You can’t do very much reading about creativity without bumping into Leonardo Da Vinci. In the last month I’ve read a couple of books about him, and what I didn’t know was unsurprisingly profound, although I had thought I knew the broad strokes.
One of the most interesting things I read concerned his work habits.
When I was trying to gear up to write my book, as I’ve mentioned, I read a lot about how to write. No question surfaced more frequently than “How much should I write every day?” As if there was an exact answer. Of course, pretending there was an exact answer allowed me to keep stalling as I searched for it.
Leonardo would sometimes work for many, many hours in a row. This pleased his well-paying patrons immensely. But at other times he would put down his brush and vanish. This did not please his well-paying patrons quite as immensely. Sometimes he would stare at a painting without ever touching a brush. Sometimes he would work for a couple of strokes and then leave.
When they asked him what he thought he was doing skipping out on the party, he would basically tell them that you couldn’t schedule his genius. Sometimes he needed to be in front of the work-in-progress, sometimes he needed to be away from it. Sometimes working for two days straight without a break produced results, sometimes it would have been counterproductive.
My own habits
That whole “I-know-when-I-should-be-working” thing sounds wonderful to me, but I’ve never been able to make it work. So far nothing produces results for me like daily writing. I don’t do word counts or time limits. Some days I might only write 100 words on a break at work, but then there are days when I will bang out 4,000 without giving the clock a second thought.
If I get out of the habit, I feel like I lose it. I don’t yet (if I ever will) have the confidence to step back and know that I will realize that it’s time to jump back in.
What about you? Whatever your artistic endeavor, what are your habits like? Are you a Leonardo? Do you need consistency to stay creative?
PS: For a quite-insane look at the creative need in novel form, I highly recommend that you read my book review of The Gargoyle.
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