Art + Design

7 Habits of Famous Writers, Artists, and Other Influential People

Behind every person of note is, apparently, an odd habit that made them that way.

The new book Recipes for Good Luckwritten and illustrated by award-winning artist Ellen Weinstein—collects the real-life superstitions and curious rituals of influential figures from every walk of life.

Read on to discover more about some of your favorite writers, artists, and cultural leaders, and what makes each of them so unique and excellent at their craft.

What are your own beliefs, rituals, and routines that help you face the world with ambition and confidence? Comment below for a chance to win your very own copy of Recipes for Good Luck! Giveaway ends 4/13/18 at midnight PT. USA-only.


Agatha Christie: Bath Time Apples

Agatha Christie's good luck routine
Famed mystery author Agatha Christie (1890–1976), who wrote such classics as Murder on the Orient Express, munched on apples in the bathtub while envisioning murder mysteries. Her bath time routine appears to have brought her success: she penned more than sixty detective novels over her career as well as the long-running play The Mousetrap, and her novels have sold an estimated two billion copies.

Barack Obama: Shooting Hoops

Obama's good luck routine
Former U.S. President Barack Obama is a big fan of basketball and loves to play when his schedule allows, especially on the day of an election. During his 2008 primary run against Hillary Clinton, he twice skipped the ritual and lost, and according to his former aide Robert Gibbs, after that, basketball time was not to be missed. Barack Obama won the 2008 primaries and went on to win the 2008 and 2012 elections to serve as the forty-fourth president of the United States.

Ellen Degeneres: Mint Throw

Ellen's good luck routine
Talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres throws a mint in the air and catches it in her mouth before beginning the opening monologue of her daytime talk show, Ellen, which has earned her twenty-eight Daytime Emmy awards to date. DeGeneres says she likes to have minty fresh breath for dancing in the aisles at the start of the show and for occasional kisses with guests such as Matt Damon and Colin Farrell.

Frida Kahlo: Habitual Gardener

Frida Kahlo's good luck routine
Mexican painter and icon Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) created with plants as well as paint as her routine practice. Frida Kahlo’s paintings, often autobiographical, are filled with plants and flowers she grew herself in the garden of the home she shared with artist Diego Rivera, known as Casa Azul. Kahlo’s well-tended garden was a place of comfort and inspiration for Kahlo and one where she would spend hours tending plants, fruit, and flowers, many of which were of Mexican origin. Kahlo’s painting desk looked out at the garden from her window, and her last request when she returned home from the hospital before she died was for her bed to be moved to face her garden.

Gabriel García Márquez: News Before Writing Fiction

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's good luck routine
Originally a news journalist prior to becoming a novelist, Gabriel García Márquez (1927–2014) would wake before dawn every day and read the newspapers before he would begin writing. His form of magical realism—for which he earned the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982—was rooted in the real. After working as a reporter for a Colombian newspaper he began writing and selling stories to make money. Eventually these stories bloomed into such novels as Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Haruki Marukami: Running and Writing

Haruki Murakami's good luck routine
Acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami is a disciplined athlete as well as writer. Running and exercise are an integral part of his daily routine, which can include waking up as early as 4 a.m. and going to bed as early as 9 p.m. Running helps to calm his mind and gets him into the mesmerized state he needs to be in for his writing.

Maya Angelou: Wrote in a Hotel Room

Maya Angelou's good luck routine
Renowned author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou (1928–2014) would leave her apartment at 6 a.m. and go to a tiny bare hotel room until 2 p.m. to write. The only things she would take with her were a legal pad, a dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, a Bible, a deck of cards, and a bottle of sherry, and she would ask that the hotel staff remove everything from the walls of her room.

– – –

Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People by Ellen Weinstein

What are your own beliefs, rituals, and routines that help you face the world with ambition and confidence? Comment below for a chance to win your very own copy of Recipes for Good Luck! Giveaway ends 4/13/18 at midnight PT. USA-only.

Sarah Lin Go

Sarah Lin Go

Sarah handles marketing for art books and stationery at Chronicle Books. You will often find her buying too many stationery products, cracking up about everything, and snacking on Haribo gummies.
Sarah Lin Go



  • Jo April 6, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    I love Ellen’s illustrations and need this book in my cubicle for some recipe hunting when I’m in need of inspo!!


  • Stefani April 6, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Waking up early, watching the sun rise- this helps to clear my mind & helps me to write & create!!


  • Rachel Campbell April 6, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    I always wear a necklace I had made that says Brave Enough, to remind me I don’t have to be completely brave and fearless, I just have to be brave enough to take the next step.


  • Sue May April 6, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    I at 66 years old am working 2 jobs and loving it. Retired from my long term job and am doing totally different things now. I try to learn or do something new every day and am loving life right now. Blessed to be so healthy and mobile.


  • Lori Humphrey April 6, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    when I first wake up before I even get out of bed I take 5 – 15 minutes where I just lay in bed and take some deep breaths. I focus on just myself. I then say a prayer and get out of bed to start my day. If I wake up late and skip this morning ritual my whole day feels rushed and I feel tense and stressed for the rest of the day or until I can just a quiet place alone and do my ritual.


  • Eleanior April 6, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    I love that Kahlo gardened; I did not know that about her!


  • Eileen Alexander April 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Shouting hip, hip hooray! It’s a brand new day and all good things are coming my way! as I open my bedroom curtains and look out at the back yard – followed by a hot shower every morning.


  • Geraldine Ann Marshall April 6, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    This is fascinating. Does it include D.H. Lawrence climbing naked up a mulberry tree before writing?


  • Jessica Ellibee April 6, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    For the last few years, I create a vision board of my expectations of the coming year. It has become a ritual now instead of resolutions- and I have found myself accomplishing more because of it.


  • Janis Haag April 6, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    This is just what I need! Great book concept, and the illustrations are wonderful. Terrific addition to writers’ or teachers of writers’ libraries!


  • Melanie April 6, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    I only shower every 2-5 days! There are SO many better things to do than waste water!


  • Walter Gray Lamb April 6, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Meditation and naps soothe the savage beast!


  • Vicki Wright April 6, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    I love to learn about people’s quirks and habits. This book would be a real joy! Thanks for a chance to win a copy!


  • Julie Miller April 7, 2018 at 9:32 am

    I don’t look at my phone or computer after 9pm so that my last 2-2.5 hours of the day are spent thinking, stretching, and reading.


  • julie April 7, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    i have a few full moon rituals.. letting go of things i know longer want


  • Linda Rose April 7, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    I would love to win this book and put it in our Library to share. It’s so interesting.


  • Cindy Snyder April 8, 2018 at 12:04 am

    Every day, before leaving the house, I do a cat check. For a while I had 11 cats, although I am down to 9 now. In part, it is to be sure everyone is healthy and safe, and that no one has escaped somehow. But it’s also so I can pat each of them for good luck.


  • Kimberly April 8, 2018 at 11:45 am

    This looks like a very interesting and entertaining read. I would love to read it.


  • Marty April 8, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    A rigid schedule makes life dull


  • Claudia April 8, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    When I was in grad school I had to write SO many papers; long ones too. I’m an eight draft writer: first is just random thoughts and notes, second is whole sentences, third a paper starts to take shape, etc. I get stuck. I get stuck a lot. So I take a shower and think. I stand there washing my three plus feet of hair, which takes awhile, especially if you wash, rinse, repeat, and I almost always think of something really good to add, delete, or rewrite.


  • Jane Robinson April 9, 2018 at 7:33 am

    “What are your own beliefs, rituals, and routines that help you face the world with ambition and confidence? ” The belief that what I do matters – from smiling at a stranger, to doing my bit for a better world for my granddaughter. Knowing that my actions have consequences can help me keep focused on trying to do the right thing for myself and others.


  • Sam Aron April 9, 2018 at 8:38 am

    I always like to do sketching and more fine art stuff to help inspire my graphic design work. Many times I do this with my kids, but the basics of drawing, coloring or collage help me get in a good mindset before doing actual work on my computer.


  • Trace Lara Hentz April 9, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    In order to write a memoir, I had to do hard labor. So I tore out my bathroom and tiled the walls and above the sink. Also I woke at 4 am to hand write most of the memoir. And the memoir led to a book series. I think using your hands is “key.”


  • Darla Jackson April 10, 2018 at 6:31 am

    In order to process my ideas I go for a long drive by myself. It helps me sort everything out. When I get back, I’ll write everything down that was inspiring including quotes, phrases, sketches, etc.

    Also before beginning a new body of work, I generally like to reread a book I’ve already read. I feel like it helps reset my brain.


  • Elizabeth April 12, 2018 at 11:21 am

    I do have a tendency to stress-bake. The complexity of the dessert is directly related to the difficulty of the assignment (or timing of the deadline)!


  • Stefani April 13, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Sitting in silence in the morning before I do anything, it helps me process things before starting my day. Then I have regular conversation with God & I pray. These things help me tremendously to have a less stressful day. This book looks awesome!


  • Valery Larson July 27, 2018 at 8:38 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful book, can’t wait to get my hands on it.
    My morning ritual consists of reading a chapter from Transitions, by Julia Cameron, saying some thankful prayers, which get me in a really good mindset, reading a chapter from the Greatest Salesman in the World and studying Italian, because one of these days, it’s on my bucket list, to go to Cinque Terra and spend 3 days in each village, painting and sketching before moving on to the next village.


Leave a Comment