Book Review: Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

Daily Rituals is a fascinating insight into the lives of some of the great creative minds. For each artist, there is a snapshot into their routines and rituals. It is a book I expected to browse, to pick up and put down again, however, I found it compulsive, rather like watching a box set of a favoured TV show… ‘oh go on then… just one more.’

This book is right up my street. A closet devourer of the Sunday Times “Day in the Life,” perhaps it should come as no surprise.  Daily rituals but coupled with the promise of insights in to creative geniuses, such as Kafka, Hemingway, Mozart, Christie. The real gift for me in this book was standing back from it and trying to boil down the essence of the creative soul, and what makes them successful. It struck me that the old phrase ‘behind every great man, is a great woman’ rings true. Not in the pejorative sense, but that in most of the successful artists, is someone prepared to sacrifice their own lives in support of them. Wives, mistresses, husbands, and mothers. It also struck me the commitment to the ‘work’, and in a resulting driving discipline. Surprisingly, and perhaps reassuringly, many creatives work not obsessively (you seem to need to be fueled by drugs for that), but in three or four hour chunks of productive time. There they will work, rather not waiting for the muse to strike, but doggedly turning up. Of alcohol and drugs (uppers and downers) there was a common theme in the 1950s. Perhaps that was the creative edge of the day.

The last account in the book is a wonderful conclusion to the collection, in that the key to unlocking creative potential ultimately lies with the individual. Bernard Malamud says, ” Eventually everyone learns his or her best way. The real mystery to crack is you.”

A fitting end to a delightful and unusual book.

Dear 2016…

Enough now.

You’ve had quite a haul. There’s a post sitting in draft that is too sad, too negative, but perhaps that’s what you need to hear. Or I need to get off my chest.

You took my music hero very early on. David Bowie. It still catches in my throat when I realise he’s dead; no more new genius. Others you took too. Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Prince, Victoria Wood, Caroline Ahern, Ronnie Corbett, Terry Wogan, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, and recently, Andrew Sachs.

You messed up the political landscape. Made a path for hate and intolerance. Cost Jo Cox her life.

Donald Trump; can’t even go there.

You stole my health for a good chunk of the year. My ribs still ache. My lung is tight.

You put holes in my mother-in-law’s memory; ones that she is falling in to. Her husband, her rock, in hospital. My husband is now away more than he is home caring for them. Our family.

The father of my godson, the husband of one of my oldest, dearest friends, you have handed terminal cancer. He is 48. Today I heard of another that you have your grip around. Motor Neuron Disease taking over a body previously dedicated to yoga, and fun.

Enough already.

You shut me down, 2016. I became less. Did less. Achieved less. Felt less.

But do you know what. 2017 is coming, and may be it won’t take as much. But hear this. I’m not taking any more.

They say that you can’t change others,  or anything, but you can change how you respond.

Hear that 2017?

2016, you will soon be history.  Just to let you know, I intend to put up a good fight when your successor rolls in.