Behind the Scenes

I just finished reading, “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey and was intrigued to look behind the scenes and into another artists’ lives. In the book, Mason takes 161 creative people (writers, painters, mathematicians, playwrights, song writers) and writes about their creative daily rituals. He used extensive research and ended up with a very informative and highly entertaining book. I read it like a devotional. One artist per day. It’s crazy how different the details of each creative person’s life varies. From sloth to excessive workaholics. From early risers (3:00 a.m.) to those who only worked after midnight. I highly recommend this book!

So today, in a sort of pay-it-forward, here’s my behind the scenes. From last week.

MORNINGS 6:30 – 1:00

I get up and drink coffee. And sit by the window watching sparrows flitter around the bird feeders. Once in a while I get a chickadee, a nuthatch, or a junco. Mostly it’s just sparrows. There’s one that has a white wing. He’s been coming back for three years in a row.

I journal and read and memorize beautiful words. Sometimes a poem. Sometimes a psalm. This week I’m memorizing some obscure verses from Psalm 48.

Walk about Zion, go round about her,
number her towers, consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels;
that you may tell the next generation
that this is God, our God for ever and ever.

Walk about, go around, number, consider well.  These words remind me that as an artist, I am called to pay attention. Called to watch the sparrows. My days begin with waking up to pay attention.


This past week wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t bad either. I wrote 6,000 words, which means I tore 6 rings off of my daisy chain. My manuscript is now 96 pages. About 1/3 done with the first draft. Slow & Steady wins the race.

Research: I’m researching WWII in the Netherlands. It’s grim work. Sometimes I get bogged down by the sadness. This week’s topic: T4.

Kandel, In-Between Cultures, So Many Africas

Blog: My blog crashed and died this past week.

For a whole day it didn’t exist at all. Hacked. I had coffee with the young man who originally helped me build the blog and he restored most of. (I pay for an online backup of everything blog) But I lost all of my google analytics. It’s not a big deal. I know. But I was feeling kind of proud of my first year blogging stats. And wanted to write down (and gloat a little) over how many thousands of readers have been on my website. Nope. Not gonna happen. Ok. Get over it. Eric and I talked for two hours and about updating the blog. So I’m working with him on ideas, photos, themes. Takes time. Takes thought. It’s a part of my job.


Dutch: I do a lesson in Pimsleru’s Dutch and one in Babble. Then I watch NOS Jeugdjournaal: The Dutch Youth News while I eat lunch. It’s informative and funny and I catch a lot of new words. Last week I learned about Heelys being all the rage in the Netherlands. And about a viral video in America by OK Go: Upside Down & Inside Out. – It’s pretty fantastic! – So I’m watching the Dutch news and learning about America! 

Inside out

Organizing: I spent days arranging my shelves with photos,  letters and  journals. They are chronologically arranged. If I’m writing about 1992 and need information, I can grab letters and pictures and journals in a few seconds. Fantastic!

Sales: I’m not much of a shopper. I hit the stores twice a year: winter & spring sales. So this was shopping week for me: snow pants, walking pants, snow boots, hats, gloves, and a scarf. Most of the haul was for my hubby who hates shopping a whole lot more than I do. But we made it through. The big bonus here? I got to throw away his purple and turquoise 1990 snow pants! When we go for a walk, he is now clad in respectable blacks and blues. Hallelujah. I am just not a purple person. And really, neither is he!


The rest of the week was just life stuff. Getting pwned by my daughter’s dog while taking a snow angel break. Cooking, clinics, cleaning the toilet, chores, and filling up the gas tank which can be a challenge in N.D. in the winter!

My Daily Rituals Bottom Line: Not in the Morning

I’m the only one who can make the time to write. If I don’t make it, it will just be plain eaten up. There’s always a thousand things that want my attention.

I tell the distractions and the interruptions to wait. I tell them I’ll take care of them in the afternoon. But not now. Not in the morning. Morning is my time, to pay attention. And to write.

As Anne Rice said, “What you have to do is clear all distraction. That’s the bottom line.” 

Jill Kandel
  • Kel Rohlf
    Posted at 20:38h, 15 February Reply

    Thanks for the glimpse behind the scenes…I saw that you were reading Daily Rituals and got it from our library. It’s interesting how mundane their rituals were and also enjoyed some of the quirkiness motto: serve the work!

    • Jill Kandel
      Posted at 08:45h, 16 February Reply

      Hi Kel, I found the book really fascinating. As a writer, it’s fun and inspirational and educational all at once to see how other creative people make space for their work. Everything from a nine to five, to up all night. Write 36 hours in a row. Write one hour a day. The diversity of approaches surprised me. But in the end, they each found a way to create. Fun read. Best of luck as you “serve your work!”

  • Diane McElwain
    Posted at 11:27h, 16 February Reply

    You’re so right, Jill. We have to make the time because other things take our attention. As women we get involved into so many things! I may check out that book you read.

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