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Recipes for Success: The Rituals of 10 Iconic Creatives

From Maya Angelou to Frida Kahlo, discover the creative habits, practices, and good-luck superstitions of iconic artists

I am fascinated by the routines and rituals of other creatives. It is such a deep interest that I wrote and illustrated a book, Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, And Practices of Extraordinary People, devoted to the subject. While researching the book, I discovered how universal rituals are across different professions, borders, and eras.

Whether designing a logo, illustrating an article, writing a book, getting ready to perform, or any other endeavor, a ritual offers a way to focus. Regardless of your creative pursuit, here are some tips and inspiration from some extraordinary people.

Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, And Practices of Extraordinary People, by Ellen Weinstein.
Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, And Practices of Extraordinary People, by Ellen Weinstein.

Moving your body is a great way to get the creative juices flowing and into a focused frame of mind.

Haruki Murakami

Acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami has exercise built into his writing practice. He wakes up at 4 a.m. and goes to bed as early as 9 p.m. Running helps calm his mind and gets him into the mesmerized state he needs for his writing.

Japanese author Haruki Murakami built exercise into his writing routine.
Japanese author Haruki Murakami built exercise into his writing routine.

Anna Wintour

Editor in Chief of Vogue magazine Anna Wintour begins every day with a very early morning match of vigorous tennis for one hour.

Vogue's Editor in Chief, Anna Wintour plays tennis every morning.
Vogue's Editor in Chief, Anna Wintour plays tennis every morning.

Thom Yorke

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has adopted a pre-performance ritual of standing on his head for a few minutes before taking the stage.

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke stands on his head for a few minutes before a gig.
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke stands on his head for a few minutes before a gig.

Engaging with another passion can also provide a daily routine.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a news journalist before becoming a novelist. He would wake before dawn every day and read the newspapers before writing. Marquez's form of magical realism was rooted in the real. Eventually, these stories bloomed into such novels as Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez read the papers every morning before writing.
Novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez read the papers every morning before writing.

Frida Kahlo

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo created with plants as well as paint as her daily practice. She tended the garden of the home she shared with artist Diego Rivera, known as Casa Azul. The garden was filled with plants, fruit, and flowers, many of which were of Mexican origin and was a place of comfort and inspiration for Kahlo.

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo gardened for comfort and inspiration.
Mexican painter Frida Kahlo gardened for comfort and inspiration.

A room of one's own or a designated place to work can come in many forms.

Virginia Woolf

Author Virginia Woolf, who wrote such classics as To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway, was an early adopter of the standing desk. Like a painter, she preferred to regularly step away from her work to get a different view.

Author Virginia Woolf was an early adopter of the standing desk.
Author Virginia Woolf was an early adopter of the standing desk.

Gertrude Stein

American author Gertrude Stein, who lived in Paris, had a particular place she liked to write: in her parked Ford Model T., While her partner, Alice B. Toklas, ran errands, Stein stayed behind in the car, allowing her surroundings of the streets of Paris to influence her writing.

American author Gertrude Stein liked to write in her car.
American author Gertrude Stein liked to write in her car.

Maya Angelou

Renowned author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou would leave her apartment at 6 a.m. and go to a bare hotel room to write until 2 p.m. The only items she would bring were a legal pad, a dictionary, a thesaurus, a Bible, a deck of cards, and a bottle of sherry, and she would ask the hotel staff to remove everything from the walls of her room.

Author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou wrote in a bare hotel room.
Author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou wrote in a bare hotel room.

If you feel stuck on a project, it is good to have a place to go.

Theodore Seuss Geisel

Author and illustrator Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, kept an immense collection of 300 hats. When facing writer's block, Dr. Seuss would go to this secret closet and choose a hat to wear until he felt inspired.

Dr. Seuss would go to a secret closet and wear a hat to overcome writer's block.
Dr. Seuss would go to a secret closet and wear a hat to overcome writer's block.

A journal or sketchbook can be fruitful for ideas.

Akira Kurosawa

Acclaimed film director Akira Kurosawa relied on words and images to develop his unique visual storytelling style. The writing was essential to his practice throughout his career, and a notebook was always by his side. He would record his observations and reactions to books in his notebooks and said that reading his notebooks would provide him with a breakthrough when he was stuck writing a script.

Film director Akira Kurosawa took a notebook everywhere to record his observations.
Film director Akira Kurosawa took a notebook everywhere to record his observations.

Why not make a ritual of your own? A ritual can be a workplace, a schedule for when you work, an exercise routine to get you moving, break up the workday, and help when you feel stuck or unmotivated. Experiment and see what works best for you.

This article was written and illustrated by Ellen Weinstein (@ellen_1), an award-winning illustrator/author and regular contributor to The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and more. She illustrated the children’s book "Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity" and is the author and illustrator of "Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals and Practices of Extraordinary People". To learn more about Ellen's creative process, sign up for her Domestika course, Creative Collage: Telling Stories in Layers.

You may also like:

- 9 Self-Help Books to Boost Your Creativity and Mental Health
- What Is Ikigai and How to Apply It to Your Creative Career
- 3 Illustration Exercises to Unleash Your Imagination
- Illustrated Life Journal: A Daily Mindful Practice, course by Kate Sutton

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