Fall off the Wagon

Backslide

Relapse

Deviate

SIN

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If you are someone who has tried to build a creative habit, routine, or ritual with on and off again success (like me), you might have felt the stings of some of these words. You are not alone. You deserve a pat on the back or a big hug.

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Because deciding to honor ourselves

and our purpose in the world is HARD work.


I see this struggle when students come up to me at the end of yoga class and say things like, “I’m sorry I haven’t been here in a while. I need to come more often. What’s wrong with me?”

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And more recently, I’ve been working with a group of writers in my new program called Book It. These are people who are working on a book – a BIG deal. Here’s what I’ve learned from this group so far: it’s not just the words on the page (or lack of them) but the words floating around in our heads that get in the way of progress. 

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Words matter. Choose wisely. The words I’ve listed above Do. Not. Help. They will not make you a more creative, vibrant person. They are out-dated and cruel. I mean sin, really?

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You will have many periods of dedicated practice. You will: go to yoga class three times a week, write every day, study what you love, whatever. And inevitably, you will have those times when you stop, take breaks, get bored or distracted and end up feeling like a complete FAILURE (or is that just me?).

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For a creative person, the judge-y self-talk can be magnified 100 times. Have you ever thought, “I don’t have the discipline those other writers (or artists) have. I never finish anything.” Or “I’m sick” or “tired” or “weak” or “not talented enough”?

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The books on creativity all say to practice every day. Whether it be writing, singing, dancing, whatever…do it every day. Wake up first thing, they say, and WRITE while your mind is clear. Don’t skip. Be disciplined.

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What they neglect to mention is that they, too, take breaks. They don’t work on their books 365 days a year. Yes, they might write journal pages or jot down a few ideas, but they are not writing masterpieces every time they sit down. 

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Practice does not have to be perfect.

And my practice is rhythmic, not rote.

It’s devotional, not disciplined.

This perspective works better for me.

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In fact, what a good journal prompt!

  • How can you re-frame your practice – your writing time, your creative time – so that it feels real and important?
  • Where would you write? A desk by the window? In a coffeehouse?
  • How long?
  • Will you write what needs to be written in the moment or will you give yourself assignments and deadlines?

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You can design your creative habits any which way you want! 

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In my case, unless I’m having a burst of inspiration (which I don’t count on anymore), I write best between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm at the absolute latest. I write in two-hour chunks, take breaks, maybe write some more, maybe not. I write three to five days a week with a particular purpose in mind. And I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day.

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Speaking of creative habits, I’ve been reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, and it is filled with wisdom. She is an absolute advocate for ritualistic habits and hard work. I thought this would turn me off, but I’m finding inspiration here.

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Why? Well, she is transparent about her fears, the things that hold her back, the distractions that get in the way of creative  habit. I appreciate that. 

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A List of Twyla Tharp’s Five Biggest Fears:

  1. People will laugh at me.
  2. Someone has done it before.
  3. I have nothing to say.
  4. I will upset someone I love.
  5. Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind.

Five Bonus Fears (just for fun):

  1. I’m not sure how to do it.
  2. People will think less of me.
  3. It may take too much time. 
  4. It will cost money.
  5. It’s self-indulgent.

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Check. Check. Check. Check times twelve! (Spoiler Alert: I’ll be diving more deeply into fears in upcoming blog posts).

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Fears are distractions. Letting yourself get all wrapped up in the story surrounding your fears is just another way you are robbing yourself of the great gifts of practice.

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Yes, I know I’ve been saying that beating yourself up when you “fall off the wagon” does no good, BUT I – like Ms. Tharp – am an advocate of ritualistic habits. Habits that YOU design. You don’t have to do it the way the “experts” say. You don’t. 

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But I’m begging you to love and respect yourself enough to nurture your mind, body, spirit, and – most important for me – your creative gifts. 

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And if you fall off the wagon or – god forbid – SIN by going to lunch with your best friend, so be it. Start again tomorrow. Put your creative time on your calendar just as you would any other important “to do” or appointment. Now. Right now. Put yourself on the calendar.

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I’d love to share more about the creative process, the practice, the things that get in the way, and what I have done (and learned from the “experts”) to honor my own gifts and purpose. 

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Where do you struggle to integrate creative practice into your life? What gets in the way? How can I help?

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With love and support,

Holly

No Wonder We Beat Ourselves Up!
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