Lessons from the Daily Rituals of Creative PeopleSome of the most famous and innovative artists in history have had some unusual rituals to get their creative juices flowing.

The idiosyncratic work habits of Beethoven, Kafka, Woody Allen and others are chronicled in a new book, “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work,” written by Mason Currey, and described by Jessica Grose, a contributor to Fast Company.

What’s interesting is how so many of these wildly differing individuals stuck to a routine schedule of work to produce their timeless works of art.

Gertrude Stein, for example, worked only a half-hour each day, while some other writers described in the book labored for a few hours a day. But whatever was going on in their lives, they still worked on their craft at the same time every day.

Creativity demands rigorous focus and energy, which is impossible to maintain without taking a regular break.

Charles Dickens walked as part of his daily routine. Igor Stravinsky (who couldn't compose unless he was certain no one could hear him) did head-stands to “clear the brain” when nothing else worked. Others napped or drank coffee.

“When you step away [from the project] and turn your mind to something else, your mind is still working on it in some way,” Grose says.

Some creative masters learned to fit in their day jobs around the passions that really drove them.

Joseph Heller, an advertising executive by day, wrote the classic 20th century novel, “Catch 22,” for two or three hours each night after coming home from the office. Heller never claimed to be a “tortured artist.” He loved his daily job as much as he did writing “Catch 22.”

Interestingly, many of the artists featured in the book, Daily Rituals, found bathing to be a necessary part of their daily routines.

Writer Somerset Maugham contemplated the first two sentences he planned to write while soaking in the bathtub. Beethoven found it relaxing to stand at the washstand, walk back and forth, return to the washstand and “put water on himself.”  This odd ritual led the way to some of his greatest musical compositions, but annoyed neighbors because water kept getting splashed all over the place.

“It’s the repetition that leads you to getting into a creative state,” Grose states. “It’s not the rituals themselves … that lead you into this zone. It’s more that these artists tried to stick with the same pattern every day.”

Patterns and rituals clearly allow our brains time to breathe. And they greatly enhance the creative process. If it worked for Beethoven, it can work for you too.

What daily rituals do you have that get you thinking creatively?