“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Gustave Flaubert

“Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Chuck Close

What is a routine? It is defined as that which is performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason. It has been said it is something we do automatically. I believe some of the most creative minds in history have had predictable routines day in and day out. Routines serve to free the mind, making the mind open for more inspiration.

When you wake up – do you get your coffee? Check you emails? Do you do the same thing every morning?  You may meditate, you may journal daily.

This is a fascinating subject to me – and if it is to you – I suggest you look into the book Daily Rituals, How Artists Work by Mason Currey.

“There are certain things I do if I sit down to write. I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8 to 8:30 somewhere within that half hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon,” Stephen King

“Routine in an intelligent man is a sign of ambition.” w.h. auden.

Beethoven made his own coffee every morning, counting out 60 individual beans for every cup. He then worked until 2-3p and then took abreak with his famous long walk (carrying music paper)


Beethoven walking

Beethoven walking

The composer Mahler also walked every day.  He would work until mid-day and walk to the lake for a swim. After lunch, he would take a 3-4 hour walk with his wife Alma.



The composer Igor Stravinsky always closed his window before he began composing – he wanted to make sure no one could hear him. If he felt blocked, he’d stand on his head -of  which he said “.. it rests the head and clears the brain.”

N.C. Wyeth woke at 5A and chopped wood until 6:30A. He would eat a large breakfast and then go to his studio. Before painting, he would write a letter, often driving to the post office immediately. Then he began painting.  If a painting wasn’t going well, he would tape cardboard to the side of his glasses to block the view from the window to help his concentration (why didn’t he get a curtain I wonder).

Joan Miro’ didn’t want to be distracted from his work and maintained a totally inflexible daily schedule (he was afraid of depression that that he suffered from prior to finding an outlet in painting). This included vigorous exercise, boxing, jumping rope, running. At 1P he had a simple lunch, with coffee and then had three cigarettes. ‘

In a 1782 letter to his sister, Mozart wrote:

“My hair is always done by 6 o’clock in the morning and by seven I am fully dressed. I then compose until 9. From 9 to 1 i give lessons….I can never work before five or six o’clock in the evening, and even then I am often prevented by a concert. If I am not prevented, I compose until nine. I then go to my dear Constanza…at half past ten I come home….”

Matisse kept a pretty rigid schedule

“Do you understand now why I am never bored? For over fifty years I have not stopped working for an instant. From nine o’clock to noon, first sitting. I have lunch. Then I have a little nap and take up my brushes again at two in the afternoon until the evening. “

Truman Capote wrote four hours a day, making revisions it in the evening or the next mornings. He wouldn’t allow more than three cigarette butts in the same ashtray at once. Also, he never began or ended anything  on a Friday (I think this is more superstition than ritual)

“I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched out on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to tea to sherry and martinis.”

Now – I think it is interesting to change up your routines and rituals occasionally. But, I’ve found out when I do – I always go back to the tried and true morning routine.  What do I do? I run a bath every morning and read! Some mornings it is 10 minutes, sometimes I have time to read 30+ minutes.  Yes, EVERY MORNING!  If I didn’t have access to a bathtub, I’d still read every morning. I try to journal and meditate in the mornings too, but it hasn’t become a routine yet! Someday hopefully.

One writer once said writing is

“connecting the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair”


What do you do?   Do you believe when you work regularly, inspiration strikes more regularly?



  1. Michele Bergh

    I love that you are doing a series of posts on this topic! I’m sorry if I missed it but are you considering doing an ecourse or something with these? Seems like a great fit. I’ve often heard of the power of routine and have also heard that’s why people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same thing every day…if you don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing, it frees the mind for other things so they just buy a bunch of the same clothes.

  2. Linda Watson

    I think routine is simply finding our natural rhythm of being in the world. It’s how our bodies/minds/souls can best function together and create what we are passionate about. Routines change, of course, as we age or realize new things, but remain constant and necessary. They are the foundation of my creativity, what sets the space for it to bloom but I don’t make them up. They are already there, waiting for me to hear them.

  3. Kama

    I love this post. We have a tendency to believe that routine is boring don’t we. However I do find when I fall in to a routine I do get more done which in turns gives me more free time. It was wonderful to read about all these creative people who stick to routines. Inspiring. Thank you.

  4. Harmony Harrison

    This post is fascinating. I just have to get my hands on a copy of that book! I was especially struck by the number of artists who worked a lot of physical activity into their days, primarily walking.

    As for myself, I’m working on developing some routines that work well for me. These days, an artist/writer routine needs to include social media time, which, as we all know, can be a bit of a time-sucking vortex. I hope to find my balance here soon!

  5. Deborah Weber

    How fun to read about the routines and rituals of famous creatives. While I do have everyday practices, I find my rhythms change with the seasons. But one think i do know – I NEED to get out and walk more. So much magic happens during walks. I’m not sure I’m up for Mahler’s 3-4 hour excursions, but I will be considerably more happy when walking means something other than trudging through winter snow.

  6. Janet

    Vickie, My biggest “routine” is accessing and following my intuition to the best of my ability. I sometimes wish I had more regular routines, but I notice that the variety feeds me, too. Currently, I’m happily gathering equipment and supplies for hand-dyeing fabrics, maybe this week!

  7. Kelly L McKenzie

    I laughed out loud when I read your “why didn’t he get a curtain I wonder.”
    Mahler would go for a three – four hour walk every afternoon? Wow. I feel guilty if my dog walk takes more than an hour. I really must get my priorities in a better order.
    So interesting that Capote wrote for four hours every day. I often write that long but it’s in fits and starts. Some days I don’t write at all and other days I write that long. I must get into a better routine in that regard.
    My tubs are at night. I always have one before I go to bed. Lovely to hear that you have one every morning. Most folks look at me like I’m crazy. “What? Don’t you have a shower Kelly?”

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