The days melt in my hands like ice in the sun


“Balzac drove himself relentlessly as a writer, motivated by enormous literary ambition as well as a never-ending string of creditors and endless cups of coffee; as Herbert J. Hunt has written, he engaged in “orgies of work punctuated by orgies of relaxation and pleasure.” When Balzac was working, his writing schedule was brutal: He ate a light dinner at 6:00 p.m., then went to bed. At 1:00 a.m. he rose and sat down at his writing table for a seven-hour stretch of work. At 8:00 a.m. he allowed himself a ninety-minute nap; then, from 9:30 to 4:00, he resumed work, drinking cup after cup of black coffee. (According to one estimate, he drank as many as fifty cups a day.) At 4:00 p.m. Balzac took a walk, had a bath, and received visitors until 6:00, when the cycle started all over again. “The days melt in my hands like ice in the sun,” he wrote in 1830. “I’m not living, I’m wearing myself out in a horrible fashion—but whether I die of work or something else, it’s all the same.”

— Balzac’s daily routine by Mason Currey from Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

Honoré de Balzac (1799 – 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are morally ambiguous. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac’s works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics.  An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was an apprentice in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.  Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal difficulties, and he ended several friendships over critical reviews.” (Source: Wiki.)

Source: Quote: – A Guided Tour of Writers’ and Artists’ Creative Habits.  Image Credit. Balzac Bio: Wiki.

Related Posts: Honore de Balzac (via Iconic Photos)


  1. And today we would call this obsessive/compulsive.


  2. A very erratic way of working but one of my favorite writers, a sheer genius!


  3. Reblogged this on Wholeheartedness.


  4. Geesh–talk about someone ya wouldn’t want to have as a cubicle mate!…. 😉 I’m with Mimi…OCD….But what an oeuvre to show for his compulsions….


  5. “The days melt in my hands like ice in the sun.” – That happens to me too, you know. 🙂 At least HIS melting days were due to sheer love of what he was doing…sounds that way, anyway.


  6. What a perfect comparison “The days melt in my hands like ice in the sun.” I can just picture it and often it feels like that. How many times have I said, lately, “Where did the day go?”


  7. You know, this isn’t such a weird schedule for an artist in the midst of it. He did get 7 hours of sleep each day, which is pretty good for anyone. Managed daily exercise and a little socializing. Maybe it seems weird because he worked best at night, with the second “shift” of his writing during the day. The coffee habit, though–whoa. It’s a wonder he got any sleep at all.


  8. I love the simile! 😀


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