Get insight into how creative people produce their work

Written by on January 25, 2009 in Food and Miscellany, Notes By The Way with 4 Comments

Are you creative? Photograher, artist, writer??

Here is a blog about the daily routines of people who have written, painted, and otherwise expressed their way into history. It’s fascinating to glimpse how these people operate, and there are clear patterns. I was personally impressed by all the writers who do their best work early in the morning. Creativity and inspiration alone is sheer frustration; the great ones have the discipline and drive to get it out on paper.

I get up every morning at 5 a.m. simply because it’s more exciting to start working than to turn around and sleep some more. I do seem to have a lot of energy. After enjoying a giant pot of coffee and a medium-sized cigar for breakfast, I start my daily schedule of little experiments. This is coming along very well. – Stefan Sagmeister (Feb 2009)

5am?? Ouch.

I never quite know when I’m not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, “Dammit, Thurber, stop writing.” She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph. Or my daughter will look up from the dinner table and ask, “Is he sick?” “No,” my wife says, “he’s writing something.” – James Thurber (1955)

My wife can relate to this…not sure if it’s good, though, to always be creating. The mind needs rest.

I have a very firm schedule. I must wake up at six a.m. or I feel very guilty. I write from 6:30 to 10:30 six days a week, like a soldier—no interruptions. – Alaa Al Aswany (Sept 2006)

Again, it’s a discipline.

I don’t believe in writing at night because it comes too easily. When I read it in the morning it’s not good. I need daylight to begin. Between nine and ten o’clock I have a long breakfast with reading and music. After breakfast I work, and then take a break for coffee in the afternoon. I start again and finish at seven o’clock in the evening. – Gunter Grass (1991)

I really like this line: “…it comes too easily.” Also, note that his day begins with breakfast at 9am with a long breakfast, music, and a book. It that were me, I think I’d go right on like that all day. Once he gets started he keeps working for many hours.

(H/T A Photo Editor)


About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray is a writer and photographer living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and working with Alongsiders International. You can find him puttering around the streets of Phnom Penh on his Suzuki Viva 125, running stoplights and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalks like a local. If you see him in a coffee shop, he'll be the one typing and deleting the same line over and over again. .


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  • Hiya mate. Sorry so busy right know that have not stopped by here for a while and glad i could catch you before you went off to Cambodia again. I used to write more but it takes time I don`t have these days. I like the quote from Stephen King about writing and success in genereal when he said: ” Talent is a cheap as table salt. The difference between a talented individual and a successful one is a lot of hard work.”
    Discipline is important too if you ask me having spent hours doing otherthings than the jobs I had to do. The day job (which in Japan takes up half the night aswell) excluded me from a lot of the workni should be doing but I hate when they stop calling, the people, the contacts, the men and women who could help you realize your dreams, i hate when they they grow tired of needed excuses, real and as that lesson is learn, the silence and subject changing that any struggling artist learns to spit, spite reserved for those that would keep you ordinary though they are the ones that keep you alive.
    Interesting what you wrote about the UK, our economy has tanked but i disaggree that we should live the enpoveraged lives many Japanese live to be realistic to the finaicial system created by those that profit from our servitude to them. Long holidays, warmth, purpose and pleasure surely these are the values of life, not luxuries and if we live in countries that can provide those theings to some it is the duty of those that have the power and the money to make sure all can live similarly. Japanese people are not living more “realistic” lives (though I agree that Britain has lived a fantasy for too long) No japanese people are being exploited more openly than would be permitted in the my country by people that are selfish intent on bettering their own postions at the expense of others. In britain every believed the lie that the ridiculous cost of living was somehow a sign of prosperity and their inablity to live up to it, a sign of their laziness or failure. When it was in reality a by product of the greed of a few. It crashed because even the stupid peiople are not forever blind and also the fact that most every British asset is owned by someone from another country, who bought it cheap from taxpayers who sold what was theirs for a quick Buck during the selfish era of Thatcherism when we were convoinced that short term gain outweighed long term investment. When their home countries started to tighten belts and grow scared of the global downturn the outflux of money was always going to hit us hard. it did and that is why a photo job i did yester day is now worth half the 80,000 Yen I would have earned 3 months ago. Don`t get pain in Pounds!!!
    Still struggling on though. Working hard though as you must yourself know it ain`t easy.
    But like the quotes, shows the differences between the ams and the might bes and the never will bes regarding attitude. I just think however that the odds are stacked against the ordinary person becoming anything these days much more unfairly than your latter post suggested. Even though they were differnt subjects.
    Sorry the disjointed mail, writing this on the hop between duties as is always the case.
    Take care

  • Good point about how different cultures react to being “exploited” (I guess it’s a matter of perspective whether that is the right word or not).

    Good to have you stop by. I haven’t been posting photos as often as I’d like, but that will surely change with the weather (I like taking photos in the Spring).

  • I am embarressed at the spelling in the earlier post, though to be fair it is more a case of bad typing as i was writing while my wife was talking to me and I was processing pics on another computer with a little Nihon-shu induced light-headedness all at midnight. Forgive.
    Really impressed with the pics you are posting though, however infrequent recently. It`s hard to get motivated to shoot when is is so cold or wet i know but sometimes worth it.
    I seem to have focus issues with my Digital suddenly: everything seems slightly out of focus. I remember your lens had to be tuned to the camera or something similar just after you got it, will check into that because surely my hands are not that unsteady.

  • Yes, I brought my camera and lenses to Canon in Shinjuku and they calibrated them. It was a free service. Actually, I was supposed to have Japan warranty cards for all the lenses to get this for free, but I didn’t. They must have had mercy on my though. Before taking the lenses there I put the camera on a tripod and tested them. I’m not an expert, but it was clear that they were focusing a few centimeters near or far (can’t remember which). After calibration they were right on target.