Geniuses are known for their eccentricities. From standing naked at an open window to pouring water all over themselves, we look at some of the quirky habits that fired the creativity of seven well-known geniuses.
Great minds produce great works of art, science, music, literature and beyond, but those same minds also produce some eccentricities that go hand in hand with that exceptional level of genius. These quirks make the creative processes of some of the world’s most famous geniuses unusual, to say the least.
Benjamin Franklin’s naked “air baths”
Founding father of the United States, inventor, scientist and politician Benjamin Franklin was notorious for his strict daily routine and eccentric habits. Perhaps his quirkiest habit was taking a morning “air bath” in which he would sit in front of an open window, “without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season”, according to a letter he wrote to a friend.
Jane Austen’s squeaky door
The novels of Jane Austen are some of the most popular in the world, but the author preferred to be entirely alone while she was working and certainly didn’t like to share her work with anyone before it was finished. She wrote at a writing slope in the dining room of her family’s cottage and deliberately ensured that the hinges on the door creaked so she could hear if anyone was coming into the room.
Ludwig Van Beethoven’s watery wake ups
One of the world’s greatest composers, Ludwig Van Beethoven was reported to have composed his great symphonies while pacing around his room and pouring water over his head at regular intervals to keep himself awake and his mind at peak performance. This habit often led to flooding on the floors below.
Maya Angelou’s rented room
Renowned American author Maya Angelou never worked at home. According to an interview she gave to the Paris Review in 1990 the author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings rented a hotel room in every town she ever lived in just to use it for writing. She wrote while lying on the bed and asked for everything to be removed from the walls of the room to avoid distractions and never allowed it to be cleaned. Angelou even refused to allow the sheets to be changed when the hotel staff left a note suggesting they were, “mouldy”.
Honoré de Balzac’s crazy coffee habit
One of France’s greatest writers, Honoré de Balzac drank a reported 50 cups of coffee per day. In his own words, “Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live.” In the end it may have been his undoing. He suffered from stomach pains throughout his life and died at the age of 51 from complications of congestive heart failure thought to have been brought on by his caffeine addiction.
Igor Stravinsky’s headrush
Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, famous for composing the revolutionary Rite of Spring symphony, stood on his head when he was creatively blocked because he believed the move “rests the head and clears the brain”.
Nikola Tesla’s toe flexes
Inventor Nikola Tesla was the epitome of the mad scientist. The inventor of AC current barely slept but would walk eight or ten miles every day and reportedly had a photographic memory. Among his many quirky habits he swore by repeatedly extending and contracting his toes 100 times a day on each foot. He claimed it stimulated his brain cells. With 112 lifetime U.S. patents to his name, who are we to argue with this creative genius?