A Day In The Life of Oliver Sacks


I get up around 5 A.M. or so -- not out of virtue, but because this is the way my sleep-wake cycle goes. Twice a week, I visit my analyst at 6 A.M., as I have been doing for forty years. Then I go for a swim. Swimming gets me going as nothing else can, and I need to do it at the start of the day, otherwise, I will be deflected by busyness or laziness. I come back hungry from my swim, and have a large bowl of oatmeal and the first of many cups of tea, hot chocolate, or coffee which get me through the day. I use an electric kettle, in case I get preoccupied with writing and forget to turn it off.

Getting to the office -- a two-minute commute, because my office and my apartment are in adjacement buildings -- I look through the mail (hugely abundant now, especially with e-mail) and answer what seems to need an answer. I do not use a computer, so I write or type my own letters. I then have patients to see, sometimes, and writing to do, at all times. I may sketch out thoughts on my typewriter, but I generally prefer pen and paper, a Waterman fountain pen and long yellow paper. I often write at a standing desk, sometimes perched on a stool, to spare my bad back from too much sitting.

I take a brief lunch break, walk around the block, practice piano for a few minutes, and then have my favorite noon meal of herrings and black bread. The afternoon is spent writing, if I am up to it. I sometimes fall asleep, or into a deep reverie, lying on my couch, and this may put my brain in an "idling" or "default" mode. I let it play with images or thoughts on its own; I come to from these altered states, if I am lucky, with energy renewed and confused thoughts clarified. 

I have an early dinner, usually tabouli and sardines (or if I have company, sushi), and play music (usually Bach) on the piano or a CD. Then I settle down to "pleasure" reading -- biographies, histories, letters, occasionally novels. I hate television, and rarely watch it. I go to bed early, and usually have vivid dreams, which may haunt me until I reconstruct and (if possible) deconstruct them. I keep a notebook by my bed for memories of dreams, or night thoughts -- many unexpected thoughts seem to come in the middle of the night. On the (rare) occasions when I get into a really creative mode, my daily structure is completely ignored, and I write non-stop, sometimes for 36 hours at a time, until the burst of inspiration has completed itself. 


- Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was a neurologist, scientist, and author.




Oliver Sacks. Daily Rituals - How Artists Work. p. 215. Mason Currey.

Image: Oliver Sacks, New York Times.

Similar Reads You May Like

Why You Need to Touch Your Valuables To Believe They're In Your Bag
Why You Need to Touch Your Valuables To Believe They're In Your Bag
Have you ever felt to make sure your phone or wallet is in your pocket even though you know it is still there?
Read More
Why Your Purse Gives You Back Pains
Why Your Purse Gives You Back Pains
How pain is caused (according to chiropractors) and the right way to carry your bag.
Read More