Creativity & Discipline

We somehow tend to associate creativity with unkempt looks, clumsy desk and people who live on their own terms and follow no rules. In this HBR blog post The Daily Routines of Geniuses, Sarah Green picks up Mason Curry’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists work and summarizes the book for us. She demystifies the myth that artists do not work in a disciplined way. On the contrary, most of them follow strict disciplines and routines for their creative work.

In summary, she says most artists need a work space where there is no distraction and they measure their daily output which essentially means they have set targets for themselves and they like to track their daily progress against it. They all divide their time between the creative work and the other mundane work like answering the mails. They do not mingle the two as we tend to do in the era of e-mails when every new e-mail is a potential distractor for us and interrupts our work. So the time of pure work is no distraction work and this is usually 2-4 hours per day which I think is the limit of the human brain to do hardcore creative work.

Next, she talks about how most of them have a walking routine – that sometimes runs into hours together and this is their thinking and introspective time. This is what feeds their creativity and this is the time where they intuitively plan their work. For most of them, this is non-negotiable. A helping and understanding partner also helps these geniuses in their work by taking care of their day to day works and providing them time and space to do the work they are best at. Sarah is not convinced about the limited social lives of these people as they are often seen in public, but I think I know what Curry might have meant by that – they have no time – physically and mentally to engage in socializing, so they are kind of living in isolation.

I have personally interacted with many authors and most successful authors have a strict working routine that they follow to the T. Julian Cameron in her book The Artists Way talks about the rituals that can help blocked artists. She recommends creating rituals so that your creativity can flow.

Anuradha Goyal