Live like Mozart and Beethoven. Review of the book “Daily Rituals”

Live like Mozart and Beethoven. Review of the book “Daily Rituals”

We think many of you have wondered: how did the daily routines of the great and famous people work out? Did they have to sacrifice something in order to achieve outstanding success? For example, sleep, or time to solve household or financial problems.

You can find out answers from one famous Mason Curry’s book “Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work”, which compiled information about the lives of 161 great man and woman, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Leo Tolstoy and George Sand, as well as Picasso, Haruki Murakami, and many others.

What’s this book about?

The title and cover of this book speaks for itself.

Live like Mozart and Beethoven. Review of the book "Daily Rituals"

It is the debut work of an American author who has worked as an editor for a number of famous media: The New York Times, Metropolis, Print, and Slate. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he is now known as the author of five works and a successful blogger. However, “Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work” is by far his most popular book.

The Brooklyn-based author analyzed the lives of geniuses in literature (53%), music (12%), the visual arts (11%), as well as prominent architects, scientists, choreographers and philosophers. The main conclusion is that all great people were committed to discipline and a planned regime of the day.

Of course, with all the famous classics it was strictly individual: some created at night, others in the early morning. Also, all these creative geniuses set themselves up for work in different ways: some needed fresh air for inspiration, some needed hot drinks etc. However, all of their creative work was built on a strong self-discipline. And this is at variance with the conventional wisdom: that these people, being geniuses, created their masterpieces spontaneously and many of them are appeared by chance, literally “out of their heads”.

So, let’s look at how the daily routine of the great geniuses was formed, using a few personalities as examples.


Live like Mozart and Beethoven. Review of the book "Daily Rituals"

He is a genius composer of the 18th century, whose music is known all over the world and plays in all operas and theaters. Mozart is perceived by critics as a “minion of fortune”, because he was able to compose music without any effort. However, he didn’t have much free time because he was literally torn between visits to influential patrons, concerts, and lessons he gave to earn money.

While in Vienna (1781) he described his day as follows:

  • Early rising (the composer had his hair done by six);
  • Composing music;
  • From 9:00 until lunchtime – lessons;
  • Then visits;
  • Then concerts;
  • Then a meeting with Constance Weber (Mozart’s fiancée);
  • Then composing music, which lasted until 1 o’clock AM.

And in the early morning it would start all over again.


Live like Mozart and Beethoven. Review of the book "Daily Rituals"

All people who have achieved outstanding success are “workaholics”. But what else distinguishes the daily routine of the greats?

Mason Currey discovered that many of the creative personalities preferred walking. For example, Søren Kierkegaard (the famous 19th century Danish philosopher) was so inspired by his travels that he would rush to his desk, forgetting to take off his hat or put down his cane.

Ludwig van Beethoven was also one of those geniuses who loved to walk. The composer always carried a pencil and a notebook with him in case he was inspired.

He usually worked in the morning, getting up at dawn. He would go for walks several times before lunch in order to be able to work until two or three in the afternoon. After a meal, the composer would go out to explore his surroundings, strolling until the evening. At the same time, he stopped by the inn, where he read, learned the news, and spent time in the company of friends.

Sometimes Beethoven visited the theater, but preferred to go to bed at 21:00. At the same time, in the evening the composer was practically not engaged in composing.

Sigmund Freud

Live like Mozart and Beethoven. Review of the book "Daily Rituals"

The daily routine of the most famous psychoanalyst of the 19th and 20th centuries can be an indicative description of the daily routine of great men.

Like all geniuses, he was a workaholic. His morning began at seven o’clock. The daily ritual was a light breakfast and an appointment with the barber (Freud carefully groomed his beard). The main meal occurred at one o’clock in the afternoon. Before that time, the psychologist received patients. After lunch, he would take an energetic walk, visit his publisher, and buy cigars, which he was very fond of. From 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. he again met with patients, after which he spent some time with his family.

Freud would edit the journal and write articles in the late evening, closing up in his office. His workday ended by 1:00 a.m.

Victor Hugo

Live like Mozart and Beethoven. Review of the book "Daily Rituals"

Many of the creative people were inseparable from sports. As Victor Hugo – a famous writer of the 19th century.

It is known that he spent 15 years in exile on the island of Guernsey. Describing the daily routine of great men, Mason Currey analyzes specially this period of Victor Hugo’s life:

  • The writer would rise at dawn and, after drinking two raw eggs, attend to his work;
  • Before dinner he interrupted only to give himself a cold dousing (which could be observed by ordinary passers-by, for Hugo did it on the roof of the house);
  • Lunchtime was spent receiving guests (as was the custom in those days);
  • The meal was followed by a two-hour walk or a long exercise on the shore, and a swim;
  • In the evening the writer sat down again at his desk, but only to answer letters.


Live like Mozart and Beethoven. Review of the book "Daily Rituals"

The routines of this great men demonstrate the ability to see the line between “what is important and what is unimportant”. They allocated the most unproductive time for the latter. This peculiarity is particularly well illustrated by the example of Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

The famous Russian composer kept a strict schedule. He, like many people, got up quite early – before eight o’clock. At 9:30 he already set to work, but first he did not do his favorite work: proofreading or reviewing personal correspondence. Before he got down to creative work, he got rid of anything that could distract him.

The maestro made it obligatory to take two-hour walks in the afternoon. Tchaikovsky considered them very important because he cared about his health. Before dinner the composer went for a walk again. By the way, it was at this time that new ideas came to him.

Summing up

In this book you will find many entertaining stories and little-known facts about great personalities. For example, the French writer Honoré de Balzac, who hardly slept at night, preferring a short nap during the day and drinking up to 50 cups of coffee a day!

Admittedly, Mason Curry has done a tremendous job of debunking the myth that the geniuses acted spontaneously, as “out-of-this-world” people. After reading this book we have seen that creativity without discipline is not separable, that the work of the classics was clearly organized, and they concentrated as much as possible on its activities, devoting it a lot of time.

It is noteworthy that all the great men kept track of time. Some of them even time-tracked their day and wrote everything in their notebooks. Ernest Hemingway, for example, meticulously counted his every working hour. He toiled from five in the morning, and worked standing up (!), setting himself the goal of writing at least 700-800 words every day.

Live like Mozart and Beethoven. Review of the book "Daily Rituals"

Berres Skinner, the ideologist of behaviorism, also kept a schedule of his activities. He used a timer while writing.

To be more productive, creative people took care of their physical activity, hiking, exercising, and did not neglect rest. However, some of them were not devoid of bad habits, from which they found it difficult to give up (Freud, for example, smoked a lot, Balzac couldn’t work without coffee).

Having studied the daily routine of great people, we can also conclude that many geniuses restricted themselves in communication and limited their social connections in order to pursue their creative work. This characterizes Simone de Beauvoir, the French writer and ideologist of feminism. Although there are opposite examples. For Picasso’s inspiration, communication was extremely important, so he was happy to host guests. But he did it no more than once a week.

You will find many such interesting facts in this book. If you are interested in becoming a creative, effective, productive and successful person, we highly recommend to buy and read it.

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