Several months ago I wrote a POST about how I quit my “soul-sucking” job to live a more creative life. A life that was more in line with my passion and purpose.
The truth of the matter is, it’s a challenge to live life as an artist, writer, musician, etc and make a living from it. It’s not impossible; it’s just challenging on so many levels. Your spouse might not appreciate your lack of immediate income, you might not appreciate your lack of immediate income, your friends and family might resent you for not taking life seriously, and your mind will give you those 11,000 reasons why you can’t do it (I’m a talentless hack; I’m too old to change my life; No one will read anything I write; There’s no money in poetry/dance/filmmaking/etc). Thank your mind for sharing, pat it on its head, and scoot it along. You can make a living at it, or at least a good part of your living at it… it just takes time, energy, and commitment.
This summer I hit a financial low. I had very little income for several months. I found myself searching classifieds for anything that sounded not too nauseating to apply for. I was afraid. I had a crisis of faith in my own abilities. Then, I made a decision that if I were going to get a job, then it had to be 1) a contract job (i.e. temporary and project-based), 2) something related to my field (i.e. teaching, film making, etc), and 3) I have to enjoy it.
I set that intention and low and behold, the fabulous adventure that was Hit n Strum came into my life. Presto!
During my low of lows, however, I was saved by a support system of people who believe in me (a system I put in place for just such emergencies – SEE MY PREVIOUS POST) and by the RITUALS I created around my writing and taking care of my spiritual self. I cannot say HOW VITAL it is to be committed to these rituals, because you will have doubts, fears, and moments of wondering why you aren’t more passionate about accounting or nursing or some other NORMAL occupation.
If you create a ritual for your writing/spiritual life, and follow it with commitment EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT, you will notice astounding changes. You will notice your love made visible.
Here’s my ritual:
-Wake up as early as possible (a challenge b/c I tend to stay up late). My target time is 7:30 am.
-Put Snataam Kaur’s PREM on the CD player (I find playing the same CD every day helps me keep the ritual)
-Get a cup of coffee and write a minimum of one page in my journal (my journal is large, 8 1/2 x 11).
-Read a section of an inspirational book (so far I’ve gone through The Power of Now, Making a Literary Life, and Kundilini, The Evlotionary Energy in Man). For those starting out in a similar fashion, The Power of Now is an excellent resource.
-Just before the last song on the CD starts, I put everything down and then I meditate through the last song. It’s 11 minutes long. Anyone can meditate for 11 minutes. And that meditation sets the tone for what I am to do that day. Getting present, getting still, and quieting the mind is essential for me.
-Get dressed and take a short walk. I call this my “commute” to work. Of all the stages, this is the one I most often resist and most often skip. I have found myself working in my pajamas at 2 pm. But there’s something about my “commute” that seals the deal. I’m off to work! I’m taking this seriously!
-Write (or edit) for at least 2 hours. I can get a significant amount of work done in 2 hours and after 2 hours, my focus gets wonky.
This has absolutely worked for me. As much as I resist, as much as I call myself a fraud or slacker, this works. I started this in February and since that time I have written a feature screenplay and edited it 4 times, edited a draft of my novel, and written a “scriptment” of another feature screenplay I’m working on for a director friend of mine.
Today I’m writing this because I’m between projects, when I feel slightly bewildered as to how to approach the next thing.
After my writing/editing time I usually eat. I’m not a big early morning eater, but if you need to eat right away, add that to your ritual.
SO THEN WHAT?
THEN, very importantly, I have what I call WRITING BIZNIZ time. I must do at least one thing every day that furthers my “career” as a writer. I research the trades, apply for grants/festivals/contests, make queries, and SUBMIT my work. This part is important b/c I realized after a while that no producer/publisher is going to come knocking on my door going, “Hey, I heard your keyboard strokes, can I take a look at what you’re writing?”
Take time when you do your bizniz. Research the companies you submit to, check your cover letter for mistakes, make them personal, read all the rules and guidelines when submitting, etc.
If you really want it to be your life, you have to put yourself out there. If you just want to write for yourself and your friends, you can skip that part and enjoy the sunshine.
Carolyn See’s book Making a Literary Life contains her own similar advice. She says to write 1,000 words a day (or edit for 2 hours) five times a week for the rest of your life, AND hand write (and mail) one “charming note” (or gift) to an author/editor/etc you admire five times a week for the rest of your life.
Okay, I’ve got the writing part down… I totally RESIST writing charming notes and mailing them off. So far I’ve managed three of them in two weeks. One to my dear friend Sarah Nickerson who wrote a wonderful coming-of-age book called How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, one to a poet friend of mine (Gabrielle Bouliane) in Austin who I haven’t seen in years, and I also sent a book of poetry to a producer I met over the summer.
I KNOW that every time I RESIST something, there’s something to look at there for me. My old self that poo-poos things I think are silly or useless or dumb or I just don’t wanna, but might actually be worthwhile because the person recommending them is someone I respect, needs to shut up for a while and listen.
So… creative types out there… what rituals have YOU created for yourselves? And, are you committed to them? Are they working for you?
P.S. btw, I am human. I do lapse. Things I do sometimes INSTEAD of participate in my ritual? Check my e-mail, check Facebook, get distracted by a good novel, watch the previous night’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance, call a friend, heck, I’ve even started baking to keep from writing. Then I laugh, refocus, and keep going. And for the times I DO have a job to get to, I have a “mini ritual” to start the day so that I don’t get too far off track.