The Routine, Interrupted

One of my goals this year is to have a creative routine that will start my days off, using the “make before you manage” ethos I gleamed from Tim Ferriss and mashing it up with what I remembered from Austin Kleon’s morning routine. The idea is to have a set time each day before starting work that allows me to check the creative box, and is somewhat in line with why making your bed every day is a good thing – no matter what else happens that day, I did something that fed my soul.

One of the factors involved is that I am self-employed and work out of my home. My office is a downstairs room on the opposite end of the house from my bedroom – so there is a degree of separation, but those lines can blur pretty quickly. At some point, I’ll have to do a quick tour of my space that, in spite of not being on par with many writer’s rooms or studios, might be of interest to someone.

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Optimistic, Though Threats Lingers

Fresh off the presses, or should I say, permanent marker.

I’m still working the kinks out of my morning creative routine, trying to find something that feels natural, feeds my creativity, is easily repeatable, and is something I actually want to do. Maybe a daily blackout poem would be a good addition to the mix?

As usual, thanks to Austin Kleon for the intro to this particularly type of poetry.

Moderate giftedness & temporary excellence

I was clicking through links on an old Austin Kleon newsletter (which I highly recommend) and came across this one on moderate giftedness. It’s an interesting idea that also started me thinking about my place in the world where creativity is concerned.

The upside of the internet and social media is that, like Sly & The Family Stone once sang, everybody is a star. You’re the star in your own movie, you can share what you’re doing with the world, and reveal the most intimate details of your life. It’s a great equalizer in that some unknown musician’s song is passing through the same conduit as the new T-Swift ditty and that your self-published e-book can sit on a virtual shelf next to Stephen King’s new novel.

The downside is the exact same thing. It’s a double edged sword because while more choices can be good, too many choices just crank up the background noise. There’s no contrast.

The idea that at one time, people were special because they were the best at something in their village or family. Now, that doesn’t hold as much sway because who needs to listen to the guy down at the local pub when you can get the best music ever recorded downloaded to your phone in a matter of seconds? Who needs to check out an indie film when you have streaming apps? And even if the pub singer has his music on iTunes and the indie film is on Netflix, what are the chances that you’ll find it?

As a musician and a writer, I’ve seen both sides. It was a thrill to record an album in a professional studio, get the CD’s, and then see our music on iTunes. However, it was always a struggle to get people to come to shows. Why? Probably a mixture of things, but the bottom line is that there’s a whole lot of things vying for our attention. For creative people, that can be an incredible downer.

So what’s the solution? For me, I’ve been trying to make my life a little bit smaller, bit by bit. Slowing down and concentrating on what’s in front of me. I still shift my eyes up to get the big picture, but without focusing on it all the time, I find it’s more awe inspiring rather than depressing.

Does it work? Sometimes. But it’s sure better than the alternative.

The Truth

“Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or how hard it was. They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea. They talk about their ‘morning ritual’ and how they ‘dress for writing’ and the cabin in Big Sur where they go to ‘be alone’ – blah blah blah. No one tells the truth about writing a book. Authors pretend their stories were always shiny and perfect and just waiting to be written. The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not. Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.” – Amy Poehler (via Austin Kleon)

Writing is hard, it’s fun, it’s drudgery, it’s discouraging, it’s life-giving, it’s soul-sucking, etc, etc, etc. Suffice to say it’s a lot of things. On bad days, I wonder why in the world I continue doing it. On good days, I can’t imagine not doing it.

The trouble is, I’m not so sure that the choice is mine to make. Without writing, without an outlet, I get emotionally and artistically constipated. Now, maybe that’s a little too vivid for those reading this blog… oh wait, I’ve forgotten that this place got so dusty that I’d be surprised if bots were still stopping by here. Anyways…

It’s like eating vegetables, particularly the green ones that are the most nutritious. I do it because if I don’t, things will go badly. Along the way, I tend to find these moments when life changes – like when I found the perfect way to bake Brussels Sprouts and began to enjoy the little green buggers. Other times, it’s just something that needs to be done.

It’s like a really good job. Sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes it’s horrible, and most of the time it’s at least pretty good. I don’t get to choose which bit comes along next, I just punch the timeclock and see what happens next.