One of the most important changes I have implemented in the last couple of years has been a creative routine. I find it helpful to work regularly towards a goal, writing every day instead of waiting for inspiration to strike. Showing up whether I feel like it or not. When I was writing Amber Stars: One Night of Stories, I woke up at six every weekday, wrote for 45 minutes then got on with the rest of my day. I’ve kept it going since and have drafted several short stories, a play and a novella in the past months. A regular time to write, while the world is quiet, has been immensely helpful for getting the words written.
Creativity is reliant on practice. I think the myth of the artist who only works when moved by the muse is largely reductive and unhelpful. Sure, there may be moments when you feel more inspired than others, but generally, the work gets done by showing up every day. With any form of art, no one is standing over you demanding it gets done. So you have to motivate yourself every day, little by little. It’s like playing an instrument- you have to practise the basic scales over and over to see any form of improvement.
I’ve been thinking about this recently because I was ill for a week or so and hadn’t slept properly for a week before that. As a result, I fell out of the routine and didn’t get up at 6. When I was feeling better, I started writing again only to find it more difficult than ever. An exercise that had become relatively easy was hard once again. I had to force myself to write utter drivel, pushing through the uncomfortableness in order to get back to where I was before. The 6am start was the backbone for creating new work and getting existing projects written.
I think this is where a journal comes in useful. Every day, I write down what I did, then do a little sketch and write a four-line story. Most of these are utter rubbish, but that is not the point. It keeps me active and keeps my mind creative. The important aspect is to keep producing and keep the routine going, even when you are tired. Although I didn’t write properly whilst I was ill, I kept my journal going. It made it slightly easier to get back into the rhythm once I began.
With all of these things, a routine is highly personal. It has to fit your life and your personality. Although I sometimes curse getting up before the sun and sometimes I stumble bleary-eyed to my desk, I’ve found it is a time that generally works for me. But it might not work for you. The most important thing is to find a regular time and a regular place to focus. It keeps your mind active. This regular routine also encourages creativity instead of stifling it. I had thought that it would lead to desperate ideas, half-baked and badly thought out. The muse would not be inspired by mundanity. But actually, writing every day increases the generation of ideas. Thoughts lead to other thoughts and by writing every day, new thoughts snowball.
Skipping a couple of weeks on my routine has made me realise how important it is. The only way to do the work is to show up and keep showing up regularly.