Writing Better: Learning from the book Daily Rituals

Aug 26, 2014 | Better Writing

I’ve been serious about writing since I was a kid. I’ve been serious about personal efficiency since I was a young adult. Naturally, I bought a copy of Mason Curry’s book, Daily Rituals and devoured it.

The title is a bit misleading. The book is about the work routines of one hundred sixty-one writers, artists and other creative folks. It’s fascinating reading. If you’re looking for some ideas about how to get your writing done, this book will provide a lot of them.

Some people, like Sarah Green of the Harvard Business Review, have mined the book for patterns. I experienced something different.

I noticed that some writers were very disciplined. Anthony Trollope wrote for three hours a day. He expected to produce 250 words every fifteen minutes. If he finished one novel before his three hours was up, he immediately started on another one. Great.

But for every writer with that kind of routine, there’s an Agatha Christie. She said:

“writing was a task which I performed in spells and bursts. I never had a definite place which was my room or where I retired specially to write.”

Articles like Sarah Green’s can give you an idea of what works for several writers. That’s a good place to start if you’re looking for ways to do better. But remember that there’s more variation than commonality among the writers in this collection.

And remember that circumstances can do a lot to shape writing routines. Many writers have produced first-rate work writing in the cracks of time of a demanding situation.

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