In the past year, I’ve become fascinated with the idea of rituals. Not, like, the weird kind, where you have to do embarrassing things in order join some shitty club. More like the daily routine kind of rituals that inspire creativity and increase performance. Habits, if you will. We are creatures of habit, and those of us with the best habits tend to win in the end.
I decided to try out a new ritual, then. I tried listening to audiobooks between classes, so I bought Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.
Sadly, the ritual never took hold for me; I find it annoying as hell to listen to audiobooks. The pacing is too slow, and every time I hear a good idea, there’s no way I can stop and reflect on it comfortably. Also, I space out and, as a result, probably have 50% less comprehension. I could probably write a whole post on the negatives of listening to books, but for now, I’ll just stick to my paperbacks. The book did get me thinking though, about my rituals and those of successful mentors.
Some of my strange past rituals:
-I took a poetry class sophomore year where we had to write an original poem and share it for the class every two weeks. We also had to write a process log. My professor thought mine was interesting. I’d always write my poems in one sitting on Monday nights. But before I’d write them, I’d drink 2 cups of green tea, go for a walk, and then pour myself one more cup of green tea during my writing session. While I wrote, I only listened to very loud dirty south rap.
-First semester Junior year, unless it was finals or some other busy time, I only did homework one day per week. That day (Monday), I’d take a bunch of preworkout mix around 2 pm, go lift weights for an hour, grab a protein shake, and then do all of my active work (no reading or research) for the next 4 hours with the remaining energy.
-Still today, before important meetings or final exams, I do one of two things. Option 1: I drink black coffee and play a game of chess. Option 2: I wake up early, like at dawn, and grab a cup of black coffee and a cigar with a friend. No last minute studying or preparation allowed. Then, on the way to the meeting or exam, I always listen to Kanye West’s “Power.” I’m a strange dude, but I usually ace exams, and I don’t have bad meetings.
-As I noted in an article for RSVLTS.com, every morning, I wake up earlier than I need to, and I eat a big breakfast (always the same food: 3 eggs, 3 pieces of bacon, 1 grapefruit, and coffee with cinnamon), and I read for at least 30 minutes (twice a week, work out).
-I just added a new habit last month, as a result of a 30 day challenge: now, every night (almost every night) before bed, I journal and read fiction for at least 15 minutes. So far, it’s done wonders for my sleep.
What do you do before you write? Before meetings? Before you step on stage? Here are a few rituals of other people that I find interesting:
-Sigmund Freud smoked like 20 cigars a day.
-Hemingway woke up at 5am every day to write, even after a night of drinking (he was said to be ‘immune’ to hangovers). He also wrote standing up.
-Tim Ferris “wrote from 11pm-4am or so, fueled by carefully timed yerba mate tea, Malbec, and Casino Royale left on repeat in my peripheral vision.”
There you have it; we are all weird. There millions of other variations of strange routines successful people have used to become successful, many are direct opposites. Some work from 5-9 a.m, some work from 11-4 a.m. Some drink a shit load of coffee; other’s don’t. It’s important to find your groove, your flow, the state of mind that leads not only to a ludicrous corporate version of ‘productivity’, but to a more direct path to creative inspiration and mastery.