Unusual Habits of Famous Creative Minds

Creative people by definition do things that are out of the ordinary, and that inventiveness often crosses over to their daily lives. From fanatical obsessions to odd work spaces and bizarre interview techniques, some of their habits seem, shall we say, more than a bit unusual.

Salvador Dali: Sleeping with a Key

Salvador Dali

The idiosyncratic painter Salvador Dali woke himself out of a nap by the “slumber with a key” method. He would sit in a chair holding a metal key over a metal plate. If he fell asleep, the key would drop noisily into the plate to wake him up. In this transitional state between sleep and wakefulness, called hypnagogia, he felt more open to the ideas that appeared in his paintings.

Charles Dickens: Not a Hair out of Place

Engraving of Charles Dickens

The famous author of David Copperfield, Charles Dickens, was a great social reformer in Victorian England in the 1800’s, but on a personal level he was obsessed with more mundane matters. An employee claims that Dickens was fanatical about his hair and combed it hundreds of times each and every day.

Stephen King: Hates Adverbs from Hell

The legendary writer Stephen King

According to Stephen King, the road to hell is paved with adverbs and he is committed to writing without them. King claims that adverbs are for timid writers and they make sentences less specific by robbing details and meaning. A regular presence on the esteemed New York Times Best Seller list, King aspires to write 2,000 words every day – all of them free of adverbs.

Thomas Edison: The Soup Test

Thomas Edison

Inventor Thomas Edison was in the habit of interviewing his research assistants by giving them a soup test. He would insist that applicants for the job eat a bowl of soup during the interview while Edison watched. If an aspiring employee seasoned the soup with salt before tasting it, he was immediately dismissed. Edison reasoned that such a person would hold assumptions that could interfere with the scientific process of inventing.

Oprah Winfrey: Sitting in Stillness

Oprah Winfrey, television talk show host

To separate herself from the “daily craziness” of the world around her, Oprah Winfrey sits in stillness twice daily for 20 minutes. Winfrey is a proponent of Transcendental Meditation, first put forth by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, meditation guru to the Beatles. Transcendental Meditation uses the sound of a mantra to yield effects like lowering blood pressure. Oprah reports a feeling of hope, contentment and joy from the practice.

Agatha Christie: Never Had an Office

Agatha Christie

The famous mystery detective novelist wrote over 60 novels and several collections of short stories, but she never used a desk in an office. Christie would write wherever she happened to be when an idea came to her – in the kitchen, in a hotel, or even in her bedroom. She typically started each story with the murder scene and then developed the plot around it.

Sigmund Freud: Substance Abuse Addict

Sigmund Freud

It turns out that the man who introduced the field of neuroscience and changed psychology forever was addicted to cigar smoking and cocaine. His tobacco addiction was so strong that even after more than 30 surgeries for cancer caused by smoking he found it impossible to stop. As for cocaine, he wrote a book called Cocaine Papers in which he sang the praises of the “magical substance.”