Bad Advice Wednesday: Steal from the Great

categories: Cocktail Hour


Balzac, After cup # 36

     As I’ve mentioned here before, I am teaching a class called “The Writing Life,” and before each class we have gotten in the habit of reciting a little benediction.  Specifically, I read a couple passages from Mason Currey’s new book,  Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration And Get To Work.  It’s a terrific book, full of short passages that describe the routines of some of history’s greatest writers, artists, and scientists.  You can learn about Balzac gulping down his fifty cups of coffee, or Margaret Mead getting up at 5, or, conversely, Jackson Pollock starting each day bright and fresh at 1 pm. Read a few of these and you will discover they are contagious. they all convey the excitement–the thrill really–of doing creative work. 


 Oliver Burkeman, in a review in the Guardian, admits that there is great variety among the lives and habits of the great, but then aptly boils the book down to “six lessons from history’s most creative minds.”


1.  Be a Morning Person (With exceptions)

 2. Don’t Give up the Day Job (You know that free time you’ve been longing for? It might kill you. Or at least drive you crazy.)

3. Take a Lot of Walks (duh)

4. Stick to a Schedule (ditto duh)

5. Practice Strategic Substance Abuse (Coming in at number 1, the once and forever champ–coffee.)

6. Learn to Work Anywhere (Best line: “Get over yourself.”)


Sound familiar?

One other thing these folks clearly had in common: they must have all read their Bill and Dave’s Bad Advice.










  1. Tommy writes:

    You got a link for Brant’s Requiem?

  2. Tommy writes:

    Pretty simple, this Bad Advice (TM) stuff isn’t so hard after all.

    Really loved the Outside article, David, congratulations on placing it in a magazine with a large distribution!

  3. thierry kauffmann writes:

    Parkinson helps too 🙂

  4. An Alewife writes:

    A classic!

    What did you do to get Dave to want to quit?

    • Bill writes:

      I don’t know, but I think Dave should retire more often! He’s on a roll, like roast beef, lettuce and tomato!