Having seen it’s two months since I last wrote, I thought I owed an explanation for how little I am doing right now. An honest reflection would be nothing or nothing much. Though of course, life ticks on; emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the bathroom and relistening to my favourite audiobooks. I have hardly done anything that makes me “me”. With our accidental homeschool and a resurgence of my fatigue condition, perhaps it is understandable that it has been a quiet patch. But as always happens it gets to the point that I start to want more.
Don’t you find Spring has a renewing energy? After we winter through the dark hours, we emerge. For me, this has meant mainly taking photos of blossom on walks and getting obsessed with having bunches of daffodils. The “jocund company” of Wordsworth’s famed poem “As I wandered…” is not just his joy on coming on ten thousand bright stars of flowers but how that image comes to him again in his solitude. Our appreciation of what is beautiful, is in the way it uplifts us. So yes, though quiet, I can take solace in appreciation of flowers and blossom that blooms.
So, back to short walks outside. My journal for morning pages sits by me on the shelf, and I gain a little courage to unfold from my hibernation. I suppose after all these new years writing about my writing life, I can see creativity comes in these fits and bursts. Life is non-linear. I was revisiting Essentialism and wondering again if any of these folks with self-help books have children to take care of. But still, a small, quiet hello to those who follow my process and a hopeful heart that I can find some more words.
It’s that time of year when I reflect on what I can improve
There is something about the arbitrary passage of time that is on my mind recently. I am nearing forty and trying to have no regrets of time lost. But now it is June I feel the need to reset my goals.
I often use the Gretchen Rubin method of having 21 in 2021 etc which I have in my journal but this year I decided to revisit my vision board. This is a practice I learnt that I had achieved the aims of a spa trip, some sister time and have certainly tried to get out in nature. I had a recent Artist Date exploring the azaleas which gave me a lot of joy. And I have been trying to find ways to look after me eventhough my son is having a tricky time.
The inconvenient truth about life is sometimes one thing goes right then, another goes wrong. I don’t mean even just the big stuff. Detailed plans seem to me the stuff of wild dreams. I have written about my disdain for plans before not to discourage planning but to try and reassure anyone I know, life doesn’t work like that.
So this year for my reset I wanted to be more realistic. The algorithm sent me a message (like it’s the from universe but more likely just the sort of wellness content I am consuming). I am following a 50 day refresh led by Smilin Aislinn on youtube. Watching her videos just made me smile, she’s not worried if your journey looks completely different which clearly as a nearly-40 year old non-model I have in no way a similar life. But I am inspired to try and be consistent. Keep up habits that help with both my energy and creativity.
If you are inspired to anchor each day with healthy habits, she recommends setting both your goal and intention behind them. And most importantly not to be a perfectionist about it. There is no need to go back and revisit if you miss one. I missed off get up early from the list I made because that one is a given for me. These were the habits I created to support me:
Simple Habits to Help Energy and Creativity
Habit one: Morning pages. Everyday three pages as soon as you wake up. Or do them imperfectly like me. My intention is to have a space to be creative, reduce stress by journalling my worries and find me time at the beginning of everyday
Habit two: Green juice and lots of veggies on top of my normal food. My intention is to add to my energy by being healthy but not restrictive. I have tried a number of wellness fads and this one has stuck. If I am more consistent hopefully it will support healthy recovery.
Habit three: Afternoon meditation. I can’t always sleep in the afternoon but I find taking a restful moment each day for 20 minutes will give me a better chance of getting through my day even with fatigue. If you’re bad at meditation, I’ve written my guide for fidgets.
Habit four: Three gentle exercise days and three yoga days. I know that doing very short and gentle workouts makes me feel better as long as I only do it to my level. The appreciation I have now of being able to do this bit more having been living with fatigue for nearly 18 months makes it so valuable to my sense that I am recovering. Again being consistent hopefully will also see some positive improvement in my endurance as the weeks go on.
Habit five: Ten minutes reading daily. You may see I have recently posted some reviews and I am enjoying reading books again within my limits. I am still making my way through 40 books before 40 from my to be read (TBR) pile. Reading will always be my greatest inspiration and it’s a joy to build up my concentration despite the fatigue.
Habit six: Skincare. I am guilty of buying lots of skincare products and letting them sit looking me each day. Taking a bit extra time to use the jade roller and various potions is adding that bit of self-care at the beginning and end of each day. It’s my small way to remind myself to look after myself even in the toughest of times.
It’s hard to lead a creative life but here are ways I have found that help
I have been writing this blog for a few years and I thought it was time to reflect on how I help myself achieve my goals. So what is it that gets in the way of your writing? Because I have the answer for that. No more TEARS (Time, Energy, Artistry, Reading, Some Other Things) What do you not have enough of…?
It’s no joke not having enough time. I have explored on a number of occassions the way I schedule in small amounts of time to write. It is miniscule sometimes but it’s all chipping away towards the final goal: write the darn book!
I believe you can always do a little something towards your project.
And the best way to get some time to work is planning your time however messy life gets. And I use a Sunday reset to ready myself to take advantage of any slot of time that pops up in the week.
This is a big issue for me. I have a fatigue condition as well as lacking sleep from looking after my child. I don’t know why children are such morning people. I suspect the energy levels my child has is the real rate we are all supposed to have but for many reasons it gets stolen away as we grow up. Maybe by the fairies? Anyway if you struggle with energy start here:
Making the most of your higher energy moments by being just a little creative. Short creative activities can help you be more mindful, and also very calming. I also have to create on little sleep quite often and taking time for simple things like music, walks and meditation can have a surprising impact on your energy and your creativity.
I will recommend to everyone that you use The Artist’s Way programme if you haven’t come across Julia Cameron’s book, I have a series of posts about using the programme and how it helped. Here are some of the key things that have come part of my life:
You could try the Mum version of morning pages in my Imperfect Guide Each morning you write three pages of rubbish in your journal, get it all out and so when you do start your art, you’re ready!
Finally, Cameron suggests you take two hours every week for an Artist Date. As much I would love to have more time at the theatre or at museums, I have a guide for some cheap and easy dates to take to inspire you. Whether it’s a wander around a market or taking photos of trees, I take weekly time out to explore a bit and feed my creativity.
As a Mum, I have to work hard to get time to read . The biggest revelation in the last few years has been audiobooks. Having come to terms that audiobooks is actually real reading, I have actually managed to read some classics that I may have blanched at before because of their size and the concentration levels needed to track the cast! I loved Anna Karenina and Vanity Fayre and I am so grateful that, despite my fatigue condition, I have listened to these even when I haven’t been able to do much else.
SOME OTHER THINGS
I am a carer, under stress and have a fatigue condition. Life gets in the way. But I am always doing something, working slowly to chip away at my projects. The sites tag line is: if not now, when? So whatever I can do towards my goal helps. I suggest using vision boards and found an easier way to keep the vision updated by doing it online. I use Instagram and Pinterest to be creative and find ways to explore the world even if I don’t often go further afield, I always feel inspired in a new place.
How do you overcome your personal obstacles to be creative?
I have dreaded Sundays. They were the day I rushed around tidying, did the food shop and panicked about all the things in the week ahead. But having a fatigue condition has changed my attitude. I cannot do all-the-things and I am better for it. Having a Sunday reset routine helps prepare me for the week without rushing around. And I think it can help everyone to pace their life, work, maybe even increase productivity. Here’s how I try to reset:
Start as you mean to go on. If there is ever a time to envoke your morning routine, I think Sunday is the day you have a chance of getting it right. Now I always have a vision of my perfect morning : mediation, morning pages, self-care. This is the point to remind you you can do things but do them imperfectly. So as soon as I can, I do a meditation. Often I use short guided meditations like Mindful in Minutes podcast. And I have a few options to help if you are a fidgety meditator like me!
After meditating I use my journalling practice. Often during the week my Morning Pages happen at another time of day or with distractions as my guide explains. Julia Cameron suggests in The Artist’s Way that you write it all out in three pages each morning to help your inner artist. Sunday is a great time to reset the habit. So each Sunday I try and do my pages as it is intended as there is a chance for me to leave my son to tv without the usual challenges of getting him ready for school.
Then is time for self-care. Although it may be too tiring to always shower I can take my time over skincare actually doing all the steps: cleanse, polish, cleanse, serum, serum, face roll, wait, moisturise. I love my jade roller and I have been influenced into a number of wellness products which may or may not work! But Sunday is a great time to use all these products taking time over the whole routine. I still don’t understand how people make it to twelve steps but there is something that feels extra indulgent doing my seven step routine.
To help with fatigue, I now divide all my cleaning tasks on to different days of the week and frankly at times only do the bare minimum. One task that has become an essential on a Sunday is tidying up the table. In our house this means a place to eat a family meal and play games together after dinner. It is also a place to work. I wrote recently about setting myself up to succeed by making space to write. Whether it is working on my novel or on my volunteer role, having a space that I tuck myself into to get on with work is motivating. Not only that, clearing you work area is a quick reminder to yourself what you wish to achieve in the week ahead.
Check the Calendar
We often try and coordinate diaries for the week ahead and this can help with being more productive, planning meals ahead for example. But it is also an opportunity for me to work out what I can and cannot do on my work-in-progress. So this week just gone was Easter holidays with my son. We even managed a few outings which is no mean feat with my current energy levels. So realistically I did not plan to read or write. That is a bit sad for me because these are my two favourite things. However, by planning ahead my pacing, I can feel proud of what I have achieved.
Next week we are away and with family so again I will be busier. I have got the benefit though of fewer jobs to do at home and childcare so my trusty notebook will travel with us. Often a new place can provide inspiration and I hope if nothing else I can note snippets of stories whilst we are out and about.
Do you find a routine helps you be more creative? In some ways it feels counterintuitive not to be spontaneous and free in making art but, at least for now, I need these regular resets.
When times are tough it is the simple things that get you through
Slim notebooks, green pen, making a coffee in a favourite cup, all these things help me write. It is often the simplest things that make me happy. I knew this week would be a tough: some appointments, some work commitments and the world news have all reduced my energy levels but this is when I dig deep to find something I can do.
If you have followed me for a while, you know I use the morning pages system from The Artist’s Way– three pages of unedited thoughts dumped out each morning. In this flow this week, I came up with an idea to work on. But what to do with so little time? Writing a few notes on my phone or folding the corner down on my journal sometimes works. But instead this week, I tidied up and tucked myself into the corner of the kitchen table.
Across from me is my Artist Altar, more a decorative feature where I change over the quotes seasonally. I found this vase on one of my charity shop hunt Artist Dates . Having a pretty place to write pleases me, as do the family photos just beside me on the wall. There is something about taking these positive steps to give myself a little space that helps me work. I set a timer and write a few paragraphs, not sure yet how the scene will play out. And if I am honest, I don’t get that far.
But having this time and a little energy is such a privilege. My son was off school ill the rest of the week, though not too unwell thankfully. So though it is not progressing the scene very well, I take the chance to do something restful with him. We both need a gentle week. I get out the thick socks and we have time under blankets on the sofa. I listen to audiobooks and tackle a jigsaw puzzle. It might not be the productive week I had hope for with my writing but I am feeling appreciative of the things that make me happy right now.
The best thing to do when you are having a difficult time is to surround yourself with your favourite things. (And yes that song is now going through my head too!) Hopefully with some more time to mull over my ideas, I can get back to the page very soon. Afterall my most favourite thing of all is sitting down writing.