#1 WHAT I DO
the three elements of a creative ritual
3 minute read, 644 words
WHAT I DO
I rise early to nature sounds.
For 5-15 mins I read Google News, listen to NPR, or watch MSNBC depending on how lonely a morning it is. A break between stories is when I make my move. Because writing is happening, it’s in my calendar app.
I don’t turn on the lights, my screen will be lit, and I don’t want to wake. I’m still sleepy, sleepy is good. And the dark reminds me of my industrious college all nighters. I was a night owl writer until I was 27, but I write early mornings now. There are a 100 good reasons for this.
I head to my office area in my pajamas. Pajamas are the height of comfort, iydknyk. I slip on my orange slippers as well, no backs. If it’s cold I'll add my sky blue Nike sweater with the stain and the silky pockets. If I have a dry itch I’ll lotion it, if I have a chaff, I’ll powder it— it needs to go away and not return.
I’ve got my green tea now. Loose green tea from the wise old men in Okinawa who live to 110. I add raw local honey so I can dispense sweet sips as small rewards during my labor. I add a splash of cold from my Brita so it’s drinkable right away. Reward sip.
I fill my water bottle, take my pills. It’s sometimes back and forth to my kitchen, it’s sometimes right on the keyboard— whichever helps me drop in.
It's early, am I still dreamy? Yes, good, dreamy is good.
I left my desk clean. It’s a clear and open space, nothing in my eye line to tempt me off a sentence. One of my desks is wood, it's warm, it calms me, it welcomes me. My other desk is glass, it’s translucent, it focuses me, it promises clarity. I sit at whichever has the best mojo, where I’ve written better the last 2-3 times. If they’re both cursed, I know three cafes with clean bathrooms in walking distance.
I sit down.
I have once again taken Oliver Stone’s advice: “Writing = Ass + Chair”
I set my Pomodoro timer. This first one is special, it’s my #SleepyPomodoro, it’s magic. If I could bottle it I would. Try to bottle it.
Do not disturb on my laptop, dark mode, blue light off-- I wanna stay asleep. I use hot keys so I don’t even have to mouse. Two coasters, water bottle behind, tea closest. Reward sip.
Eat? It’s too fuckin’ early to eat. By design.
Am I still foggy? Yes. Foggy is good. Easy to make decisions and self doubt remains at a distance.
Most times I’ve left myself where the very next step is clear. You learn never to leave yourself in a bad place. A gift from yesterday’s self. Reward.
I start with a coy edit about half the page up from where I left off. This is a ruse. I only tinker with it for confidence. But very soon I #WriteForward. Nothing, nothing good ever came from going backwards during a first draft.
At some point it dawns on me that I can add music to my life, my oldest emotional support animal. For writing, nothing with lyrics-- it's Crescendo Film Scores for inspiration or The Calmest Beats for a steady push.
In 25 minutes the Sleepy Pomodoro goes off— if there’s any magic left— fuck it, I keep going. But when that magic is gone, and I’m fully awake, whether it’s been 30 minutes or 90 minutes I stop the first push.
I take in the world around me. Blinders off.
I’ve only just woken up. And I’ve already written today.
My ritual changes a little when I edit film, when I sketch, when I design in Unity, when I direct a play— but there are always 3 elements.
Three Elements of a Creative Ritual
Comfort - Build comfort in your work location, make it an uncluttered, open, positive space, with drink, sweets, charms, inspirational sayings, spirituality, good juju. Surround yourself with these reminders of past success.
Starting - Schedule creative time and protect it, set a clear moment when you start, have a #PlanOfAttack to know where to pick up from your last session with ease.
Finishing - Know how to call it a day, a way to be satisfied, a way to quantify your labor so you can celebrate it, and a way to surrender to the process— not the output of your process.
💡 IYDKNYK defined.
🛠 Pomodoro technique, explained. I write for a time goal and fit those into larger deadlines. When my writing muscle is strong, a good writing day for me is 4.5 hours with meals during the long breaks. I push 3 x 3 Pomodoros (25m + 5m break, 25m + 5m break, 25m + 30m break).
🔈Playlists: Crescendo Film Scores & The Calmest Beats
▶️ Video: Link to last week’s Seth Godin & Steven Pressfield Talk (30m) Two creatives who think deeply about process cover several great topics in between waxing each other’s cars.
/NOW Check out what I’m doing now: http://davidnegrin.com/now
Before you write, paint, dance, act, design, sculpt, illustrate, photograph, code, are creative— what do you do?
Ritual and routine are important because they provide structure, but devout adherence to structure - submission - can be detrimental to creativity. Always being willing to consider variation to ritual and routine to achieve an acceptable result.
I really enjoyed reading your post. It gave me real insight into your ritual as I know you and they speak to your process. I found all the details you poured in to this to be compelling and enjoyed the window that it created into your mornings. All the tips & tricks as well as the payoff it the end was very satisfying. My work mornings are get out of bed after a few snoozes on the alarm (I build in 15-20 minutes), use the BR if needed, get a glass of water and Kleenex and do a 10-20 minute morning yoga. I put on calming music cuz the videos I use don’t have any. Music helps set the mood, Kleenex keeps my breathing clear and deep, water for much needed hydration and yoga to set my intention and the tone for the day. Then I put away my yoga stuff and take a shower. If I’m hungry I eat, because I can simply forget to eat for hours, and hit the first task or meeting of the day. Once I’ve had my breakfast, if I’m looking for a treat, I make a homemade Chai Latte (cuz it could otherwise upset my stomach a little), I take a sip and get back to work. Before I know it I’m half way or even all the way through the work day...it’s delightful to enjoy what you do.