A private workspace
Jane Austen asked that a certain squeaky hinge never be oiled so that she always had a warning whenever someone was approaching the room where she wrote. William Faulkner, lacking a lock on his study door, detached the doorknob and brought it into the room with him. Mark Twain’s family knew better than to breach his study door—they’d blow a horn to draw him out. Graham Greene went even further, renting a secret office; only his wife knew the address and telephone number. Here are some sweet and clever pieces of life advice geniuses give their children.
A daily walk
For many artists, a regular stroll was essential creative inspiration. Charles Dickens famously took three-hour walks every afternoon, and what he observed on them fed directly into his writing. Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky made do with a two-hour jaunt but wouldn’t return a moment early, convinced that doing so would make him ill. Ludwig van Beethoven took lengthy strolls after lunch, carrying a pencil and paper with him in case inspiration struck. Nineteenth-century composer Erik Satie did the same on his long hikes from Paris to the working-class suburb where he lived, stopping under street lamps to jot down notions that arose on his journey; it’s rumored that when those lamps were turned off during the war years, his productivity declined too.