"In my personal life, if I don't have a project, I don't have any discipline." (Photo courtesy PBS.org)

“In my personal life, if I don’t have a project, I don’t have any discipline,” says performance artist Marina Abramovic. Discipline and daily ritual were one of the subjects of her 2002 piece The House with the Ocean View. Abramovic spent 12 straight days living on three open platforms in the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. She did not eat or speak, nor did she have any privacy: the rooms were open and spectators were even invited to observe the artist through a high-powered telescope. She had no escape: the ladders leaning against bedroom, sitting room and bathroom had rungs made of large butcher knives. (Photo courtesy PBS.org)

 

One Sunday in 2007 Mason Currey was sitting alone in the office of his employer—an architecture magazine—trying (and failing) to finish an article that was due the next day. Instead of getting down to business, he compulsively tidied his cubicle, made Nespresso shots in the kitchenette, and began searching the Internet for information about other writers’ work schedules. The looming magazine article was “written in a last-minute panic the next morning,” but Currey’s Daily Routines blog, a site compiling the work habits of artists was launched that very afternoon.

Procrastination takes many forms, and apparently, even has its occasional rewards. In an ironic twist for Currey, a project that started as a distraction from writing has been transformed into a new book from Random House, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Using letters, biographies, anecdotes, interviews, and diaries, Currey examines the creative routines of 161 writers, visual artists, choreographers, composers, filmmakers, scientists, and philosophers. Currey’s collection is full of entertaining and revealing anecdotes about everyone from Marina Abramovic, to Erik Satie, to Oliver Sacks and Jane Austen.

"It's easy to conclude that if you want to be a great artist you have to give something up. I certainly have felt that way in my own life. I compiled this book while also working a full-time job as a magazine editor, and you quickly realize that you can't do it all -- sometimes you have to sacrifice sleep, or your social life, or exercise, or having a clean house, or any number of other things." (Mason Currey photo by Stephen Kozlowski)

“It’s easy to conclude that if you want to be a great artist you have to give something up. I certainly have felt that way in my own l