Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

What more fascinating thing to read about than how artists work?
I bought a book about the daily rituals of a long list of writers and painters and it is wonderful to be able to browse details on how they approach(ed) their craft.

Anthony Trollope — a writer I haven’t read but whose books my mother is working her way through at the moment, and she loves him — had this to say about his processes:

All those I think who have lived as literary men, — working daily as literary labourers, — will agree with me that three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write. But then, he should so have trained himself that he shall be able to work continuously during those three hours, — so shall have tutored his mind that it shall not be necessary for him to sit nibbling his pen, and gazing at the wall before him, till he shall have found the words with which he wants to express his ideas… I always began my task by reading the work of the day before, an operation which would take me half an hour, and which consisted chiefly in weighing with my ear the sound of the words and phrases…

If he completed a novel before his three hours were up, Trollope would take out a fresh sheet of paper and immediately begin the next one. This is incredible to me. That a novel can be ‘finished’ like that, as if it is some kind of freaking measurable fixed unit rather than something that can be unrolled and almost be endless and that it’s only exhaustion or will that concludes it. And then you have to revise and revise. Where is the mention of revisions?

Trollope’s mother was an

immensely popular author in her own right. She did not begin writing until the age of fifty-three

Mrs Trollope sat down at her desk each day at 4:00AM and completed her writing in time to serve breakfast. She had six children and an ailing husband. OMFG. This idea of mixing creative writing work with domesticity is something Jane Austen mentions too:

composition seems to me impossible with a head full of joints of mutton & doses of rhubarb

What a lovely way to put it. I might add that to my Margaret Attwood-derived term of ‘plork’ – a mix of play and work that describes what it is a novelist does.

I’m about to drive 2/3 of the children down to Blairgowrie Beach, to meet up with my sister and her family. We will lie on the beach, chat and swim, I will take this book and read a few lines. Later we will have fush and chups and it will be mighty, mighty fine.

2 thoughts on “Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

  1. Love this, Jenny! I hope one day to have the time to follow Trollope’s lead (and you really ought to read him sometime) and devote such a sizable chunk to my daily writing practice. Until then, however, I am squeezing in minutes where I can and am more akin to his mother. I love that she didn’t start writing until later in life — gives a late-bloomer like me hope!


    1. I loved her later-age bloom too. Some of us can manage to carve out the time only later, so it’s great to know of these examples. Also great to read about other people’s approaches. I will read him sometime! I promise.

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