Habit, Routine + Ritual.

Routine and Ritual

“We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Whenever autumn rolls around, I find myself drawn back into that back-to-school mode. Since I am long out of school, it’s a time of year when I turn inward and really look at how I am spending my time. By then, I’m coming off a summer of loose routines, fun and spontaneous adventures and I’m ready to dive back into a structure that feeds my creativity.

This year I’ve been thinking about the differences between habit, routine and ritual. Habits—good and bad—are those things we do automatically without too much thought: brushing our teeth, taking a shower, a walk after dinner. Routines are a set of habits that lend structure to your day. So a set of habits such scraping your tongue, drinking a glass of warm water with lemon, gentle yoga and meditation become a morning routine. Nighttime routine might consist of a cup of tea, turning off all electronics, setting the alarm, reading a book before going to sleep. I think of routines as safety nets to our days.

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” ~ John Maxwell

I knew I had to change something about my morning routine. My habit was to eat breakfast while watching a show on Hulu that I had missed the night before. But that became a slippery slope and before I knew it a whole morning could be wasted in front of the TV and on my phone. So, my one change was to eat breakfast at my desk. I make some toast, fruit and tea, go into my writing room, close the door, light a candle, read an inspiring writing book while eating my toast then write my morning pages while sipping my tea. Then I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. I’ve started doing a freewrite based on a card drawn from “The Observation Deck” then I move onto my draft and start knitting together what I have, cutting what doesn’t work, asking myself question. I keep a writer’s notebook specifically for this project where I keep my freewrites, notes, questions, timelines. After the timer goes off I’ll go do some small household task like wash the dishes or put in or fold a load of laundry then set the timer again.

“If you want your day to be organized, develop a routine. If you want your day to be meaningful, create rituals.” 

This one small tweak of a habit—moving where I ate my breakfast—cracked open my morning routine and helped me create a ritual that sustains my creative process. Lighting the candle, reading an inspiring book, drawing a card from the “Soulful Woman Guidance Deck” all weave together to create a ritual to nurture my creativity. When I start my day immersed in the creative process, it sets the tone for my day, it adds meaning to my life.

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Quotable Tuesday.

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Robin Black

The More I Befriend my Writing…

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Today is the 130th day of 2016.

I have written every one of those days.

Some days I have half-assed it, just barely showing up enough to call it writing.

But most days I. Show. Up.

I write. I edit. I revise. I re-imagine scenes to make them deeper, more real. I haul out the words and stories buried in my body, in my psyche, ones that are weighing me down, holding me back.

Today, as I rolled out of a 30-minute meditation, trying to stay in that soft space, I picked up my notebook and pen, watching the pink ink spill across the page and I realized that writing is no longer just something I show up for. It’s not longer just a red “x” I make on my board.

Writing has become my soft place to land everyday—even when what I am writing is hard and jagged.

Writing is no longer (well, more often) this “other” that I battle, compare, belittle and judge.

I have finally befriended my writing and it has befriended me.

It reminds of this:

befriending

And here is the fascinating thing:

The more I befriend my writing, the more I am befriending my body—the more I befriend my whole self.

The more real I am on the page, the more I let it all out, the more compassion I seem to generate for myself and all the parts I used to deem as broken or unacceptable or unlovable.

My youngest daughter (19 years old) recently attended my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class which combines some writing with yoga. The topic of that “inner mean girl” voice came up. Later at dinner, I asked E.if she experienced that voice.

She shrugged and said, “Nah…my voice petty much says ‘You do you, Girl!'”

As her mom, I loved hearing that.

,As a woman I loved hearing that.

As a writer, I realize that is exactly what my writing says to me:

“You do you, Girl. I got your back.”

 

 

 

Making a Choice to Show Up.

X marks the spot

I’ve written for fifty days in a row.

I’ve meditated for thirty-five.

How do I know this? I am keeping track. Each day that I write, I make a red “x” on the dry erase board in my office. The app, “Insight Timer” keeps track of the days I meditate, alerting me of each upcoming milestone as well as the ones achieved.

Meditation stats

I am proud of each “x” I am able to make, of each milestone I reach. But.

But there is this lingering fear, just beneath the surface that I will blow it. And soon.

I mean, I always have in the past.

See, I am not much of follow-through type of person. I start stories but don’t finish them. Or I finish them but don’t submit them. Or I meditate for several weeks in a row then one day I don’t and it’s hard to start again.

I’ve met me. This is how I roll.

So, each day that I show up to my writing and meditation practice is a win but there’s also this voice whispering, “Huh, how long do you really think this is gonna last?”

The truth is, I don’t know.

What I do know is this: Each day I have a choice to make and that is all I need to focus on. Will I write today? Will I meditate today?

Writer and teacher, Ron Carlson, has said that we need to make each day a yes or no day. Choose, one or the other. Maybe days will kill you.

I get that. Maybe days leave me in limbo. They make me think what I choose is out of my control. Maybe I’ll write if I’m inspired or I figure out how that scene ends or if I have time.

The truth is, showing up is totally in my control. And that is reassuring since not many things are.

So, am I positive I will show up tomorrow or the next day or still be showing up next year? Of course not.

But I am sure that the choice is mine.

 

 

 

WYA Challenge Day 17

Sharon Stone as Muse

Image credit.

My dear sweet Muse,
I implore you to wave your wand, sprinkle your creative dust (or tool of choice) and wrap me in a distraction-free bubble each time I sit down to write.
Shield me from the habitual grooves of my brain (wait, my computer just pinged. Did someone like my post? Which one? Who is it?) that yearn to hop on-line when I’ve barely written three sentences. Keep me encased in a beautifully translucent (yet strong impenetrable)  bubble where I have zero desire to check my Facebook or Twitter feeds or Pinterest boards or play a game of 2048 or do laundry or dishes or watch TV or…or…or.
Please, keep my focus on the page or the screen in front of me. Allow my focus to grow, diving deep beneath the surface of my story, deep into the lives of my characters.
I so envy (Okay, okay… sometimes “hate” is the word. As is “doubt.”) people who claim they lose all track of time when they write. That they forget to eat. Forget to eat? Really? They claim they look up and four, eight even ten hours have passed. Again, really? They didn’t have to pee once during that time? Then they are obviously not drinking enough water.
Me? I am distracted by every itch and twitch, every internal gurgle and grumble. Just once, I would love to be so completely absorbed by the world of my story that I forget about the world I am actually in.
Do you think you can help me with that? Cuz that’d be great.
Sincerely,
Your focus-challenged, distraction-attracting creative charge

WYA Challenge: Day 8

WYA

Before I write, I feel edgy. Restless.

Still , I often resist the page.

I resist the words that long to spill out of me. Words that have gotten lodged in my body, leaving me feeling on edge, fidgety, like I want to crawl out of my skin.

I ignore the page and instead clean or do laundry or scroll through Facebook or call a friend, trying to dislodge the words indirectly. But they are too deep. Only the precise motion of the pen across the page can excise them.

There. A word is shaved off a rib. Another coaxed out from the tender space behind a knee. More peeled away from the wet meaty flesh of my heart. Still more sifted out of the blood flowing through my body behind my shin.

Each word that is freed from the body and captured on the page leaves me feeling both lighter and more grounded.

It’s not the words that create the heaviness but the battle with resistance. All the restlessness that I try to channel into cleaning or organizing doesn’t touch the depth of the resistance. Those tasks merely mask that trapped energy, mask those words that have gotten stuck and no amount of busy work will lure them out.

Only the gentle movement of breath and the steady motion of my pen across the page will release the pent up energy that bubbles just below the surface of my soul.

The effort of writing is always worth the ease of being that follows.

The transformation is almost instant. With each word that escapes from the end of my pen, the easier I breathe, the more content I feel in my skin.

After I write, I am more present.

After I write, I am more me.

•   •   •   •   •   •

Creativity Check-in

How much did I write today?

2 hours

 

What did I work on?

Morning Pages

Healthy Living Journal

WYA Dig Deeper and Writing Prompt

WIP

 

Times of day:

 

M

morning, late afternoon, and night

Mood: 

Eager to show up to the work.

 

Greatest Obstacle:

MY WIP feels like a giant jumble of puzzle pieces that have no edges and are all the same color.

 

Greatest Strength:

Carefully reading through what I have, chapter by chapter, noting the balance of current story versus back story, making notes of questions alone the way.

 

Creative affirmation:

I tend to my writing daily and it flourishes even when it feels dormant.

 

Write Yourself Alive: A 30 Day Challenge

WYA Challenge: Day 4

WYA

“Good Writing is supposed to evoke sensations in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

The house is quiet when I walk in from work. But his truck is in the driveway, so he must be here. As I shrug off my coat I see him in the kitchen. Oh, how sweet. He is cooking dinner. Cones of light shine down from the vaulted ceiling, steam swirling upward, quickly dissipating. The rest of the house is dark and I feel like I am watching a play. The gentle clanking of metal against metal and the hiss of hot oil echo in the room.

It’s always in slow motion when I remember this. It felt like slow motion as it played out. Maybe a part of me knew what was coming and tried to fend it off any way I could.

When he sees me, he turns the burners down and walks toward me, telling me that M. called. I remember thinking it was odd that he called instead of H.

But mostly I am focused on his face. I  haven’t seen this face before. We’ve been married for only a few years. I realize there is so much more for us to learn about each other.

When he reaches me, his hands wrap gently, oh so tenderly around my arms. I still have no idea what is going on. No idea what he is about to say.

But when the words leave his mouth, they feel inevitable.

“B. is dead.”

Inevitable.

But not true.

A part of me knows.

A part of me repels the idea. The words.

“No, she’s not.”

He nods, not wanting to say it again.

I shake my head, wrapping my own arms tightly around my body, as if to keep it from imploding, chanting the same words over and over.

No, she’s not.

No she’s not.

Noshesnot. Noshesnot.

Until they no longer even sound like words.

Until they are merely sounds vomiting from this new, deep, raw sad of part of me I didn’t even know existed.

•   •   •   •   •   •

Creativity Check-in

How much did I write today?

2 1/2 hours

 

What did I work on?

Morning Pages

Healthy Living Journal

WYA Dig Deeper and Writing Prompt

 

Times of day:

3:30 5:30 in my nook

5:45 – 6:15 at my computer

 

Mood: 

A little tired. Had a lazy day. Too much TV. Left me mentally sluggish. And I waited until too late in the day to work again. Mornings are prime time for me.

 

Greatest Obstacle:

Put off writing until my mental energy was oh so low.

 

Greatest Strength:

I showed up anyway and wrote.

 

Creative affirmation:

Each day that I write is day that I didn’t quit.

 

Write Yourself Alive: A 30 Day Challenge

WYA Challenge: Day 3

Day 3

Image found via Pinterest.

“Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.” ~ Annie Dillard

This is one time when time I don’t agree with Annie Dillard. I need my workspace to be appealing on some level. It is so easy to resist doing the work, why put up another roadblock by making the space where I write unappealing?

I am not precious about where I write. I’ve written at my desk in my writing space, in my writing/reading nook in the living room, at the bookstore, in the car, on a plane, at a picnic table by the lake.

The space around me is not the distracting thing. It’s the space in my head that can be distracting. It’s the lure of the world at my literal fingertips with the click of a mouse that is distracting.

So, I guess it’s less of an unappealing workplace that I need and more of a non-distracting one. I’ve found a fe within stop help with that.

I use earplugs when I am out in the world writing. It mutes the sounds swirling around me. I will even use them at home if others are in the house. It creates an instant cocoon of concentration.

Downloading the Freedom app is an amazing distraction eraser. I set the timer for how long I want to be locked out of internet access and I write without the temptation of Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter taunting me.

My biggest distraction can be my own mind. That’s where meditation comes in. I resisted it for so long. Felt like a fraud everytime I tried to meditate. But now it has become the cornerstone of my writing practice. It doesn’t clear my mind of all its clutter. As a writer, that’s not what I want anyway. It’s more like it allows everything to settle just enough so I can focus. It’s easier to let thoughts go, to stay present to what I am doing. As a writer, that is what I need the most. I need to be present to the words, to the characters, to the story—to the next word, sentence, scene that needs to be written.

Meditation also allows me to befriend my mind. To notice with a light curiosity what exactly goes on in there. Seeing how the mind is one of a writer’s greatest tools, anything that bridges the gap is welcome. It also teaches me to become comfortable with being uncomfortable which is also a great asset as a writer.

Meditation is a tool just like my notebook or computer at this point—essential and non-negotiable.

 

Creativity Check-in

How much did I write today?

3 hours

 

What did I work on?

WIP for 3o solid minutes. ( I set a timer). It was the firs thing I worked on which helped my concentration.

Morning Pages

Healthy Living Journal

WAY Dig Deeper and Writing Prompt

 

Times of day:

2-4 at the bookstore

9 PM – 10 PM in my writing nook

 

Mood:

A little tired. Mid afternoon is not prime time for me. Also a little frustrated with my WIP. Feeling a little stuck about about the sequence of events and some backstory. Started taking notes on what happens in each chapter and whether it is Current Story or Back story. That is helping.

 

Greatest Obstacle:

Feeling stuck.

 

Greatest Strength:

Instead of needing to produce more words, I used my time to figure out what I have and what the story needs.

 

Creative affirmation:

Any time spent working on the story is well spent even if the word count doesn’t increase.

 

Write Yourself Alive: A 30 Day Challenge

WYA Challenge: Day 2

WYA

My epitaph:

“Awake and present to it All, she wrote into the stars and into the earth, into her heart and into her gut—eyes open, heart open, mind open, pen poised.”

 

Creativity check-in:

How much did I write today:

3 hours

 

What I worked on:

Morning pages

WYA Challenge: Dig Deeper, Writing prompt and something inspired by the Writing tip

My blog

My YA novel

 

Time(s) of day:

2:30 – 5:30

 

Mood:

Tired (first day of teaching 2 early morning yoga classes)

Excited and distracted by the number of views a blog post has been getting

 

Greatest obstacle:

Settling into to work on my novel. I saved it for last and my energy and focus were spent. Think I need to start with it tomorrow.

 

Greatest strength:

Allowing some painful shit to come up in the writing today.

 

Creative affirmation:

I am strong enough to be present with whatever comes up in my writing.

 

Write Yourself Alive: A 30 Day Challenge