daily routine

Early Bird, Night Owl



rivalry literally figuratively
dull priority title-character
debt scandal approach (2)
convict forbidden immorality
tutor precise acquaintance
routine diametric dissatisfied
strict laureate charge (2)
prime oppose remainder
affair stick (3) roughly (2)




Gauls and Goths

Differences between les French and die Germans are nothing new. They’ve been at war, literally and philosophically, for centuries, long before the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

Julius Caeser noted the rivalry between the Gauls and the Goths in 49 BC.

Even their most famous authors take a different approach to their writing habits.

Madame Bovary

Take the French novelist Gustave Flaubert. His most famous work was Madame Bovary, published in 1857.

The title character, Emma Bovary, is a middle-class woman married to a kind but dull village doctor.

Boredom and dissatisfaction led Emma to have an affair. But things turns out badly. She piles up large debts and eventually commits suicide.

Madame Bovary became an instant bestseller.

However the subject matter created a scandal. Flaubert was tried and nearly convicted on a charge of immorality in 1857.

Gustave’s Routine

In writing Madame Bovary and other books, Flaubert followed the same daily routine.

He would get up at 10 am. First, he read letters from the mail. He then chatted with his mother on the latest news about friends and acquaintances.

This was followed by a bath…a breakfast…and a walk. At 1 pm he tutored his niece…then read for the remainder of the afternoon…ate dinner…and socialized.

Finally Flaubert got to writing at 9 or 10 pm.

His book progressed at a rate of two pages per week because he claimed to always be searching for le mot juste, “the precise word”.

It took five years for Flaubert to finish Madame Bovary.

Thomas Mann

Compare Flaubert’s approach to the 20th century German novelist and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, Thomas Mann.

Mann was always awake by 5:00 am. After getting out of bed, he drank a cup of coffee with his wife, took a bath, and dressed. Breakfast, again with his wife was at 5:40.

Then, at 6:00, Mann closed the door to his study, and would not receive visitors, telephone calls, or family members.

The children were strictly forbidden to to make any noise between 6:00 and 10:00, what Mann described as his prime writing hours.

Night Owl, Early Bird

And so what we have here is a night owl and an early bird.

Though their daily schedules were diametrically opposed, both did commit themselves to writing at a set time. And stuck to it. Every day.

Most people have routine workdays. They get up at the same time. They arrive at work five minutes before the official start. And they do roughly the same things day-in and day-out.

If you know your goals and priorities, you should build them in your daily routine. The more time and effort you put into what is most important to you, the more you will succeed in them.


*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. Are the French and Germans similar or different from each other?

2. The French and Germans have always fought each other. Is this right or wrong?

3. What was Gustave Flaubert’s most famous book? What was it about?

4. Everyone was happy with his novel. Yes or no? Why were people shocked and angry?

5. Describe Flaubert’s typical day. Was he in a hurry? Did he have a sense of urgency?

6. Thomas Mann had a similar daily routine to Flaubert. Is this correct or incorrect?

7. Did Flaubert have bad work habits? What is the main idea of this text?
A. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Are all your friends, classmates or colleagues early birds?

B. Which do you think is better? Or it doesn’t matter.

C. When do you work best?

D. What goal or project could you work on every day?

Share Button

Email this page

Comments are closed.