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March 25, 2017 · 3 min read

Self-employed? Read this book on personal efficacy

I stumbled across a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work while I was reading Tim Ferriss’s blog several months ago.

Daily Rituals is a book about the daily habits of famous artists, filmmakers, comedians, authors, mathematicians, poets, and scientists. Basically, it’s a book about what the world’s most prolific creators do every day to consistently produce great work.

Interesting, right?

As a self-employed professional, I’m always looking for ways to improve my personal efficacy. This probably doesn’t seem like a surprising ambition to those of you who are reading this article — over 78% of The Dispatch’s readership are either freelancers or entrepreneurs in search of ways to do exactly the same thing.

At any case, I purchased an audiobook version of Daily Rituals on a Tuesday morning. That weekend, I took an impromptu road trip from Nashville, TN to Washington, DC just so I could block 7~ hours of time to listen to the book all the way through.

Daily Rituals is really that good.

Some math I particularly enjoyed:

  • Out of the 161 artists profiled, 113 (or 70.2%) began work in the morning.
  • The remaining 48 artists who rose late still began to work within 2 hours of getting up
  • 83 artists consumed more than ~20 ounces of coffee or tea per day
  • 103 artists consumed alcohol in excess (more than 1~ drink) every day
  • 62 artists consumed some form of tobacco while working
(Author’s note: Leave me a little margin for error in my counts – I kept only mental notes. The point is that great artists loved stimulants…and so do I. Stay tuned because we’re going to put out a ‘Hacker’s Guide to Stimulants’ soon.)

Out of the 161 separate sets of daily rituals, I found that two really stood out. They were both the routines of highly-productive authors, and yet so different from one another.

Whenever Haruki Murakami was writing a novel, he’d wake up at 4:00 A.M. and work for five to six hours straight. In the afternoons, he’d run or swim (or both), run errands, read, and listen to music. He’d go to bed by 9:00 P.M.

Thomas Wolfe discovered one night that the only way he could stave off writer’s block was to fondle himself while he wrote. Also, he was too tall to use a regular desk, so he wrote with his papers on a refrigerator. Thomas Wolfe created his best work spending his evenings touching himself while writing under the moonlight.

No doubt, great artists are work-obsessed weirdos. I found it refreshing that Mason Currey, author of Daily Rituals, was honest in his portrayal of this reality.

There’s 159 stories just like these. I highly recommend you picking up a copy of Daily Rituals — especially if you work for yourself. Who knows? It may give you a few ideas for your own moonlit rituals.

Buy the book!