Routines are vitally important for me as a writer, adjunct professor, professional tarot reader, and, most of all, someone with a disability and chronic illness.
I won’t lie to you and pretend that I stick to my routines 100% every day. Many days I wake up in too much pain and/or fatigue, or a last-minute freelance job pops up, or I’m called in to babysit my niece when her regular sitter cancels, but having a structure in place helps me get things done and maintain a multi-passionate lifestyle, with several irons in the fire.
In January, I finally found an ideal morning routine. The concept is simple: spend an hour a day—ideally first thing in the morning—devoted to a few things that are most important to you. Reading, writing, exercise, meditation, etc.
For me, on an ideal day, that means I wake up, feed the dog, get my coffee, and do my daily tarot draw and journaling, write, meditate, read for 20 minutes, and do some yoga stretches that ease my sore body. I fit it all in by breaking the tasks down into short increments. 5-20 minutes, maximum for this initial hour.
This way, I begin the day having already accomplished the most important things I want to incorporate into every day life: reading, writing, tarot, and meditation. And I have done it all without checking my email or social media first thing in the morning. I enjoy being engaged with my friends and followers, but I need to start off my days centered and grounded before I tune in to the world outside. I’m an empath and that high degree of sensitivity means that I’m easily overwhelmed if I connect with the chaos of the world before I have my shields up. Meditating and checking in with the tarot first thing really helps me.
My creativity is also jump-started daily by doing these morning pages, and I spend the day feeling productive and tuned in to my creative energy, rather than feeling guilty for not writing.
Full disclosure: I definitely still have days when I’m too anxious and depressed to do this routine, or to do it all. Some days I wake up, and just roll over and go back to bed. But I actually do this entire routine in bed many days, to make it easier to stick to this routine even on days I’m not feeling well. I keep everything I need for personal tarot readings in a pouch, including my tarot journal, which facilitates the morning routine. Figure out ways to make it as easy as possible to stick to whatever routine works for you, and you’ll be more likely to follow through. I’ve learned yoga moves I can do in bed (vital for us disabled folks!), and keep a journal and pens in my bedside table, ready to go when I am.
Routines are important. One of my favorite quotes about creativity comes from Annie Dillard:
From her book The Writing Life.
My third book is actually all about everyday life from a disability perspective (and a few other things. 😃 ), so I spend a lot of time thinking about routines and real sustainability. No routine will work for me if it is too rigid to allow for real life. Vacations are important. Flexibility is important. But no one else in the world will ever prioritize your creative work more than you do. I was lucky to get multiple graduate degrees in Creative Writing, and it let me experience external deadlines and a community of writers who supported me, but even in grad school—and definitely beyond—not a single person will do the work of making time for your art. You have to do that. And building routines into your day is an excellent way to do this.
I like to write every day (though it doesn’t always happen), but I know that’s not for everyone. What I think is important is what Melanie Rae Thon calls “touching the project daily.” Spend time with your work every day, whether you are composing, revising, rereading, brainstorming. Spend time with your creative work daily and make time for it in some way, every day. I do this by putting writing into my morning routine, and my scheduling writing days (or at least hours!) each week.
I love me some “hustle” and “girl boss!” and “do something today that your future self will thank you for” mantras, but I often find myself chafing against a lot of biz advice that hinges on “wake up at 5am!” or “run 10 miles before breakfast” or “just never sleep!” or “only eat these four things in order to succeed” or any other advice that ignores the lived reality (and differences) of my disabled body.
The best part about the morning routine is that it actually does not need to be done in the morning. Sure, there are benefits to a morning routine that jumpstarts your day, and plugs you in immediately to your creativity. However, I’m not a morning person, and some days it’s a midday or even a midnight routine instead. The idea still works. Squeezing in your priorities wherever you can.
Build a routine that works for you. This is what works for me. Don’t stress about what someone else is doing. Find a system that works and remember that slow and steady beats fast and sloppy any day.
Tune in next week to learn more about using routines to juggle all the elements of your multi-passionate life. And if you'd like deeper insight into your own life/work balance, book a tarot reading with me today!