Sunday, November 29, 2020

Rebuilding a Creative Routine in the Middle of the Apocalypse | Part 1: Admitting You Need to Rebuild

I cannot tell you how many mornings I have woken up with big creative plans over the past several months. Or how many times I've told myself: "This is the day I get my writing routine back."

One of my favorite pics from a trip to CA. I find it peaceful and inspiring.

I've looked for every starting point to ground myself--NaNoWriMo being the latest one. None of them have worked. I've read countless "process" blogs and books, attempting to regain the kind of creative routine that once was so organic for me. And I've attributed my inability to do that to a lack of willpower, shaming myself for being unable to write consistently.

With all of my writing friends, with my workmates, and with my family members, I am quick to remind them that we are living through then apocalypse right now, and they need to adjust their self-expectations. I point out that with everything happening right now, we can't expect to have the same level of productivity, and we have to put more emphasis on self-care, as we navigate the chaos.

But when I say "we," I don't mean "me." I don't give myself that same grace.

I know I'm not alone in this struggle. I've talked with creative friends who are dealing with the same issue, and I've seen countless posts about it on social media in the creative communities I follow.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I can share my process for trying to get out of this rut, in the hope that it may resonate with someone else who is also struggling. I'm going to explore different aspects of this process in multiple posts, but today I want to start with the idea that in order to fix the problem you have to admit there is a problem. 

More specifically for me, I needed to admit that my creative routine is completely broken. It's not in need of a tune-up, or just a little tweaking. It's non-existent right now.

I think it's important to recognize this, because it breaks the illusion that this will be an easy or quick fix. It also gets at what I think is a huge problem for creative people--the idea that your progress as a creator is continuous, or that it's a straight line.

At one point I was writing prolifically, and had a really good creative routine in place. Because of that, there is a constant thinking error I make when trying to "get it back." And that is the idea that I can just go back to doing everything the way I did before, and I will fall right back into my routine.

But that doesn't take into account everything that has changed since I had that really consistent routine. Like, the apocalypse, for one thing. Or the fact that I had a different job, with completely different hours, in a completely different field. Or the fact that I was not in school, as I am now. Or the fact that my kids were at different points in their lives and their schedules did not affect my routines in the way they do now.

You get the point. But for some reason, I often don't.

That snapshot in time is gone. My old routine does not fit my current situation. So, even if the apocalypse wasn't doing a number on my mental health, I couldn't just slip back into the same routine.

I need a new routine. A new structure. A new process. And accepting that makes it easier to stop shaming myself for not adhering to the old routine.

In the next installment, I'm going to talk about thinking smaller.

If you are reading this, and you are also rebuilding your creative routine, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

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