A new book called “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work" offers a glimpse into the mundane daily lives of some of the world's most productive and creative people, from Mozart to John Updike to Maya Angelou. Author Mason Currey shares some of the habits held by musicians and composers -- from drug use to rigid writing timetables -- and guest host (and singer-songwriter) Erin McKeown talks about her own creative schedule.
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Mason Currey, on whether he noticed any creative similarities/differences by field:
"I did notice some similarities between writers and composers having a harder time disciplining themselves to the desk for long periods," he tells us. "A lot of their routines seem to be about figuring out ways to avoid procrastination and blocks and get that time in every day."
On whether he was surprised at how rigid some artists' routines are:
"There are a lot of people who really did treat their creative activity like a 9-5 day job. They needed that structure in order to get to work every day, otherwise they would never get down to it."
On whether a case can be made for or against creativity aided by external substances:
"If you were going to make a case for anything, it would be for coffee -- that comes up over and over and over in the book. Beethoven believed that the perfect cup of coffee had 60 coffee beans, and he would count them out one by one for the precise dose in the morning before getting started at his work. I think some of it is actually the ritual of making the coffee as much as the actual caffeine -- it gets you into this mood or state of mind."
On Louis Armstrong's dependency on various drugs:
He was a lifelong pot smoker and he was hooked on all these strange herbal remedies. He had this special salve that he would apply to his lips before a show, and he was hooked on this herbal laxative called Swiss Kriss -- which I think is still on the market today -- he would take it religiously before and after shows. He even recommended it to all his friends, and had this really bizarre postcard printed up to give to friends of himself sitting on the toilet with the slogan 'Leave It All Behind Ya!'"