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Eileen Obser | Daily Rituals

After reading a brief review in The New Yorker I ordered Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey from my local library. A title like that always gets my attention. We learn, through this collection of short essays, how famous creative people fought procrastination and got themselves to the desk. And Curry includes “writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, poets, philosophers, sculptors and scientists on how they create (and avoid creating) their creations.”

Mr. Curry launched a blog called “Daily Routines” on a Sunday afternoon in 2007 after searching the Internet for details on other writers’ working schedules. He found the anecdotes entertaining and decided that someone (he) should share this news with the world. Thus was born “Daily Routines” that same afternoon. A literary agent eventually e-mailed Mr. Curry “out-of-the-blue” and suggested it could be a book. It was sold to Knopf and now it’s out there for the world to enjoy.


The most famous blog-into-book that comes to my mind is the one Julie Powell started in 2002, while working her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In 2005 her blog/now book, Julie & Julia came to be, followed up with a film version, written by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep as Julia and Amy Adams as Julie.

While I have no illusions that my blogging will morph into a book, some of the successful blogs-to-books I’ve read about: Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip – Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica; Stuff White People Like: a Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions by Christian Lander; and 1001 Rules for my Unborn Son by Walker Lamond seem very clever and worthy of reading. Maybe some of you know of other blogs/now books out there?

I heartily recommend Daily Rituals to my fellow writers and artists, especially those who suffer from bouts of writers’ block, procrastination and indecision. That means nearly all of us. Author Curry, has collected 161 “inspired — and inspiring — minds” from centuries past (Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin) right up to the present (Oliver Sacks, Jonathan Franzen). After his introduction, Curry starts with W. H. Auden and ends, 233 pages later, with Bernard Malamud. A very detailed, 30-page Notes section on every artist and writer follows.

The book may not cure any of us of our procrastination, our fears and insecurities, but it’s great reading, in small doses, and you never know. After reading how Nabokov and Margaret Mead got down to work, learning how George Sand and Rachmaninoff disciplined themselves, and seeing photos of Flaubert’s studio at Croisset and Charles Darwin’s hideaway at Down House in Kent, we just might propel ourselves to our desks and finish that chapter, complete that poem, begin that essay.

My book recommendation is, of course, Daily Rituals by Mason Curry. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

Two quotes from the book:

(Stephen) King writes every day of the year, including his birthday and holidays, and he almost never lets himself quit before he reaches his daily quota of two thousand words.” Francine Prose: “When the writing is going well, I can work all day. When it’s not, I spend a lot of time gardening and standing in front of the refrigerator.”

18 Responses to Daily Rituals

  1. I have so many other things to do I don’t always get to the writing. I know, I know, that should be first, but I have a life too. For instance, today I’m getting ready for a family reunion (we leave tomorrow), I have the chapter I read to my critique group last night to fix, and I always read my email just in case I have some news I need to know–that’s how I heard about you blog. And by the way, nice to learn more about you fellow OTP author. Back to the writing, I hope to get at least a page or two written today.

    • Eileen Obser says:

      Thanks so much for your comments, Marilyn. I hope you got those pages written and that you’re enjoying your family reunion. I see you on Facebook and am glad to get to know you this way.

  2. pat shevlin says:

    What a wonderful place I have found myself in as a fledgling! See you in October! Stay calm and blog on!

  3. Eliz says:

    I try to do 10.30 to 12.30 weekdays. Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.

  4. Rita Kushner says:

    Eileen Mason Should write a recommendation For your soon to be published memoir. I am so happy That I will have your blogs To read. October 10 Will be here soon.

    • Eileen Obser says:

      Rita, I sent Mason Currey a copy of my blog yesterday (Friday). I haven’t heard from him yet. I hope he sells a few books as a result of my “review.” See you soon, my friend.

  5. Marie Beswick-Arthur says:

    Excellent recommend! I shall look for the book. I find that balance (in my writing life) is difficult. It’s often all or nothing. When it’s ALL it’s worse. Obsession. Thank you for this.

    • Eileen Obser says:

      Thanks for writing, Marie. I sent a copy of the blog to Mason Currey. I hope he sells some books as a result my posting this blog. I don’t know him but maybe I have a new writer friend.
      You’re so right — the balancing act in our writing lives is really tough. But we go on, right?

  6. Eileen,
    Love your “Obser”vations! Very catchy!
    I write every morning when I have a WIP. Having said that, I will tell you that my “every” is sometimes disrupted. There is life outside of writing, after all. (I didn’t say I was happy about that.) So, yes, sometimes other things need to take priority but they have to be pretty darn important to get me away from my computer when I’m working on a book.

    • Eileen Obser says:

      I’m glad to hear from you, Patricia. I try to respond to your blogs and, since I’m a newbie at this, I appreciate hearing from my OTP friends. Yes, there are so many disruptions for writers and artists, but somehow we manage. It ain’t always easy!

  7. janet berg says:

    I admire how disciplined you are to juggle so much reading and writing and now blogging. And I should add – teaching. Your students are learning from a real professional who balances it all; I’m sure they look forward to your next blog; I know I do:)

  8. Eileen Obser says:

    Thanks for this comment, Janet. I wonder if it’s discipline or insanity, juggling all this “stuff”– blogging is still another way to keep us from turning out novels and memoirs and poems. But I suppose the oldtimers Mason Currey writes about had other distractions that we don’t have today. We have to keep on keeping on, and get our work out there!

  9. marta chausee says:

    There’s plenty of research on the correlation between creative expression and procrastination. Doing other, non-vital things that one has put off for ages, before starting a creative project is apparently part of sorting and organizing behaviors. I comfort myself with that knowledge when I suddenly have to organize files, depilate, order the clothes in my closet my color and sleeve length, mass-load carbs, or watch TV before addressing whatever has me cowering in a corner of my brain.

    • Eileen Obser says:

      You are so smart — and so funny! I love your methods of procrastination, Marta, and can visualize you talking to yourself while you do those “chores.” I’ll think of you next time I’m deadheading in the garden, picking up the phone to speak with telemarketers, or collecting dust bunnies around the house — when I could be writing. Marta would understand, I’ll think. Yeah.

  10. I have to work so hard six days a week that I don’t have time for the “luxuries” of procrastination or writer’s block. Sunday is my day to write fiction, and when Sunday morning arrives I’m rarin’ to go. I treasure my Sunday routine, and maybe that’s because it’s the only day I have to write. Who knows? Maybe if I had more time for writing I’d lose my focus.

    • Eileen Obser says:

      I love that you devote your Sundays to writing, John. I just found out that my Monday class UpIsland (1 1/2 hour drive each way) may be cancelled. I’m so happy! That will give me an extra day to be seated in my office, doing what I want to do most — writing, like you. I’m going to try to follow your example and devote Mondays, not Sundays, to doing the bulk of new writing and editing. I’ll let you know if this works out. Thanks for writing.

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