Frank Lloyd Wright, the famed architect, used to wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning to work for several hours before going back to bed for a nap. He would then wake-up during the late evening and work for a few more hours before calling it a night.
There’s a lesson here, I’m sure. Perhaps waking up earlier every day could make you and I slightly more productive or creative, but I doubt it.
Both Einstein and Picasso were diligent readers, and both were wildly inspired by the brilliant polymath Jules Henri Poincaré.
While I’d like to believe that reading mathematical theories would make us more creative (and it very well might), I don’t think a passion for the writing of Poincaré was the trait that pushed Einstein to develop a theory or relativity or Picasso to paint the famous Guernica.
Why, then, do we care what the reading habits or morning routine was like for any of these men?
Believing that, if we follow the habits or rituals, or use the tools, of the creative greats throughout history, we’ll be more creative is a foolish mistake.
Yet how often do we indulge ourselves in reading about the habits or tools famous creatives once used? Or that those we are inspired by today use? This approach to tools and routines can be dangerous, as it becomes a “this or nothing” mentality, where we falsely believe can’t write, design, dance, sing, or start something until we have the tools that everyone else has used to do similar acts.
On her blog, writer Mandy Brown explains this point:
“[This is] fascinating because learning about the habits and techniques of people whose work you admire is endlessly interesting, and occasionally even imparts useful knowledge….But discussions of tools also tend to be far too precious, leading people to imagine that if they cannot wake early and slip out to their private writer’s cabin, then they cannot possibly write and so ought to stay in bed. The fetishization of tools is a mechanism for procrastination and should be rejected as such.”
If you don’t wake up before 9am and if you don’t read the work of Poincaré are you doomed to never be a successful writer, inventor, or artist?
The question is as silly as asking whether someone who has never taken an art course could become an artist. Of course they can (and you can too). Using the tools Picasso used isn’t going to make you a better painter. Similarly, waking up at 4 a.m. to work isn’t going to make you as inspiring an architect as Frank Lloyd Wright. It might, but I wouldn’t count on it.
We often look toward the tools and routines of creatives around us as not sources of inspiration, but as a road to guide us. This is a big mistake.
Foolishly, we do not see that the only road to creative success that we can walk in this life is one we establish ourselves. One indicator of that being true is the truth that nobody knows what they’re doing.
Recently on Huffington Post, Carolyn Gregoire wrote a tremendously entertaining piece on 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently. In which Gregoire uncovers the fact that many creative greats take the time for solitude, have a habit of following their sole passion, and surrounding themselves with beauty, amongst other things.
This information is not to be taken as gospel, because there is very little, actual truth behind it all.
Yes, there are traits that many creatives seem to share, but to believe that you can’t be a remarkable creative individual because you don’t daydream or because you work a day job is maddeningly wrong.
As Merlin Mann once wrote:
“My concern is that there’s a big difference between buying new running shoes and actually hitting the road every morning. Big difference. One is really fun and relaxing while the other requires a lot of hard work, diligence, and sacrifice…Ultimately, the tools that we choose for any purpose will only be as useful as our ability to use them effectively and to understand what their improved quality means to the way we approach our work (as well as the challenges that led us to seek out these new tools).”
Whether you drink coffee, sleep until noon, listen to quiet music while you work, or do none of those things: you can be on the same playing field as Einstein, Picasso, Frankl Lloyd Wright, myself, or anyone else in the history books or elsewhere.
You have to find what works for yourself. Yes, read about other people’s habits and tools, but don’t falsely believe that you must use those same tools to get the job done. The stories of others habits and tools should be simply a source of inspiration on things you can try yourself, if you feel so inclined.
Use what works for you.
Einstein designed by Roman Rusinov from the Noun Project