Does the smell of rotting apples make you more productive?

Many of us imagine that creative types from illustrators to inventors waft their way through the day, just waiting for the muse to strike. For some, that may indeed be the case but for others, a self-imposed routine seems to be the route to success.

Franz Kafka wrote,“time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle manoeuvres.”

In Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals, he discusses the ‘subtle manoeuvres’ of some well known creative types – the ways in which they actually got their work done.

A full time job or feeling under the weather seem to be no excuse for avoiding the creative impulse: Anthony Trollope wrote 250 words every fifteen minutes for 3 hours each morning before he headed off to his job for the Post Office. Francis Bacon found his painting to be at its best when he was hungover: he described his mind as ‘crackling with energy’.

Suffering from creative block? Take a leaf out of Stravinsky’s book – he’d stand on his head to clear his brain. Mozart apparently believed that a good hair day would ensure his day started well so that was his priority before he settled down to work.

Beethoven insisted on 50 coffee beans per cup for his caffeine fix whilst David Lynch settled down to a chocolate milkshake at 2.30pm each day.

Gertrude Stein wrote for just 30 minutes a day; Voltaire spent 20 hours a day at his desk. Schiller was motivated to write by the smell of apples rotting in his desk drawer.

As you can see, this book isn’t a series of productivity hacks – if anything it shows that there is no singular formula for success which I guess is comforting. What each of these people have done is discover what works best for them and stick to it.

Today’s pebble for your consideration is this:

Do you know how/when/where you work best? If so, do you make this happen?

What do you think?


ps – this is my last post of 2013 so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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