Everyday is groundhog day.
The creative life isn’t linear. It’s not a straight line from point A to point B. It’s more like a loop, or a spiral, in which you keep coming back to a new starting point after every endeavor. No matter how successful you get or the level of achievement you reach, you’ll never really ‘arrive’.
“Yesterday’s over, tomorrow may never come, there’s just today and what you can do with it.” – Groundhog Day
We have so little control over our lives. The only thing we can really control is how we append our days on. Do your best to live, one day at a time.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard
When the sun goes down and you look back on the day, go easy on yourself. A little self-forgiveness goes a long way. Before you go to bed, make a list of two things:
- Anything you did accomplish today
- Anything you want to get done tomorrow
After that, forget about it. Hit the pillow with a clear mind and let your subconscious work on stuff while you’re sleeping.
“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Build a bliss station.
Disconnect the world to connect with yourself. Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. Don’t let your phone wake you up and ruin your mornings. Airplane mode can be a way of life.
“Keep your eye on your inner world and keep away from ads and idiots and movie stars.” – Dorothea Tanning
Learn to say no. Social media has created a human phenomenon called FOMO (fear of missing out). Saying no to the world may seem daunting but sometimes it’s the only way to say ‘yes’ to your art and sanity.
Forget the noun. Do the verb.
When nothing’s fun anymore, make the worst thing you can. The ugliest drawing, the crummiest poem, the most obnoxious song.
“Try to do some BAD work – the worst you can think of and see what happens but painful relax and let everything go to hell – you are not responsible for the world – you’re only responsible for your work – so DO IT.”
Ignore the vanity metrics. An Amazon rank doesn’t ell you whether someone read your book twice, loved it so much and passed it onto a friend. Instagram likes don’t tell you whether someone stuck with your photo for a month. All clicks translate to short term results but everything online now is clickbait, optimized for short attention span. The quick hit. So, turn off analytics for your blog, write whatever you want every once in a while.
“Don’t make stuff because you want to make money – it will never make you enough money. A don’t make stuff because you want to get famous – because you’ll never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people – and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.” – John Green
The Ordinary + Extra Attention = The Extraordinary
Pay attention to what you pay attention to. Your attention is one of the most valuable things you possess and you must always protect it and point it to the right direction.
“For everyone trying to discern what to do with their life: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU PAY ATTENTION TO. That’s pretty much all the info you need.” – Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Slay the art monsters.
The world doesn’t necessarily need more great artists. It needs more decent human beings. Art is for life, not the other way around.
You’re allowed to change your mind.
To change is to be alive. “Think for yourself” goes the cliche. But the truth is we can’t. We need other people to help us think.
“To think independently of other people is impossible.”, writes Alan Jacobs. Everything you think is a response to what someone else has thought and said. The trouble is we’re increasingly becoming a culture that’s clustering into like-minded communities and networks. Interacting with people who don’t’ share your perspectives forces us to rethink, strengthen and trade our ideas for better ones.
When in doubt, tidy up.
Leave things better than when you found them. Keep your tools tidy, and your materials messy. Keep your tools organized so you can find them. Let the materials cross-pollinate in a mess because some pieces of art came together in a pile.
Take a nap. Austin likes to coffee nap by drinking a cup of coffee before he lies down for fifteen minutes and gets back to work when the caffeine has kicked in.
“Naps are essential to my process. Not dreams, but that state adjacent to sleep, the mind on waking.” – William Gibson.
Demons hate fresh air.
To exercise is to exorcise. When we’re glued to our screens, the world looks unreal. Terrible. Everyone on earth seems like a troll or a manic or worse. But when you get outside and you start walking, you come to your senses. People are smiling, birds chirping, clouds flying overhead. Walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn’t seem to be any left. So, get outside. Take a long walk and keep a notebook or camera in your pocket for when you want to stop to capture a thought or an image.
Plant your garden.
Creativity has seasons.
“Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember nothing stays the same for long.” – May Sarton
Everyday is a potential seed that can grow into something beautiful. The odds against being born are astronomical. We don’t know how many days we have and so it’d be a shame to waste the ones we get. There’s no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence and no room for fear.
One last thing. When life gets overwhelming…
Go easy on yourself. Take your time. Worry less about getting things done. Worry more about things worth doing. Worry less about making a mark. Wordy more about leaving things better than you found them.
Keep playing. Keep drawing. Keep working. Keep listening. Keep looking. Keep thinking. Keep dreaming. Keep singing. Keep doing your verbs… whatever they may be. Keep going.