history. The book displays a full range of different ways these people organized their waking and sleeping time, from waking up in the middle of the night to consuming insane amounts of narcotics to keep focus throughout their day.

Full Summary

“Daily Rituals” is a collection of historical records, ranging from autobiographical and biographical material to documents and interviews of friends and family of 161 artistic figures, primarily writers, composers, scientists, and other well-known people who marked the last few centuries of the world.

Each of these characters has one chapter dedicated to their daily habits and rituals that helped them stay organized and focused throughout their working lives. As the chapters are not connected with each other, each can be read as a separate short story, an insight into how these people planned their lives, often maneuvering between their families and daily jobs, which provided them money to support their families and their work and spending time on their art.

In the book, readers will gain a firsthand understanding of how each of these figures lived day to day and what techniques they implemented to maximize their creativity and waking time. This included sleeping schedule, working in blocks, taking long walks, socializing, and sometimes even taking heavy doses of drugs to stay sharp and focused.

Excerpt of Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

What does the book promise to deliver?

The author’s intention was to examine how some of the greatest minds organized their day on a regular basis. To accomplish this, Mason went through interviews, diaries, biographies, and other historical records of 161 individuals and presented them one after another.

This book provides insight into the daily routines of these individuals and helps the reader to understand how disciplined they were, how different they approached work, and also what similarities most of them have when it comes to going through the regular day in their lives.

“Daily Rituals” consists of 161 short descriptions – some half a page long, some a couple of pages long, describing the usual day in the life of famous artists and scientists. Most of these people come from the 19th and 20th centuries, which might make the reading less relatable to readers.

Between early birds and night owls, readers will have a chance to see how each of these artists had a different approach to work and time management, yet how discipline and repetitive routines every day helped them stay organized and manage their time to fit their busy schedules, which often included working their daily jobs as a mean to provide for their families.

The book doesn’t provide any detailed insight into the lives of these people, nor it’s supported with any bibliographical information about them or their craft. Readers won’t find out how they created their art but rather how they put themselves in the mode to be creative through their daily rituals.

“Daily Rituals” also shows how artists managed to do the creative work while also earning a living, often doing other jobs to support their creative work and their families. This might be very interesting for all aspiring artists who are not privileged enough to focus solely on their craft without having to worry about money.

The tone of the book

“Daily Rituals” is a collection of 161 stories, not aligned in any particular order, chronologically or alphabetically. This gives a sense of randomness to the book and a feeling that these stories are simply presented without any order and meaning.

Since the chapters, each being a record of daily habits, are pretty short, ranging from half a page to a couple of pages at the most, and not connected in any way, this book can easily be read across a long period of time without the reader losing touch with the plot or the characters.

Since Currey went through numerous records, including biographies, autobiographies, and personal diaries of artists to their friends and family, along with interviewing some of them, he had the difficult task of organizing all the sources into a clear and fairly short book. According to readers, the author did a great job in this regard, and almost 30 pages of footnotes helped readers keep exploring more.

Back of of Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

What type of reader would enjoy this book?

Most of the historical characters whose daily routines are described in this book are artists and scientists, so any person interested in these fields of work should read this book to get a close insight into how these people managed to stay consistent and dedicated to their work every single day. This book won’t show you how to be creative but rather how developing daily routines and keeping consistency in applying them every single day helped these people become great.

This is also a valuable read for any person who would like to gain insight into how to organize their time in a way that allows them to work their daily jobs while also finding time for their true passion, which is very helpful for aspiring artists at the very beginning of their career who have to maneuver between earring for a living and trying to pursue their dreams.

This book also shows the importance of developing daily habits and how applying them consistently for an extended period of time, often several years ends up yealing great results. However, readers will discover that the daily habits of the people discussed in the book are often among the most healthy ones, and some of them are even unacceptable in modern days.

Considering that the chapters of the book are not connected in any way, “Daily Rituals” can be a perfect pocketbook, the one that could be next to your bed for a quick night’s rear. It’s a source of inspiration full of interesting anecdotes that will keep things interesting while waiting for a bus, sitting in the waiting room, and looking for something to make your time useful during these moments.

Since most of the individuals analyzed in this book are extremely individualistic in their work, this book won’t be much helpful to readers who work in teams or collaborate with other people in their work. This book is about creating habits and daily routines that would solely fit the one individual interested in applying them.

How well do “Daily Rituals” compare with other titles in this field?

“Daily Rituals” is a combination of biographical records, diaries, and interviews and a “self-help” category of books, as it provides insight into the habits of successful people. Several books in these categories are mentioned as a comparison with “Daily Rituals,” and this section will cover the most frequently mentioned titles among the readership.

Most of all, Currey’s book is mentioned as a complementary piece to Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers: The Story of Success.” In this book, Gladwell provides a detailed look into what made successful people so prosperous and focuses on the historical and cultural background of these people, from their childhood and generation to the cultural aspects of their upbringing. Readers consider “Daily Rituals” as a follow-up book as it deals with the different aspects of people’s lives, focusing on their daily habits and adding a new dimension to Gladwell’s work.

“Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is another title that deals with the power of rest and disputes the general thought that the more we work, the more successful we become, and vice versa. In this book, the author also uses examples of historically great figures and how their pattern of work and rest helped them achieve their success, some of which are featured in “Daily Rituals” as well.

One thing that readers appreciate about “Daily Rituals” compared to the books like “Rest” is the author’s choice to present to the reader people who were not able to fit in their own schedule but instead maneuver between family time and their daily jobs. This makes “Daily Rituals” unique among similar books, as it makes the successful people far more relatable to the average readers and aspiring artists, who also have to find a way to plan their day having their jobs and families in mind.

Spine of Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

What do readers say about Daily Rituals?

No rules aside from having rituals

The first thing that the readers noticed about this book is how different the daily schedules of 161 individuals analyzed in this book were. Their daily habits range from waking up at 1 am and working all night to sleeping 3-4 hours per day, from regular walking and exercising to drinking insane amounts of coffee and taking heavy drugs to stay focused and wake.

The only thing that all these people have in common is that they all had daily routines, and they all made sure to stick to them every single day. This made readers conclude that there is no secret recipe for success, aside from finding a routine that works for you and then having the discipline to apply it every day for months and years to come.

It’s not about working all-day

One of the things that readers noticed when looking at the daily schedules of the people mentioned in the book is that most of them didn’t spend vast portions of their day on work. Instead, what they usually do is have a block designated for work, mostly a few hours long, and not taking a big chunk of their day.

Most of the people from the book tend to work in the mornings, or in the case of the night owls, within 1 hour of waking up. This turned out to be the most productive time for them, and having focused work after waking up seems to make wonders to pretty much each of the 161 characters analyzed in the book.

Idiosyncrasies make this book a great read

For most readers, small details that provide a unique insight into the lives of the characters in the book make “Daily Rituals” a worthwhile read. Things that were specific to the one person, like writing only in the nondescript hotel rooms in the case of Maya Angelou, or writing lying horizontally in bed like Truman Capote, were very interesting for the reader.

Every person analyzed in this book was specific in their little routines and rituals, and it’s these small details that give this book value to lots of people. Some of the readers were so amazed by specific individuals’ habits that they kept exploring their life, reading biographies and other historical records after completing this book.

Coffee, alcohol, drugs

Among the things that shocked readers the most when reading this book was the number of substances consumed by some of the protagonists of the book. From drinking insane amounts of coffee, through alcohol and tobacco, all the way to heavy drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, and other heavy drugs, some of the artists couldn’t get through their day without consuming some of these substances on a regular basis.

The book records several instances of heavy drug use and how their helped people stay sharp, focused, and creative every day, enabling them to write 2,000 words per day regularly. Readers felt like having this type of lifestyle in the present time is unacceptable and found it hard to relate and even imagine how these people managed to get so much done under the influence of heavy drugs.

Reading of Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

Lots of walks always help

Aside from having any kind of routine, one thing that most of the individuals from the book have in common is the utilization of walks to unwind and think about things. Readers noticed that many characters found daily walk extremely valuable for their creativity.

Artists usually utilized walks after hard work sessions as a way to decompress and unwind while also keeping their brains working in the background. Many great ideas originated from these walks, and this is one of the things that readers felt like they needed to start incorporating into their daily routines as well.

Lack of women

The one major complaint on “Daily Rituals” is the fact that, out of 161 people featured in the book, only 27 were women, which is not a surprise considering the fact that most of the people whose routines are described in the book come from the previous centuries. This made some of the female readers much less interested in the book and less relatable to the modern age readers.

Additionally, when women were mentioned in the book, it was usually as a “supporting cast” to the artists, described as housewives who made that children were taken care of, the house was clean, and the food was served on the table. This made some of the readers angry and disappointed with the lack of presentation of female artists and stereotypical portrayals of women in the 19th and 20th centuries.