By: Jessica Reidy
Credit: Flickr/Angela Radulescu
Great work requires just that: work. However, discipline looks different for everyone -- maybe you're more of a night person and your mornings are better spent lazily making breakfast. Or, perhaps you know that you're sharpest in the morning and you need to hop to it.
Part of what makes looking at how talented, prolific people spend/spent their mornings so fascinating is the sheer diversity; there's no one prescription for success. Your morning ritual is your own and should reflect your loves, goals, and personal quirks. And there are a lot of quirks in this list. Looking at you, Beethoven.
Toni Morrison, writer
The last American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Morrison is a working girl's genius. While the canonically great men of the ages had servants and wives to support them because they were too busy staggering under the weight of their own brilliance, Toni Morrison had to get it done all on her own.
According to Mason Currey, author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Morrison used to write in the evenings, but in the '90s switched to mornings. She rises around 5am, makes coffee, and pauses to "watch the light come." She explains, "Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, the light is the signal in the transaction. It's not being in the light. It's being there before it arrives."
Marilyn Monroe, actress
Monroe may have pioneered the high-protein breakfast smoothie, but of course, the star's version stands out from the crowd of kale, mango, and almond butter that fills up Pinterest boards today. In a 1952 interview, she said, "I've been told that my eating habits are absolutely bizarre, but I don't think so. Before I take my morning shower, I start warming a cup of milk on the hot plate I keep in my hotel room. When it's hot, I break two raw eggs into the milk, whip them up with a fork, and drink them while I'm dressing. I supplement this with a multi-vitamin pill, and I doubt if any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry."
Joan Miró, artist
Miró struggled with depression his whole life, Currey says, but when he discovered painting, his illness became much more manageable. To keep his mental health and his artistic process healthy and productive, he created a disciplined morning routine, starting at 6am. First, he washed, then enjoyed his coffee and a few slices of bread. At 7, he painted in his studio until 12, and then engaged in an hour of vigorous exercise: boxing in Paris, jumping rope in Sweden, gymnastics in Barcelona, and swimming at Mont-roig, the seaside village where his family spent their summers.
Credit: Flickr/George Eastman House
Gertrude Stein, writer, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas
The modernist writer and her partner had an endearingly bizarre morning routine that revolved around the pursuit of cows and rocks. And while Stein relied on Toklas to take care of every detail of their lives "almost to the point of parody," as Janet Malcolm writes, somehow Stein's codependency manages to remain charming.
Case in point, the profile of the pair that appeared in a 1934 issue of The New Yorker: "Miss Stein gets up every morning about ten and drinks some coffee, against her will... After her bath, she puts on a huge wool bathrobe and writes for a while, but she prefers to write outdoors, after she gets dressed... Miss Stein gets out and sits on a campstool with pencil and pad, and Miss Toklas fearlessly switches a cow into her line of vision... When the great lady has an inspiration, she writes quickly, for about fifteen minutes. But often she just sits there, looking at cows..."
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