Feb
23

A Magic Spell

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I was having a long drawn out argument with myself this morning–throughout my Shiva Nata dancing, on and off during my meditation practice, as I ate my breakfast and afterward reading my emails. It was a standoff.

No time, I said to myself, for any drawing this morning–straight to the blog, and then you have to edit that video, write several pages for the new website (for local classes that I’m starting to teach!), arrange some coaching appointments, figure out my new paypal thing…the list is endless.

But why, I asked myself, is my artwork always the first to go when I’m super busy? I mean, my whole blog is dedicated to helping my readers figure out real ways to integrate creativity and their art-making back into their lives.

Well then, I told myself, you make an excellent guinea pig. If it were easy, how would you be able to help other busy and artistic people–you’d have no idea what’s involved.

Sigh.

Enter My Daily Ritual

I went to the studio armed with a second cup of coffee, a to-do list a mile long and deadlines looming, still debating whether or not I was going to set aside time for my artwork. (Normally, I make it the first thing I do when I officially “start” the day.)

“Perhaps I’ll write my blog post first, and save it as a treat for later,” I said to myself. Myself said back, “Hmmm, you really think that’s gonna happen?” I said, “Yeah, you’ve got a point…..but…..”

But then I rounded the corner and was saved by my nascent drawing tacked to the wall.  I thought, you know, I probably have a few minutes right now after all.

Ah, the magic of ritual.

The sheer pull of a habit (that, and having an unfinished project out and waiting) allowed me to carve out a little time, not my usual amount perhaps, but some time to work on the next step of my drawing.

And I found myself smiling because the ritual helped me stick to my commitment to myself. And that feels fantastic.

I didn’t work as long as I often do, but that’s okay, it’s a ritual, not a rule. I just worked on the next step in my drawing and spent some time looking at it and listening to it.

And that felt great because it brings an essential part of me to the foreground of my life. Which in turn feeds my soul.

Which in turn allows me to work better on my business plans and deadlines.

The power of the ritual is that it helps me make the time even when it feels like I don’t have the time. It keeps me on track.

This, of course, cuts both ways. When we want to break a habit, the best way to do that is to de-ritualize it.

That’s how I quit smoking way back in the day (in my late twenties when I lived in Memphis, worked in a bar and pretty much everyone around me smoked). I de-ritualized it. I could smoke, but not when drinking coffee. I could smoke, but not when drinking a beer. I could smoke, but not in the car.

Then, when I gave it up entirely, I had already broken the spell of the ritual, so it made stopping a lot easier.

Creating a New Spell/Ending an Old One

If you want to have your creativity play a bigger role in your life, you need to create a new magic spell–a ritual that helps you create.

And you might need to break an old ritual magic spell at the same time. And you can do that in small steps.

For instance, what is your ritual when you come home? Turn on the kettle, stare into the fridge and then turn on the TV? That was ours for a while.

Now we still turn on the kettle (and stare into the fridge), but we turn on the radio instead. We listen to the news instead of watch it, which somehow makes more room for the activities we both care about more than the TV (for my husband, that’s his vintage motorcycles, for me, it’s this blog, my business plans, or my artmaking).

Small shifts like these start to make room for the activities you care about and help break the spell of old habits just because they’re familiar and easy. And it’s strange how much of a difference they can make.

We’re creatures of habit, so we have to develop habits to help us do what we really want. Break one unhelpful spell and introduce a new positive one that will help you create.

20 Minutes

Not sure how to get yourself started? One great way to start a new magic spell is to use my 20 minute technique. (The timer is your friend–keep it do-able and you’ll keep doing it.)

And remember, it can be a long process to undo a compelling ritual. First you have to become more aware of your rituals and see where you’ve got some wiggle room–what will go and what will stay?

You might try to break one magic spell and then realize that it won’t work. That’s okay, try another. Maybe your evening momentum is too strong to change, or involves changing the rituals of too many people (your kids, your partner, etc). Maybe your wiggle room is in the morning. Just observe and see.

The same happens when you start a positive ritual. Maybe you thought you’d want to spend you time doing “x” but really, it turns out not so much. That’s okay, keep your eye out for a good “y” alternative instead. Be nice to yourself, you’ll figure it out.

You’re investigating your options. You’re committing to yourself. And how great is that? So great.

Do you use a ritual to help carve out time to create? Would you like to start? Have you tried and feel discouraged? Leave a comment or send me an email, I’d love to hear from you!

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  1. [...] strategy. Kind of a P.S./ Part II to my Magic Spell post the other [...]

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