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The 2 Key Habits of History’s Greatest Writers, Artists and Creative Geniuses.

A very interesting correlation across 400 years of the greatest writers, artists, poets, composers and other creative minds.

Jason Chatfield
14 min readJun 18, 2021

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“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”

— W.H. Auden, 1958

I just finished reading and re-reading two books about productive creative workers that had the same correlation in them:

  1. Mason Currey’s fantastic book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it for any artist struggling to establish a daily routine in whatever your new normal looks like.
  2. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s brilliant book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, which pairs perfectly with #1.

I went through Mason’s book and highlighted something I found as a very interesting correlation across 400 years of the greatest writers, artists, poets, composers and other creative minds detailed in the book. Many of the same ones can be found in chapter 7 of Alex’s book.

There are a few variations, but the very clear pattern is this:

1. Most artists work in solitude for around 3–4 hours, usually in the morning.

2. Many of them have a daily walk somewhere in their schedule, too, but that’s a less common detail.

W.H. Auden
Auden rose shortly after 6:00 A.M . , made himself a coffee, and settled down to work quickly, perhaps after taking a first pass at the crossword. His mind was sharpest from 7:00 until 11:30 A.M . , and he rarely failed to take advantage of these hours.

Francis Bacon
Despite his late nights, Bacon always woke at the first light of day and worked for several hours,

Simone de Beauvoir
I first have tea and then, at about ten o’clock, I get underway and work until one.

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Jason Chatfield

New York-based Australian Comedian & Cartoonist for the New Yorker. Obsessed with productivity hacks, the creative process, and the Oxford comma.