On wriggling through a creative life

Hi, my name is Mason Currey. I’m the author of the books Daily Rituals: How Artists Work and Daily Rituals: Women at Work. In them, I compiled mini-biographies of the day-to-day working lives of more than 300 writers, artists, and other creative minds.

Even after two books on the subject, I still relish reading about writers’ and artists’ daily habits. And I’m constantly running across new material that I wish I had gotten into the books.

Hence this newsletter. Every Monday, I’ll be sending out a new mini-biography of a creative person’s working day. Indeed, I’m thinking of the newsletter as a sort of slo-mo Daily Rituals, Volume III unfolding in subscribers’ inboxes week by week.

Each issue will also include additional material—irresistible quotes, biographical trivia, archival photos. As my next, non–Daily Rituals book takes shape, I’ll begin to share tidbits from the research. There will even be a daily routines advice column! (If you need advice about your routine or work habits, email me: subtlemaneuvers@substack.com)

The newsletter title comes from a letter Franz Kafka sent in 1912. Frustrated by his living situation and day job, he wrote:

Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.

That last phrase—wriggle through by subtle maneuvers—has always resonated with me. Since sustained creative work can be such a fragile, slippery thing, and since the world often seems to conspire to prevent uninterrupted stretches of time for contemplation and experimentation, the simple when and how of art-making can take on outsize importance. There are no easy solutions to this dilemma; each of us has to piece together our own system of strategies and compromises—our own subtle maneuvers—based on our goals, circumstances, and temperaments. And reading about how others have done it can be tremendously inspiring and comforting.

At least that’s my hope. Sign up below to get a new routine in your inbox every Monday morning. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

Kafka in 1910