Routines and Rituals

“…I have acquired the reputation over the years of being prolix when in fact I am measured against people who simply don’t work as hard or as long.” –Joyce Carol Oates

DSCN4501.JPG

In my last post I talked about living a well-curated life, and part of that is designing a routine that allows you to efficiently make the most out of each day. My goal for the month of April is to create daily routines and rituals that are practical, productive, and easy.

I think we all cling to the fantasy of artists waking up at noon, being aloof and half-drunk all hours of the day, haphazardly creating as they go. For me the most romantic idea of an artist at work (and truthfully my preferred method if it weren’t for everything else in my life) will always be the image of Vincent Van Gogh obsessively devoting himself to his painting while he chain-smoked, surviving on a diet of whiskey and bread. But most of us realize this lifestyle isn’t consistently conducive to creating our best work. And it’s also not possible when you have kids and a job. With those two factors at play, you have to have a strict regimen or else it’s not all going to fit.

To assist me in making a new daily routine, I began reading Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. The very first artist mentioned is W.H. Arden, who I personally found very relatable. He is described as being “obsessively punctual.” He was very adamant about taming the muse to his schedule, and is quoted as saying, “The surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time.” Bingo. That’s exactly what we all want to achieve, right? I know I do.

I adored the description of Simone de Beauvoir’s daily life: “There was the presence only of essentials. It was an uncluttered kind of life, a simplicity deliberately constructed so that she could do her work.” Again – yes, please.

Jane Austen was described as being constantly surrounded by people with pretty much no quiet alone time. She worked in a discreet way that allowed her to hide her writing quickly. I think those of us with kids can all relate to that.

I found a part of Maya Angelou’s routine to be very applicable for my own life. She would stop working several hours before her husband got home, so she could have some time alone to transition back into non-work mode in order to be more present as they spent the evening together. I for one would definitely benefit from that. When things were arranged so that I had many hours during the day to work alone, I would often be irritable and good for nothing by the time I was with my family again in the evening. I still struggle with this today, even though with the baby running around I am never alone anymore. I definitely want to keep this in mind as I construct and perfect my routine.

I noticed a correlation between many of the artists I have read about so far: A lot of them used some sort of sleep-aid, and I do as well. I wonder why that is….Perhaps we work so hard to carefully structure these days and unleash our passion and inspiration, only to not be able to turn it back off again.

As for my own routine, the first week I made my classic mistake of cramming in too much all at once right off the bat – setting myself up for failure. In addition to trying to start way too many new things at once, I just threw in a lot of things that sounded good, but not necessarily things that really mattered for what I wanted to accomplish with a routine. While drinking lemon water, washing my face, and exercising are all wonderful, healthy things that I hope to work in some day, they are not exactly an exciting place for me to begin. Nor do they have anything to do with my bigger picture. I have made a lot of healthy changes recently, so I am going to call that a win for now and get back to making a schedule that caters to my ultimate goal: maintaining a balance between a thriving and productive art career, being the best I can be at my job, and my children – truly being present when I am at home and spending time with them.

For week 2, I have edited my list down to the essentials of self-care, productivity, and family time. I started with a general list of those things and am now in the process of deciding what times of the day I feel most up to each task. For example, I wanted to hit the ground running in the mornings, but in reality I know I need something gentle to ease me into the day. So I have made that my Pinterest time for reading my daily affirmations and seeking out inspiration. Then I am ready to get dressed and get going. I have aced transitioning into waking up early every day and going to bed on time every night, but other habits I have had a hard time successfully starting. I’m not willing to give up on them yet though.

I’ll post again next week with an update on my adventure in establishing routines and rituals, and I’d love for you to comment and tell me about your own experiences with this topic. Thanks for reading!

DSCN4507-001

 

 

 

A Well Curated Life

Recently I went through Tonya Dalton’s (Inkwell Press & The Productivity Paradox podcast) process for writing a personal mission statement. The idea behind a personal mission statement is the same as it would be for a business or organization. It is a clear, concise statement about what you are and what you’re doing. It can simplify your life a lot if used well. As new opportunities or ideas come up, check them against your mission statement. Do they align with it? Then proceed. If not, it might not be a wise investment of your time and energy.

17793009_186864591825231_1146401524_n (1)

My statement is: “To live a well-curated life filled with passion, drive, and an appreciation for the simple things – with my own elegance and style, forgoing the approval of others, inspiring those I meet to live fervently.”

Learning more about minimalism helped tremendously with the process of writing my statement. It taught me how to edit my life to match what I really wanted. I held onto a lot of stuff (physical and emotional clutter) out of guilt or attachment, which left me with an environment that overwhelmed me with the story of where I had been, but told me nothing about where I was trying to go. It left no room for the future.

Any editing process has the potential to be just as painful as it is freeing. When editing a work of art or a piece of writing, you hurt for the parts you let go of – even if you know they detract from the finished piece. But knowing that doesn’t always make it easier to let go. The same can be said for editing your life. Whether it is a project or hobby you’ve invested a lot into, a career, a field or industry, a relationship, your wardrobe, your home, or your possessions – it can hurt to let go of. But at the end of the day, if it isn’t conducive to who you want to be or where you want to go, you don’t have room for it in your life. It’s just holding you back. And while those seem like simple phrases to type, I know all too well they aren’t so simple to act upon. The result is freeing though. It is a bitter sweet step in getting you closer to the life you want.

Treat your life like an art exhibition. Decide how it should look and who your audience is – which might only be yourself. Carefully select what goes into it so that it makes the statement you want it to. Organize and tend to each individual piece with care, and fit it all together so that it flows into the larger, cohesive whole.

The more you edit, the easier it gets. And the less inclined you will be to make impulsive decisions you’ll regret later about who and what comes into your home and life, because you have worked so hard to make it exactly how you want it to be.

If you’re interested in writing your own mission statement and doing some editing in your life, I recommend checking out Tonya Dalton’s podcast: Productivity Paradox. I also recommend the book Design the Life you Love: A Step by Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future by Ayse Birsel. One of my favorite parts about this book is the constant reminder to leave room for playfulness in the re-designing of your life. I need that reminder in my work as well. It’s so easy to forget to loosen up and play, but often that is where the best ideas come from. I checked this book out from the library, but this one is actually worth buying because it is designed to be used as a journal or workbook with lots of pages to fill in and refer back to.

I wish you well on your journey of designing a life you love with a clear mission statement to guide you. Taking the time to do these things has made a drastic change in the direction of my life, and I hope it does the same for you.

DSCN4507-001