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

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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!

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