How Some Famous Creatives Worked.

This is a fascinating infographic from Info We Trust regarding the daily habits of some famous creative individuals. I’ve included my own observations based on the data below the image. You can click on the image to see it full-size.

The routines of some famous creative individuals.
The routines of some famous creative individuals.
  • Length of Work: Gustave Flaubert (5.5), Ludwig Beethoven (8), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (12), Thomas Mann (8), Sigmund Freud (12.5), Immanuel Kant (11), Maya Angelou (9), John Milton (8), Honore de Balzac (13.5), Victor Hugo (2), Charles Dickens (5), W.H. Auden (11.5), Charles Darwin (10), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (6), Le Corbusier (8.5), Benjamin Franklin (8).
    • Note that several individuals (4) worked relatively short days – Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, Dickens, and Tchaikovsky.
    • Others (6) worked exceptionally long days – Mozart, Freud, Kant, Balzac, Auden, Darwin.
      • Note that Mozart and Kant both spent four hours working at their ‘real work’ – the rest was their ‘desired work.’
      • Freud may have utilized an addiction to cigars to power through the days.[1] Similarly, Balzac used up to fifty cups of coffee a day to power through his lengthy work hours. Auden meanwhile utilize a stimulant (benzedrine, similar to amphetamines) to work long hours, crashed hard afterwards with vodka, and slept only with the use of a barbiturate (seconal). Finally, Darwin utilized snuff during the work day, reading makes up two hours of his work day, and solving problems while awake at night in bed consumes another two.
      • Overall, this indicates to me that the individuals in general either required addictive substances to retain focus and allow for the longer creative hours or that they worked in the sense we would consider work less hours, but then were productive in other areas for numerous other hours.
    • Some (6) worked average days – Beethoven, Mann, Angelou, Milton, Le Corbusier, Franklin.
  • Sleep: Flaubert (7), Beethoven (8), Mozart (5), Mann (9), Freud (6), Kant (7), Angelou (7.5), Milton (7), Balzac (8.5), Hugo (8), Dickens (7), Auden (7), Darwin (8), Tchaikovsky (8), Le Corbusier (7), Franklin (7).
    • None of these individuals slept less than 5 hours nightly. Only Mozart and Freud sleep significantly less than 8 hrs.
    • Seven hours per night appears to have been the average (8), though a decent number slept 8 (5).
    • Only two slept more than 8 hrs.
    • Only three napped during the day – none for longer than an 1.5 hours.
  • Exercise: Flaubert (1), Beethoven (2), Mozart (0), Mann (.5), Freud (1), Kant (1), Angelou (0), Milton (4), Balzac (.5), Hugo (2), Dickens (3), Auden (0), Darwin (1.5), Tchaikovsky (2), Le Corbusier (.75), Franklin (0).
    • A significant number did not exercise at all (4).
    • Most seemed to prefer walks (9).
    • A few emphasized strenuous exercise (4).

I hope someone will work on further expanding this data set. This infographic is fascinating – but far too limited to derive significant conclusions about the type of schedule that creatives have utilized historically. For example, I feel that Winston Churchill and JFK would need to be included (both of whom took lengthy afternoon naps), it would be interesting to see more religious individuals (e.g. Calvin, Luther, Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa), and also an analysis of the existence (or non-existence) of social relationships (this shows that they ate meals, but not necessarily how much time was spent interacting with family/friends). 

  1. [1]Also, 2.5 hrs. were spent reading – most likely a leisurely activity for Freud in some senses.

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