Young academics struggling with a heavy teaching load and the need to "get the book out" may be relieved to hear that many of the great artists of the twentieth centuries suggest that it is difficult to do more than three hours of creative work a day.
I take this conclusion from a book by Mason Currey that I blogged about earlier this week. It profiles artists and their daily routines, which Currey refers to as "rituals."
A few examples of these working hours:
Morton Feldman 7-11am
Mozart 7-9am, 6-9pm
Strauss 10am-1pm, 3-4pm
While many maxed out at three hours, others were able to do two
three-hour sessions each day though this did not necessarily mean that
they were more productive. Many told horror stories of writing only a
few good sentences on some days. Gertrude Stein wrote that she could only do about a half an hour of writing a day, but claimed "If you write a half hour a day it makes a lot of writing year by year. To be sure all day and every day you are waiting around to write that half hour a day" (Currey, 2013:51). Young academics take heart!
Most who worked longer hours (and even some who worked only a few hours each day) had either a wife who managed EVERYTHING or a servant. Sigmund Freud's wife "laid out Freud's clothes, chose his handkerchiefs, and even put toothpaste on his toothbrush" (p.38). Under such circumstances, couldn't we all write a masterpiece?