Admit it, you probably already rolled your eyes at the title. I know there’s a part of me that does when I give myself this advice, especially when I was younger.
In my late 20’s when I was freelancing full time, I wish I had taken this advice to heart. So many of my mentors and seniors told me to take the time to create patterns in my creative life, but I didn’t really understand why.
Part of me thought it was just old people being boring, and part of me thought that I wouldn’t be a true ‘artist’ if I had normal routines. I thought that you had to wait for creative inspiration and drop everything when the muse arrived.
Now in my late 30’s and looking back, I see some of the reasons so many people feel strongly about routine, and I can’t recommend this enough to folks who are starting out freelancing or trying to establish a creative practice.
By creating routine you:
- train your brain about different spaces and times and what they mean. For example, I recently heard a podcast where someone was talking about how when they wake up and start to work, they place a lemon next to their computer. They smell the lemon when they open their laptop, and when they’re done working, they put the lemon back in the kitchen or use it for cooking. But the simply act of seeing the lemon means it’s time to work. Sounds dumb, but our brains respond to these kinds of sensory cues.
- free up your mind for creative thinking when you establish routine. When you’re not worried about when you’re getting your groceries, when you’re going to bed, when you’re waking up, when you’re doing all the life admin stuff that keeps you awake at night – your mind can wander to more creative pursuits.
- can schedule time for self care. As annoying as a schedule or routine can be – it ultimately means that you are able to also slot in time to work on long term projects, rest, and reflect when you need to.
- can say “yes” to projects when you want to and also say “no” when you need to. By creating a routine in my life – creative and otherwise – it’s given me permission to say no to projects that I feel guilty bowing out of. But knowing that I only have a certain amount of times helps alleviate that guilt and helps me to focus on the projects I know I’m going to really benefit from. By creating routine and ritual you prioritize what matters most and set aside distractions that may not be as rewarding.
If you’re looking to delve into a few more resources on this, might I recommend the following:
- This episode of Life Kit about Time Management and Mortality (fun right?! but necessary….!)
- Morning Pages from Julia Cameron
- This amazing article by Lisa Congdon
- This NPR podcast episode about procrastination
- The Uncalendar (which allows planning of things for those of us that don’t think in linear ways)
My biggest advice – start slowly and celebrate your victories. Creating routines take time. Years sometimes – and you need to be gentle with yourself during these times of transition. If you stop doing your new routine for a few days – don’t give up! Start again. Remember that tiny changes are the way to go. Be kind to yourself when you’re learning about what you need.