Why Rituals are Critical to Creativity

Cuppa

Whenever someone tells me they struggle to write, I urge them to start doing morning pages, or three pages of free writing every morning. It’s not about creating great art, but a powerful morning ritual. You sit down to the page and write without any edits. In three pages, you free yourself to play on the page.

Morning rituals are powerful for all kinds of artists and creatives: I have friends who start their days with drawings or singing. I don’t believe in a specific action. I believe in the power we can create in our rituals. A small routine can open you to inspiration and start your day right.

Yes, this post focuses on morning rituals. I am a morning person. But, you can incorporate these ideas for your ritual morning, noon, or night.

The connection between ritual and creativity

Morning rituals are rooted in self-care. For instance, I drink honey and lemon water to clear out my sinuses. I meditate for 15-20 minutes to clear my head. Both provide emotionally energy to fuel my art.

Self-care is the foundation of creativity. Without self-care, your eyes will be too tired to focus on gorgeous light outside. You may create things, but you will probably rehash art you’ve already done. When we’re exhausted, we tune out. We certainly don’t have the energy to take real risks that creativity asks of us.

Is creativity rewarding? Yes. But it’s also exhausting. If you don’t practice self-care, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to harness your gifts.

What a morning ritual can look like:

Crosswords

Over the past six months I had a ritual I loved. It looked like this:

  • Wake up at 8
  • Make a cup of hot water with honey and lemon
  • Meditate for 20 minutes
  • Get up by 8:45
  • Walk to my office by 9:15
  • Write my morning pages from 9:30-10

It helped that I lived two blocks from my office. I could get home and work out by 7:30 most nights. Before you become a giant green monster, a new job has now given me an hour-long commute, forcing major changes on my mornings.

Recalibrating isn’t the same as starting from square one, but it is similar. I need time to decide what I will keep, and what I will have to move to other parts of my day. Continue any ritual for long enough and it’s something you will have to do too.

How to create/recalibrate your morning ritual

Establishing a morning ritual, even with years of experience, can take time. I find I need about a month to find my groove.  Will our rituals look-alike? Probably not. We’re human, not cyborgs after all.

Here are a few tips that help me find my ritual:

1. Start small

My morning ritual can run up to an hour. That’s longer than an episode of Game of Thrones! But it didn’t start that way. It started small, a cup of tea in bed. Slowly it grew, 15-20 minutes of morning pages and eventually into a deliciously full hour of self-care.

To start, think about the little things that feed your soul. Is it a quiet moment drinking coffee? A morning prayer?

If you’re unsure, try out different things and see how you feel. Some habits you may want to try include:

  • Sun salutation (warm up the body and greet the day)
  • Meditation
  • Quiet moments with your spouse
  • Cuddling a pet
  • Writing a gratitude list

All of these can be done in five minutes or less, most in bed. Be sure to check-in with yourself to see how you feel afterward. This isn’t homework after all, so be sure you enjoy it!

2. Give yourself time

I always kick myself when I stay up late. Will I give up my morning ritual? Yes, because tired Katie is a mean gremlin (I wish I were kidding.) Even with enough sleep, my day will still feel off.

Learn from my mistake: give yourself enough time to enjoy your ritual. Maybe you need to wake up 15 minutes earlier. Perhaps you need to turn off the TV in the morning to improve your focus. Whatever you need, give yourself time and space to do it. We spend enough time rushing and distracted already in our day.

3. Allow yourself to be human

The only thing you can count on staying the same is change. You get a new job, start a family, or wake up and realize that your morning ritual is just not working anymore.

With my new job, I’ve had to make some big changes. That gorgeous morning ritual doesn’t work with my new commute. Now, my mornings look more like,

  • Wake up at 7
  • Make a cup of hot water with honey and lemon
  • Do yoga for 30-40 minutes
  • Shower
  • Make breakfast
  • Get dressed and out the door by 8:30
  • Drive for an hour to the office

This isn’t my ritual: I don’t feel settled in it. I need to reassess what I do, when, and where. Leaving the office at 6:30 PM now means arriving home closer to 8, not 6:45. By then, I want to eat a pot of dark chocolate fondue, not curl up into a bounded side angle pose.

Serious foodie

In transition I have to tell myself this: No ritual is absolutely right. Underneath any and all rituals is listening to both what I need and what I want. It’s not easy, but necessary in assessing any ritual.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or dealing with a major life change, allow some wiggle room. You may start off with a cup of coffee and have that evolve into starting the crossword. Or maybe you simplify your ritual.

Most importantly, whether you’re recalibrating or starting from scratch, give yourself permission to be human. Your morning ritual isn’t about being perfect or becoming the best at self-care. If that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t find it in a ritual.

How you know you’re morning ritual is working.  You become more aware of your body, your thoughts, even your feelings. You may feel more aware of how you drive, or your coffee’s taste.

You find yourself beginning to move intentionally through your day.

Don’t think your morning ritual is working?

Don’t panic. I’ve been there too. Instead, pat yourself on the back. You’ve figured out the problem. This is an opportunity to recreate your morning space. Right now, I’m there with you, retooling my ritual too.

There’s only one way to do a morning ritual wrong: rushing past yourself.

The question comes down to, are you willing to listen to what your heart and soul have to say? They are the gatekeepers to creativity and inspiration. Listen to them even if you aren’t ready to do what they ask. Ignored long enough and they fall silent, unwilling to keep talking to deaf ears.

As I close out my evening, I’m already looking forward to my morning. I love the golden light through the blinds, the warm honey and lemon on my tongue. I could get sweaty on my yoga mat, or meditate in my bed. No matter what, I’ll try to listen to myself, coming a little closer to the latest version of my morning ritual. I hope you will too.

Do you have a morning ritual? What does it look like?

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