Thirteen Traits of the world's best creators


I must admit to being fascinated by the traits and rituals of the world’s best creators. To be the best in the world, you have to be different.

I study these daily traits and rituals. Many provide insight to genius. Others are completely useless, indulgent and can be discarded.

But to do great things creatively takes talent, flair and often a ‘devil may care’ attitude.

I’ll leave you to make your own choices of which of these daily traits and rituals exhibited by the world’s best creators are useful to you.

        1.    Knowledge of one’s biorhythms

Know when your body and mind works best. Are you a night or day person? Or both. Do your most important work when you are at your best throughout the day. Jackson Pollock liked drinking so he rose at 1pm for breakfast before commencing his painting in the afternoon.

        2.    Meditation

One of the big discoveries is that so many highly successful people meditate. There has to be something in this. David Lynch has done transcendental meditation daily for 33 years.

        3.    Sleep
The vast majority use daytime naps as a powerful tool to sharpen creativity. 

        4.    Walking

Going for walks to aid the creative process is a well-known ritual. Steve Jobs was known for holding ‘walking meetings’ with key people. Charles Dickens went for three-hour walks while crafting plot and character.

         5.    Indulgence of eccentricities

Confident creatives indulge their eccentricities. Truman Capote only wrote in bed. Steve Jobs had a helper hide a cheeseburger in a tree outside at 3pm each day regardless of whether he was there.  Freud had his beard trimmed every morning at his home by a barber.

        6.    Daily Goal

Many successful creatives have a daily goal that they set and drive themselves to meet daily. Steven King writes at least 2,000 words every day including holidays and his birthday.

        7.    Social Interaction

Social interaction is key to daily rituals in many cases. Andy Warhol famously spoke to his longtime friend and writing collaborator for one to two hours every day. He would painstakingly outline the prior 24 hours of his life and share gossip and pop culture. The friend would take notes and return it typed up to Andy as a diary journal.

        8.    Strict Routine

A strict routine is common but appears a particularly strong trait of composers. Strauss, Gershwin and Schubert all worked grueling schedules. Life was shorter then, and with so much to do, creating great work required a strict routine. 

        9.    Completion

Completion is the final step in a creative work. This is key. Charles Dickens was known to have a business-like regularity to his creative process.

        10.    Changing Themes throughout day

It is a common thread that many of the most successful creators adopted a routine of ‘changing themes throughout the day’. Without the convention of a 9-5 imposed world, they were free to run their own schedule. I am amazed at how these daily schedules packed in so much work, but still included a wide variety of other activities. Charles Darwin’s typical day included research, writing, walking, napping, reading, letter-writing and backgammon consistently for forty years with few exceptions.

        11.    Planned Distractions

Aware of the challenges surrounding the creative process, great creators scheduled what I’d describe as ‘planned distractions’. These planned distractions would be visits to the village, social interaction, walks, appointments and personal affairs scheduled to break up the rigor of the work. Woody Allen scheduled extra showers throughout his days while writing to assist with the creative process.

        12.    Vices

And oh do creative people have vices. Alcohol, cigars, drugs and sex are spread liberally through their memoirs. Do vices help or hinder?

        13.    Selfishness

To be truly great as a creator requires selfishness and indulgence. Producing great work requires disciplines beyond the normal man or woman. The time and commitment required to be great involves sacrifice. Many of the great creators had long suffering family and friends who had to tolerate their eccentric personalities, selfishness and indulgences.  

If you are interested in learning more about the habits of not only creatives, but a wider range of successful people, I recommend Tim Ferriss’ Podcast The Tim Ferriss Show and the book Daily Rituals – How Artists Work by Mason Currey.

Darren Bourke

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