Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer. She is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry and is best known for two of her published collections, The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel, as well as The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death. 1 2 3
Sylvia Plath’s personal journal provides an intimate insight into the thoughts and struggles she encountered on a day-to-day basis. A notable theme re-emerging throughout her entries was her continual battle in finding a consistent and productive writing routine.
Before Plath had children, she planned to write between 4 to 6 hours per day. Usually from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm and in the evening from 4 pm to 6 pm.
Not until the latter stages of her life did the American confessional poet generate some consistency in her routine. Plath regularly took sedatives to help her sleep and once their effects wore off around 5 am, she rose to write until her children woke up. Following this routine, Plath produced the majority of the works in Ariel.
After a near-constant struggled with depression, Plath committed suicide at age 30.
Ingmar Bergman had a consistent daily routine that he swore by for decades. In the mornings he woke up at 8 am and then begun writing from 9 am until 12 pm. In a 1964 interview he said: “Eight hours of hard work each day to get three minutes of film.” Script writing was also of the upmost importance to his films, he would work on it on the remote island of Fårö, Sweden.
Bergman ate simple meals. The actor Bibi Andersson recalls his lunch: “He eats the same lunch, …It’s some kind of whipped sour milk and strawberry jam – a strange kind of baby food he eats with corn flakes.” Once lunch had concluded, the Swedish director worked from 1 pm to 3 pm before taking a short hour nap. Upon awakening, Bergman spent the late afternoon on a walk or ventured to the a nearby island to purchase the days paper and collect his mail.
His evening pastimes included socializing with friends, watching a movie or TV (one of his favourite shows was Dallas). He noted: "I never use drugs or alcohol…The most I drink is a glass of wine and that makes me incredibly happy”.
Anne Frank’s morning started at 6:45 am to the sound of Mr. and Mrs. Van Pels alarm going off. Anne first waited for the first couple people she was in hiding with to use the bathroom before removing the blackout blinds. Everyone in hiding would then take turns to use the restrooms. 8:30 am onward was a risky time for Anne as the workers of the warehouse below their hiding spot begun their shift. Everyone in hiding walked around in socks to minimize sound but as the day went on, noise from above become less suspicious. The remainder of the morning was dedicated to reading and studying.
The workers went home for lunch at 12:30 pm which gave Anne and the people in hiding more freedom. Usually around 12:45 pm, some of the helpers would join Anne in the secret hiding place and all gather together to listen to the 1 pm BBC news radio broadcast. After lunch, Anne resumed studying and writing while the others took a nap. At 4 pm, they all started to prepare dinner.
When the workers went home at 5:30 pm, everyone in hiding was able to leave the annex and disperse throughout the building. In the early evening, Anne took care of any pending administrative tasks with assistance from her sister – Margot. Dinner was usually followed by reading or listening to the radio.
Their night routine consisted of rearranging the future to its original position, ensuring the windows were blacked out and taking turns to use the bathroom.
In William Shakespeare’s time, as there was no electric or gas lighting, natural sunlight could be seen as a commodity to a writer. Hence, to maximise writing time in the light, Shakespeare rose very early at 4:45 am, ready to start writing by 5 am. He’d spend the next two hours writing, only stopping for a short break at 6 am. Shakespeare ate breakfast at 7 am with his wife, Anne, and daughters Susanna and Judith. It was common in his time to drink beer with breakfast, this was a form of weak ale and did not get the consumers drunk. He would then work off his breakfast with a walk through Stratford, taking a route that passed the Holy Trinity’s churchyard. Upon returning home, usually around 9am, Shakespeare wrote for the rest of the morning.
Lunch was typically served at 1 pm, Shakespeare would have been working while his family and servants prepared the food. At his residence was large quantities of malt which he would sell for a profit if supply was short. Shakespeare had acquired a lot of wealth in the form of land. Having such a large estate meant farming played a growing role in his life. Some afternoons at around 2:30 pm, Shakespeare visited his farmlands across town to inspect the crops and livestock. He also developed a habit of stopping at a cottage on the way home where he’d observe different flowers which served as an inspiration for many of his plays.
In the early evenings (~5 pm), Shakespeare headed to the pub in town to discuss business over a pint before returning home to eat dinner with his family at 6 pm. After dinner, the Shakespeare family sat together around the fire in the hall and enjoyed some card games.
10pm is when the family retired to bed. All expect Shakespeare, who spent the midnight hours writing not plays but poetry.
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. Freud was born to Galician Jewish parents in the Moravian town of Freiberg, in the Austrian Empire. 1 2 3
Sigmund Freud woke up at 7 am, ate breakfast and then each morning he had his barber visit his residence to trim and groom his beard. His wife, Martha Freud, prepared his attire for the day and would even place toothpaste on his toothbrush for him. Freud started to see patients at 8 am and finished around noon.
His main meal of the day was served at 1 pm, Freud was not fond of gourmet meals therefore did not eat wine or chicken. Instead, he preferred boiled or roast beef. The father of psychoanalysis did not engage in much small talk around the table, a habit which is said to have made his guests quite uncomfortable at times. Following the meal, Freud took a vigorous walk around Vienna’s Ringstrasse and would regularly stop to buy cigars and deliver or collect papers to his publisher.
Work recommenced with consultations at 3 pm and afterwards, Freud saw more patients usually lasting until 9 pm. In the evenings, Freud ate supper with his family, followed by card games with his sister in law. He was later accompanied on an evening walk by his wife or daughters and occasionally dropped by the café to read the newspaper.
During the late evenings and night, Freud headed to his study and was engrossed in reading, writing or revision of psychoanalytical journal submissions. He would stay working until 1 am or sometimes even later.