This just feel write
It's 5:36 am and I am here to write something. Except I don't have an impulse about what to write this morning. I'm writing to write, not to make sense.
I spent last week not writing because I wanted to focus on getting other types of work done, which I did to some degree, but not the amount I hoped, and I think part of the problem was that I didn't write anything in the morning.
This daily practice of morning writing is the catalyst for other work, the creative kickstart that helps get my brain moving, but not just idly moving. This is creative movement, and it puts my thinking onto the right track and gives me momentum toward the other artistic projects I'll want to work on the rest of the day.
That last sentence was a struggle. I couldn't quite get my words out the way I wanted, and I had to edit as I was going. I don't like to do that, but something about that sentence needed to be handled before I could move forward. That was the lane cleaner; the cow catcher for my creative blocks and now I have one fewer obstacle in my way.
In fact, today's whole blog post is a lane cleaner for whatever I write tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. I took over a week off from writing, and when I'm not writing, the blocks set themselves in my way as soon as I lose momentum.
And they're not just writing blocks. They tend to get in the way of all my creative output, keeping me from making anything fun and cool, but I want to make fun and cool stuff, so I must clear the lane.
A few weeks ago, I started writing again after a long time, and it felt great. I created the ritual of writing in the morning before anyone else in the house was up; my free time to do what I want (needed), and it felt great. Unfortunately, it felt too good because I was so productive, I figured that I could use this morning free time for any kind of work that I needed to get done when nobody else was around to interrupt.
I was wrong about that.
One morning, I decided to go to the gym instead of write. Usually, I go to the gym after I drop my son off at school, but sometimes I feel that time gets in the way of my creative process being right smack in the middle of my morning, especially after I already got my momentum going by writing.
So I went to the gym first thing and was back in time to make my son breakfast. It felt great to get that bit out of the way, and I felt like doing work afterward, but not the right kind of work. I did busy work: Did the dishes, cleaned up the living room, responded to emails and some other things, none of which were creative output. I definitely didn't write anything.
What I realized after is that my normal gym time (around 9 am) is the right kind of interruption in my morning because it allows me to do something mechanical and requires less thinking, like lifting weights, so my subconscious mind can come forward and do some heavy lifting of its own.
My gym time can be really good idea generation time, and when it's slotted right shortly after I spent time with my morning writing ritual, it's the appropriate break in the action to allow me to process ideas so that when I get home, I'm ready to make even more stuff.
The next day I woke up at 5:30 am and instead of writing, I made some art. I had an impulse to create a piece that I envisioned in my mind the day before, but it didn't turn out quite the way I wanted. In fact, it's probably my least favorite piece I've made in a while.
Sometimes muses can be tricksters and guide you down the wrong path, causing you to make things that seem like a good idea at the time, but actually, distract you from what you were meant to be making. The piece isn't terrible, but it's definitely not what I expected it to be, and it felt like a bit of a speed bump in the creative lane.
For the rest of my mornings last week, I made a little art, and I worked on some fun design pieces, but my ideas ran dry by the end of the week. By the weekend, I was creatively stumped, and now I believe it had to do with me messing with what I see now as the perfect morning ritual of writing at 5:30 am.
What I didn't see before was that this practice isn't always meant to create something amazing that helps change people's world with my epiphanous musings (I may have just made up a word there and I don't care). I had some winners in the prior week that got some attention, but when those were done and gone and I didn't feel like I had anything important to say on other days, I didn't want to "waste" the morning by writing about nothing.
This post is about nothing
Ok, it's not about nothing, but it's definitely not about anything profound. The thing is though, my writing ritual doesn't have to be profound every morning—that's not its job. Its job is to clear the lane of obstacles so that the real creative ideas have room to play.
Let's break this out into a timeline.
5:30 am - Get my coffee (which I've preset to be ready by the time I get up) and start writing. The creative lane is cleared.
7 to 8 am - My son wakes up and it's time to move into dad-mode. This is machine work (make his breakfast, prepare his lunch, get dressed for the gym) and requires very little conscious brain power. My subconscious starts to wake up.
8:30 - I've dropped the boy off at school and headed to the gym. Aside from the drive to the gym, this is more machine work for the brain. The subconscious can start its own workout. Some good ideas come, but really this is just the warm-up and conditioning needed for the creative work to come.
10 am to 3 pm - I'm back home, energized from my work out, and my subconscious mind is winding down but left behind clean canvas just waiting to be made into something. The late morning/early afternoon has always been my most productive creative time, and no matter how many times I try to deny that in myself, it remains true. So this is when I should be making art.
It doesn't matter what kind of art I make at this point. It could be paint on a canvas, but it doesn't have to be. It might be design work, recording a podcast, or even more writing.
3:30 - I pick up my son from school and I'm back in dad-mode. I get some other work done at this point, but now is the best time to do the busy work like checking emails and posting up the work I've made on social media.
I might also get some creative time later in the evening after my son has gone to bed. Some of my best work happens late at night, but some of my "what were you thinking, Dave" work happens then too, so it's a crapshoot.
10:30 pm - Shut down mode. Getting plenty of sleep is important, and I've found that I thrive somewhere around 7 hours of solid slumber.
That's the ritual. That's what I now believe is the magic formula for creating good, solid art.
Will I be able to execute on it every day? No, of course not.
Will the writing be epic every day? No, of course not.
Will I make art every day? Probably not, but with the ritual in place, the potential is always there.
But now it's 7 am, and my son just asked me to make him breakfast, so I'll see you tomorrow.