I just started reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, and I don’t know why I never have before. Other than my generalized dislike for “self-help” type books.
Already on chapter two, I feel inspired. On the topic of establishing rituals, Ms. Tharp shares that her morning routine is to wake up at 0dark:30, take a cab to the gym, and work out for two hours. Which is exactly the kind of nonsense advice you find in a self-help book.
BUT, Ms. Tharp in her wisdom is not trying to tell me to do that. The ritual part she’s stressing is the fact of going downstairs and giving the gym address to the cab driver. I LOVE this concept of breaking it up, and telling yourself you only really have to commit to that first part. That’s the hard part, isn’t it? Routinely getting yourself in too deep to turn around?
That much, I can do. So starting this morning I’m trying out a new ritual. Set the alarm 45 minutes earlier than normal, and get up and make the coffee. From there (cup in hand, contacts in), it should be easier to sit down at my table and pick up a pen than it would be to go back to bed.
Ha ha ha, yes I’m obviously not going to the gym. That’s still nonsense. No, this is a writing ritual.
I’ve been writing only on lunch breaks and at night for a long time, because that’s when my free time is. I do have plenty of time at night, once the kid goes to bed at eight-ish. Single parenting isn’t as hard as it’s made out to be, in my experience (as long as the bills are paid, and that is admittedly a huge caveat). You can devote quality time to the parent-child relationship, and still have plenty of free time to read and write, so long as you cut out the less important things, like cooking, cleaning, exercise, shopping, personal hygiene, social life, and other supererogatories. It’s about priorities.
But by night, when my free time rolls around, I tend to have very little brain power left. And no discipline. After nine hours at the office, I’ve used up my daily allotment of discipline in the endless two-part struggle to not roll my eyes at people, and also not flip them off until after they’ve walked away.
But when I set the alarm to wake up early, it’s far too easy to lay in bed and decide it’s not worth getting up, because I can’t think of a single thing worth writing at the moment.
But just committing to making the coffee, that seems doable. It went great this morning.
Wish me luck for tomorrow!
Off-topic. I accidentally ordered a book that was untranslated from the original Latin. Rather than return it, I decided on a tremendous side-track, and now I’m learning Latin. I still have a copy of Wheelock’s from college, and I even still remember a little.
But Duolingo has Latin up now, and I highly recommend it. They use the normal Duolingo conversational format, the opposite of Wheelock’s structure. I’m using both at once. Duolingo is more portable, more “naturalistic” in patterns, and has a greater emphasis on drunken parrots, for some reason I don’t know, but for which I am grateful.