Book Recommendations

What does it mean to work hard?

Another Friday, and another book recommendation from Reality Is Fake. Today we present Daily Rituals by Mason Currey.

What do you do in the morning? Do you take a bath and ponder the first thousand words you will write that day? Or do you guzzle coffee before beginning a long day of painting? How about dictating new work to your secretary from the comfort of your bed?

No, you probably don’t do any of those things. But, do you know who did? William de Kooning, Sumerset Maugham and Voltaire, respectively. That’s according to Daily Rituals, a book by Mason Currey.

Daily Rituals presents an inspiring catalog of work habits of two hundred or so heavy hitters in the history of arts and literature. There is sheer entertainment value to this book, but in reading it, it is impossible not to make a mental note of some of these behaviors and wonder if adopting them in some modified form might help oneself in doing the Great Work.

There is also a benchmarking quality to the habits of some of these people. If Hemingway woke up at the crack of dawn each day and got straight to writing, maybe that is what it takes to achieve at that level.

Maybe. And it’s always true that any of us could be working harder. But this book reinforces the concept that hard work reaps the greatest benefit when it is applied to tasks that have to do with the central focus of our lives. Artists, composers, film makers, mothers, widget makers, bakers, fishermen and shepherds all do best when they cut wasteful work from their lives and redirect that effort into the main job.

Yes, sometimes we have to work that shit job so that we can pay the rent on the shitty apartment where we work on the shit collages that will one day evolve into our life’s Central Majestic Creation. But we must also monitor ourselves that we are running our split personalities for the ultimate success of that final reveal. The game is complex. It has to be complex, or else why even be in it? But to come to our death with only a trail of toil behind us and having built nothing bigger than ourselves is the essence of losing.

That is what it means to “work smart”–the management of the living, mutating, environment-responsive creature that we call “our strategy.”

And that is the foundation. Get that in order, make it habitual and minimize its time cost. Then you can move on to the important part, the brick laying. Which is nothing more complicated than working your ass off–on the right things.

Observe. Orient. Decide. Act. It’s not complicated.

In this context, Daily Rituals is a zoo-full of specimens exhibiting a great variety of properly oriented souls’ ways of acting. And every single one of those properly oriented people has this in common: they’re just a person. Just as you are just a person. If they can do it, why can’t you? And if you aren’t doing it, what is your reason?

And if you are doing it, Daily Rituals is a great inspiration for dedicating yourself once again to making The Thing, and living a life that actually has some meaning.


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