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.

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