Rise & Shine: The Morning Rituals of our Great Creative Minds

Tips & Stories

Rise & Shine: The Morning Rituals of our Great Creative Minds

Posted by Taylor Pipes on 11 Feb 2015

Posted by Taylor Pipes on 11 Feb 2015

This post is an excerpt from a longer post we featured with Mason Currey about tapping the rituals of our great creative minds. Read the full post here.  

How we start the day has a huge impact on our work.

Benjamin Franklin crafted his daily routine in an effort to accomplish good each day. Thomas Edison’s epic to-do list helped build his prolific inventions.

Mason Currey, author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Workresearched the productivity and work habits of our great artists, composers, philosophers, playwrights, scientists, writers, and poets.

The daily work rituals—and in many instances—the morning routines he discovered, provide insight into how some of our great creative minds started their day.

We recently spoke with Mason about making the most of your day in order to be successful in all you set out to accomplish.

Here’s our discussion with Mason about starting strong first thing in the morning.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 7.00.57 AM


We all start each day with the same amount of time. Does it matter when, or how, we start those 24 hours?

It definitely matters when and how you start the day—but that doesn’t mean that there’s one “right” way to do so.

In my research, I found great creative minds who woke up at 4:00 a.m. and who slept until noon (or later); who went immediately to work and who spent hours waiting for the proper mood to arrive.

What all these people have in common is that they devised a schedule and a set of habits that suited their temperaments and life circumstances—and that, in most cases, they organized their days (and, by extension, their lives) around creating the best conditions for their creative work.

Ben Franklin steadfastly planned each day. How important is it to start the morning off right? Should we all be asking ourselves, “What good shall we do today?”

Franklin’s schedule is another good example of how, I think, one’s routine should be tailored to his or her temperament. Franklin was, of course, a great believer in continual self-improvement, and his schedule very much reflects that. (It’s also worth noting that his famous daily scheme was his ideal schedule for the day, and not necessarily the one he actually followed most days.)

So I don’t think everyone should start off the morning by asking themselves what good they shall do that day—but I do think we should follow Franklin’s example of treating our daily schedule as an opportunity and a tool, and tailor it to suit our priorities in life.

What is it about the morning that works so well for some people?

Early mornings are a popular working time for many writers and artists, for a few obvious reasons. If you get up early enough, you can generally count on being free from visitors, phone calls, and other interruptions. And if you go straight to work on your creative project—if you literally put it first in your day—you can guarantee that your working time won’t be derailed by other commitments or temptations.

How can people embrace the morning to accomplish more earlier in the day?

I think the key is going to straight to work, with a minimum of pit stops along the way. And the more susceptible you are to distractions, the harder you have to be on yourself. Some people can read the newspaper and have breakfast with their spouse and then get to work with no problem; others have to immediately get to work before doing anything else, or else risk losing the entire workday.

I think you have to really take stock of your weaknesses and then craft a schedule that protects you from your worst habits.



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39 Comments RSS

  • CJ

    I like to write my blog in the a.m. or early afternoon. I find that my brain is most creative from 8 to 10 at night when its tired.

  • Scott

    This is the type of positive help that makes Evernote more than a program or a cloud.

  • Joel R. Jeune

    Good stuff

  • Catherine

    This is what drew me to read the article “…… looks at the everyday habits of 161 creative minds to learn how they overcame distractions to accomplish big things.” I was poised to receive some very interesting tidbits about some of the morning rituals of our great creative minds, and what I got was a two sentence blurb on Franklin and Edison, and one question specific to Franklin…. that’s it. The rest of the article was composed of the conclusions of the author, and no examples from the research. Was I expecting 161 examples or stories…. no, of course not. But the interviewer really didn’t ask any questions relevant to the title of this article either. Who did the author research? Some of our creative minds can also be somewhat eccentric… I was looking forward to hearing about some interesting habits they had to stay focused. Were Franklin and Edison the only two who worked in the morning? Did everyone else sleep in? I’m left wanting more……

    • Barojg

      I think we have to buy the book.

    • JBL

      If the author was aiming to get us to buy his book, then he failed! There was no substance or tidbit that got me interested in looking at the book.

      • Robin Musselman

        You might be interested in this book review from NPR http://www.npr.org/2013/04/30/179286560/daily-rituals-of-the-brilliantly-creative – I heard an interview with the author and was very intrigued – although I still haven’t read the book.

        • Taylor Pipes

          Robin, Thanks for putting this on our radar. We will definitely check it out!

    • Glenda

      I agree, article was sorely wanting from the standpoint of usefulness. I had already decided I would like to read the book before beginning to read the article. I was interested in learning some useful and insightful tidbits, a bit more meat. Something that would make it worth sharing this article on Twitter. I am not interested in sharing this. I will write a review myself when I finally read it. Maybe the link to the previous author discussion is the clue and that is where more value lies.

    • Joshua

      Good article, and relevant information for those of us who are notoriously unorganized, but the title does lend itself towards “click bait”.

    • Timothy Buss

      Yes Catherine, that’s what I was hoping for too. In fact I was already to cut-and-paste the 161 things I expected to be listed and put them into a Evernote. I feel your frustration. I got the link for the book and bookmarked it. Maybe I’ll get it.

      • Taylor Pipes

        Here is an infographic that we just discovered that extrapolates some of Mason’s research to profile 16 of the 161 people he researched.


    • TKB

      +1 on the disappointment in the deceptive title. This was simply a sales pitch to buy a book (paid by author I’m sure) and a promo for Evernote. It certainly was not Morning Rituals of Creative Minds as stated in the title. Here’s a note to self, don’t click through on Evernote’s email spam even if it sounds interesting. Oh, and time to unsubscribe.

      • Taylor Pipes

        We’re sorry to hear you were disappointed. There was no compensation paid to the author of this book. In addition to providing tips to using Evernote, our goal is to curate interesting content related to helping our community and readers be inspired to work more productively.

    • Keith

      AKA “Click Bait”

    • Shae

      I totally agree with you Catherine! I was expecting a bit more, definitely enough to make me want to buy the product. Regardless, I still took a little something from the article. 🙂

    • TCH

      I agree; if you’re going to offer some great insight then put at least a bit of meat on the article. There wasn’t enough of a tease for me to want to read the book or follow up on the author.

      • Taylor Pipes

        We linked to the longer format of our interview with Mason in this story, but here is the link as well: https://blog.evernote.com/blog/2015/02/10/tapping-daily-rituals-great-creative-minds/

  • Tamara

    It seems like the person interviewing the author has an obvious morning bias. Not everything wonderful happens before 9am.

    • Taylor Pipes

      This article was specifically geared towards understanding the morning rituals of the creative minds Mason featured in his book.

      We have the longer, more detailed interview here: https://blog.evernote.com/blog/2015/02/10/tapping-daily-rituals-great-creative-minds/

      • Jocelyn

        Thank you for sharing the longer interview – For future reference, it would have been nice to mention that at the end of the article itself! It will avoid a lot of unhappiness among readers.

        • Jocelyn

          Actually – why don’t you include the link at the end of the article now?

          • I Aze

            This was the article that should have been. It’s the right length, more informative, doesn’t feel like I have been click baited. Thanks for the link!

  • Benjamin

    Seriously…. don’t waste my time saying nothing…. you had a great tagline that got me reading, but if you stay so high level without helpful hints other than “do what’s best for you” you’re degrading the brand experience. I love evernote. But I will not read any more of your emails, because they’re not making the best use of my time.

  • Eric

    This was a really useful article right up to the highlighted statement at the end. Taking stock of weaknesses and crafting a schedule that protects you from your worst habits is an awful way to approach life, though, as an INFJ, I feel compelled to do just that at times. My pursuit is to take stock of my strengths and craft a schedule that maximizes my strengths. I find myself more susceptible to bad habits when I’m stressed, which means I’m at odds with myself, my neighbors, and/or my environment. Wouldn’t it be much more meaningful to find one’s sweet spot and live there?

  • :Donna

    I couldn’t agree more with this, especially the “discover your weaknesses” and “avoid distractions” part. I am still trying to figure out when to do what, but I DO know that when I wake up early in the day, I get more out of it than I do when staying up late at night. At least that’s how it feels and I also know it’s better for my health. It’s hard to break lifelong habits though *sigh*

    • Noel

      A few thoughts which might add to the collective mix of thoughtful replies:
      • Each of our patterns for maximum productivity are as unique as our own fingerprints.
      • And those patterns are likely continuously changing although for each of us there are ways of being and approaching life and work that are reliable across a lifetime.
      • No one ever nails this issue of productivity. Our patterns and capacities also continually evolve.
      • I find certain parts of the day better for some kinds of tasks and others better for others. Usually when I wake, my mind is bursting with creative ideas on projects I’m focused upon so I’ll go right to my laptop and get them down.
      • Personally for me, keeping a daily To Do list is vital. If not I tend to drift.
      • “Not too hot, not too cold, just right” (Goldilocks and the Three Bears). The right degree of structure loose/tight is vital for me. I’ll plan my work in detail, but give myself the flexibility to flow to a certain degree, always coming back to my one or two key priorities. If I try to control myself too tightly I tend to internally rebel.
      • If I’m fatigued, I’ll have things on my To Do list that are more rote or routine.

  • Jo Ann Trembath

    The mornings are absolutely the best. Great the day and get it going! Everything falls into place after that.

  • Judy Murdoch

    One thing often overlooked is the power of community & collaboration. I’m always looking for ways to mutually support friends and collaborators so we are working at our best.

    For example, I’ve asked people to call me at certain times to remind me to get to work or I’ll set up calls to brainstorm.

    So often we try to do it all by ourselves and there’s more power (and fun) in collaboration.

  • Mark

    Come on evernote – this post is devoid of any useful content. It is not worthy of being posted under your brand.

  • Mark

    The article was words without useful information.

  • Felicity

    I answered the questions myself and found this article to be very helpful in improving my morning ritual thinking. I am an artist an it connected.

  • Allen

    This article wasn’t particularly useful. I’ll have to keep that in mind when I get evernote emails :/

  • Karen Miller

    I actually do like to start the day thinking about what goodness I can share and make a positive difference in the day. It’s like smiling before you pick up the phone to speak, it makes you sound friendlier.

  • Sheila

    Nice. I see mixed comments but for me – short, sweet, and a little shot in arm to remember there’s no one right way, except to honor my best way. Thanks.

    • Taylor Pipes

      Thanks, Sheila!

  • Jolie

    Enjoyed the FULL article online. Thanks.

  • Dave Courvoisier

    Mornings don’t exist for me. I come home from my job as a TV News anchor at midnight. I stay up to work in my private home studio as a voice-actor until 3-4am, and then I sit down to write my blog article for the day (5-days a week, religiously).
    The “wee hours of the morning” are the most quiet of all, and I get an incredible amount of work done in those times.
    I still get 7-8 hours of sleep, and head back to work at the TV station at 2pm. It’s just what you get used to. I’ve been holding to this routine for 30+ years.

  • Jesus

    I personally like evernote. it helps alot