“None of us know what will happen. Don’t spend time worrying about it. Make the most beautiful thing you can. Try to do that every day. That’s it.” (Location 35)

The truly prolific artists I know always have that question answered, because they have figured out a daily practice—a repeatable way of working that insulates them from success, failure, and the chaos of the outside world. They have all identified what they want to spend their time on, and they work at it every day, no matter what. Whether their latest thing is universally rejected, ignored, or acclaimed, they know they’ll still get up tomorrow and do their work. (Location 60)

“Relying on craft and routine is a lot less sexy than being an artistic genius. But it is an excellent strategy for not going insane.” (Location 76)

To establish your own routine, you have to spend some time observing your days and your moods. Where are the free spaces in your schedule? What could you cut out of your day to make time? Are you an early riser or a night owl? (I’ve met very few people who love working in the afternoon. “I detest this mongrel time, neither day nor night,” wrote Charles Dickens.) Are there silly rituals or superstitions that get you in a creative mood? (I’m writing these words with a pencil, painted to look like a cigarette, dangling from my lips.) (Location 94)

A little imprisonment—if it’s of your own making—can set you free. Rather than restricting your freedom, a routine gives you freedom by protecting you from the ups and downs of life and helping you take advantage of your limited time, energy, and talent. A routine establishes good habits that can lead to your best work. (Location 104)

Best of all, I think, is that when your days pretty much have the same shape, the days that don’t have that shape become even more interesting. There’s nothing like a good prison break, and playing hooky isn’t as fun if you never go to school. What your daily routine consists of is not that important. What’s important is that the routine exists. Cobble together your own routine, stick to it most days, break from it once in a while for fun, and modify it as necessary. (Location 106)

When there’s something I want to do in the future but don’t have time for right now, I add it to what productivity expert David Allen calls a “Someday/Maybe” list. Writer Steven Johnson does this in a single document he calls a “spark file”—every time he has an idea, he adds it to the file, and then he revisits the list every couple of months. (Location 125)

“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.” (Location 147)

When the sun goes down and you look back on the day, go easy on yourself. A little self-forgiveness goes a long way. Before you go to bed, make a list of anything you did accomplish, and write down a list of what you want to get done tomorrow. Then forget about it. Hit the pillow with a clear mind. Let your subconscious work on stuff while you’re sleeping. (Location 155)

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen. (Location 177) Consuming the news in the morning is inviting anxiety into your life

There’s almost nothing in the news that any of us need to read in the first hour of the day. When you reach for your phone or your laptop upon waking, you’re immediately inviting anxiety and chaos into your life. You’re also bidding adieu to some of the most potentially fertile moments in the life of a creative person. (Location 198)

“The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty, and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from.” (Location 220)

Let go of the thing that you’re trying to be (the noun), and focus on the actual work you need to be doing (the verb). Doing the verb will take you someplace further and far more interesting. (Location 266)

“God walks out of the room when you’re thinking about money.” —Quincy Jones (Location 321)

I’m so insanely lucky right now. I live the dream, in a sense, because I get paid to do what I would probably do anyway for free. But things can get very, very tricky when you turn the thing you love into the thing that keeps you and your family clothed and fed. Everyone who’s turned their passion into their breadwinning knows this is dangerous territory. One of the easiest ways to hate something you love is to turn it into your job: taking the thing that keeps you alive spiritually and turning it into the thing that keeps you alive literally. (Location 338)

Try it: If you’re bummed out and hating your work, pick somebody special in your life and make something for them. (Location 393)

It’s impossible to pay proper attention to your life if you are hurtling along at lightning speed. When your job is to see things other people don’t, you have to slow down enough that you can actually look. (Location 438)

If art begins with where we point our attention, a life is made out of paying attention to what we pay attention to. Set up a regular time to pay attention to what you’ve paid attention to. Reread your diary. Flip back through your sketchbook. (Location 483)

I marvel at how every ancient poem is basically a withering commentary on our contemporary politicians. A dip into Henry David Thoreau’s journals paints a portrait of a plant-loving man who is overeducated, underemployed, upset about politics, and living with his parents—he sounds exactly like one of my fellow millennials! (Location 592)

French chefs practice something called mise en place, which means “set in place.” It’s about planning and preparation: making sure all the ingredients and tools you need are ready before you set to work. “Mise en place is the religion of all good line cooks,” Anthony Bourdain wrote in Kitchen Confidential. “Your station, and its condition, its state of readiness, is an extension of your nervous system.” (Location 616)

WHEN IN DOUBT, TIDY UP. Note that it says “when in doubt,” not “always.” Tidying up is for when I’m stalled out or stuck. Tidying up a studio is—sorry, Ms. Kondo—not life-changing or magical. It’s just a form of productive procrastination. (Avoiding work by doing other work.) The best thing about tidying is that it busies my hands and loosens up my mind so that I either a) get unstuck or solve a new problem in my head, or b) come across something in the mess that leads to new work. (Location 631)

Not all naps are created equal. There are lots of ways to take a nap. Salvador Dalí liked to nap while holding a spoon. As he dozed off, he’d drop the spoon and wake up, but still be in the dreamlike state he needed for his surreal paintings. (Location 654)

Me, I like the “caffeine nap”: Drink a cup of coffee or tea, lie down for fifteen minutes, and get back to work when the caffeine has kicked in. (Location 658)

When we’re glued to our screens, the world looks unreal. Terrible. Not worth saving or even spending time with. Everyone on earth seems like a troll or a maniac or worse. But you get outside and you start walking and you come to your senses. Yeah, there are a few maniacs and some ugliness, but there are also people smiling, birds chirping, clouds flying overhead … all that stuff. There’s possibility. Walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn’t seem to be any left. (Location 721)