WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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Creativity: Maybe, but Not Necessarily, a To-Do List

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My most resourceful friends continually reaffirm my beliefs about the creative muse:  She’s no flake.  Those who innovate and invent in the greatest quantity and highest quality work in consistent and structured ways.  They face their pens, easels or stages whether or not they think they have the next great thing.

In Daily Rituals:  How Artists Work, Mason Currey compiles a range of renown creators’ practices.  Like my friends, most work or worked in consistent, disciplined ways.  That doesn’t mean they left superstition or vice behind, some of which are noted below.  I’ve got 1 and 8 covered.  I drink a fair amount of coffee, so I’m making headway on 3.  I’ve got a little of 5 and wouldn’t mind 7 a bit.  Watch out world, here I come.

1)    ECCENTRICITIES GALORE

. . . I rise early almost every morning, and sit in my chamber without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season. . .
— Benjamin Franklin (Founding Father & Inventor, 1706 – 1790)

In company:  Edith Sitwell (Poet, 1887 – 1964), Vladimir Nabokov (Writer, 1899 – 1977), Georges Simeon (Novelist, 1903 – 1989), and Erik Satie (Composer & Pianist, 1866 – 1925), Buckminster Fuller (Designer & Architect, 1895 – 1983)

2)    TENDENCIES TOWARD WORKAHOLISM

. . . it’s not work, it’s not work, it’s my life.  It’s what I do.  It’s what I like to do.
— Stephen J. Gould (Evolutionary Biologist, 1941 – 2002)

In company:  Jonathon Edwards (Theologian, 1703 – 1758), Margaret Mead (Cultural Anthropologist, 1901 – 1978), Somerset Maugham (Writer, 1874 – 1965)

3)   STIMULANT (WHETHER COFFEE OR AMPHETAMINES) & ALCOHOL INGESTION

A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.
— Paul Erdós (Mathematician, 1913 – 1996)

In company:  Ludwig van Beethoven (Composer, 1770 - 1827), Jean-Paul Sartre (Philosopher, Writer & Activist, 1905 – 1980), W.H. Auden (Poet, 1907 – 1973), Edmund Wilson (Essayist & Critic, 1895 – 1972), Ayn Rand (Writer, 1905 – 1982)

4)    INSOMNIA OR A PREFERENCE FOR NIGHT HOURS (PERHAPS, BUT NOT ALWAYS, DUE TO 3)

I tend to follow a very nocturnal sort of existence, mainly because I don’t much care for sunlight.
— Glenn Gould (Pianist, 1932 – 1982)

In company:  Louise Bourgeois (Artist, 1911 – 2010), Jean Stafford (Writer, 1915 – 1979), Marilynne Robinson (Writer, b. 1943)

5)    MOODINESS (PERHAPS, BUT NOT ALWAYS, DUE TO 3 & 4)

It will appear like a calm existence.  The turmoil is invisible.
— Maira Kalman (Illustrator, Artist & Designer, b. 1949)

In company:  Ann Beattie (Writer, b.1947), William James (Philosopher & Psychologist, 1842 – 1910)

6)    RIGID SCHEDULES

I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get of my routine.
— Leo Tolstoy (Writer, 1828 – 1910)

In company:  Simone de Beauvoir (Writer & Activist, 1908 – 1986), Ingmar Bergman (Filmmaker, 1918 – 2007), Anthony Trollope (Writer, 1815 – 1882), Twyla Tharp (Dancer & Choreographer, b. 1941), Joan Miró (Artist, 1893 – 1983)

7)    WIVES OR LONG-TERM FEMALE COMPANIONS WHO PROTECT SAID SCHEDULES

Miss Stein likes to look at rocks and cows in the intervals of her writing.  The two ladies drive around in their Ford till they come to a good spot.  Then Miss Stein gets out and sits on a campstool with pencil and pad, and Miss Toklas fearlessly switches a cow into her line of vision.  If the cow doesn’t seem to suit Miss Stein’s mood, the ladies get into the car and drive on to another cow.
— Janet Flanner, James Thurber, & Harold Ross on Gertrude Stein (Poet & Writer, 1874 – 1946) and her lifetime love, Alice B. Toklas.

In company:  Gustav Mahler (Composer, 1860 – 1911), Alexander Graham Bell (Inventor, 1847 – 1922), and James T. Farrell (Writer, 1904 – 1979)

8)    CREATIVITY IN BED (GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER; MANY CREATIVES WORK IN BED)

I’m a completely horizontal author.
— Truman Capote (Writer, 1924 – 1984)

In company:  Patricia Highsmith (Writer, 1921 – 1995), Voltaire (Writer & Philosopher, 1694 - 1778), Marcel Proust (Writer, 1871 – 1922)

Resources & References

  • Currey, M. (2013).  Daily rituals:  How artists work.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Photo Credit:  Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library. (1934). Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, November 4,1934. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47db-c3b8-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

CreativityWhitney Cain