I think a lot of people have the misconception that for artistic people, creations just fly out without any forethought, planning or daily routine. Maybe if you are Billy Childish (a prolific musician, poet, writer), but not so much for the rest of us.
I know a lot of writers, musicians and artists. The Bay Area, especially Oakland and San Francisco, is a magnet for us. Of the ones I know who are successful, there is a daily routine, whether it’s sitting down every morning to write a number of pages, or getting into a practice space alone or with a band to work on music.
I think we get this idea that creating music, writing or art is something that just POW happens. I assure you, it’s not. Sure, I’ve had many moments where I’m on a long road trip and some tiny little line comes into my head, for example, today as I was walking to my car to go to work I was thinking about how punk in Oakland has become this glam thing all around (what happened to cutting your own hair and sewing on your own patches? When did all the punks become fashion models?) and I thought, “Well, fashion punk is not dead.”
Inspiration comes in random bits. And the bits are what we make of them. If I scribble stuff down when it pops into my head, I can pore through all my scraps of paper later and maybe cobble together a song or poem.
But in the interim, I have to do things like wake up every morning, meditate, throw some tarot cards and write a page in my writing notebook. That way, I have a center, and a notebook filling with writing. A page a day doesn’t seem like much, but at the end of the year, that’s 365 pages to choose from. Two pages a day is 730 pages.
Same goes for music. Right now, I practice music once a week with other people, and work on songs in whatever spaces I have, usually late at night from midnight until 2am. For the once a week practice, that’s 52 days of practicing songs with other musicians. Twice a week is 104. And on it goes.
So, even if those morning pages or that band practice is shitty on that day, you are showing up on a routine basis for the muse to strike when ready, and while you’re not looking, you’re getting better at your craft. If you have a routine, you don’t have to stress the fuck out all of the time, because you know every morning, (or night for you night owls) you can go back to whatever you’re working on, pick up where you left off. It becomes a habit, and if people ask, “So, what have you been doing lately with your art?” you can validly say, “Oh, just writing (practicing music, painting, etc) every morning.” It also makes that crazy passion and intensity a bit less like a firework waiting to explode.
And now, when you look back in a few months or years, there’s actually going to be something to draw from. Of course, you still have to make sense of what you created, but…it’s a start. It’s harder for random life stuff to knock you off balance when you’re strong in your own center of gravity, and that strength can come from something as basic as showing up for yourself in a simple routine.
I’ve been doing real good with a morning routine in general the past eight months, but the past few weeks I got sick and then in desperation to get out of the house I went out to shows and to the city and did social shit, which kind of knocked me off my routine because I drank coffee and stayed up late and got all manic from interacting with dozens of people, and then couldn’t sleep because I had to process all the interaction. Another routine I got out of because of being sick is hiking and kettlebell, both which serve to calm my mind dooooown. So, as much as I hate anything seemingly stagnant or, god forbid, boring, I cannot wait until I am feeling well enough to kick some hiking and strength training ass and get back on some sort of stable routine in other regards.