I’m on day four of getting up early to write. This week my plan is a Monday to Friday blitz. I’ve made it through Tuesday! I’m committed to the idea and even still, yesterday morning the Monday Blahs were weighing me down and fatigue wrapped around me like the warm duvet I wasn’t ready to escape from. I lay in bed with mild remorse at having stayed up to watch a second Netflix episode of The Walking Dead (It was so good I could have stayed up to watch a third) …and the excuses started to creep in. “If I skip this morning I still have four more days.” and “I’m tired. I can write later.” and “I’ll just lie here another 30 minutes. I’ll still have time to write.” Then Ewan stole my pillow and Lilly nudged me with a wet doggy nose right in my face. Was it a sign? I’d like to think they were supporting me to get me up and writing but in truth Ewan wanted me to leave so he could get back to sleep, and Lilly wanted breakfast… but it was enough to get me going.
So I sat down to write fuelled by coffee and toast and the Monday Blahs. What a combo. I didn’t even have Lilly to warm my feet. She ate her breakfast and went back upstairs to sleep with Ewan (seriously). But anything worth doing is worth doing, even badly, so I soldiered on, cold feet and all. I sat down and stared blankly at my computer screen for awhile thinking about book outlines and book chapters, waiting for inspiration. I fought the urge to check email, scroll Instagram, or read the news (that’s not what this time is for…you can read why here) and after several long, uninspired minutes nothing was coming up.
It happens, but chasing ideas is like herding cats. It takes a long time until you make any progress and you just end up frustrated and fuzzy. So I stopped writing. Well that was successful!
The truth is, I’m still getting the hang of this morning ritual. I still need practice at the writing I haven’t done much this past year or so. I’m still formulating book ideas and so ysterday instead of fighting with the writing process I gave myself permission to stop writing. I chose instead to meditate for 15 minutes, to clear my head and work at something else I need practice at. I’m new to meditation too, but it requires less of me than writing. Sit for 15 minutes, breathe, and listen to my guided meditation. I use an App called Headspace and as absurd as App-based meditation sounds (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it) I use it because it’s simple, accessible, and it’s helping me be successful at something that up until now always scared me a little bit.
So yesterday morning as I imperfectly attempted to breathe, be in the moment, and clear random thoughts from my head a few good ones stuck around. Imperfect action. Here are three ideas for allowing creativity out by letting imperfect action in.
Idea 1: Learn from the stumbling blocks.
Goal setting is great as long as you can stay open to adaptations along the way. Set that goal, start on it, and then embrace what you don’t know about your new process. Let stumbling blocks teach you how to do things better or differently. When you come up against resistance what micro-adjustments can you make in your routine that will help you do better work or get the right work done?
“Set that goal, start on it, and then embrace what you don’t know. Let stumbling blocks teach you how to do things better or differently.”
Yesterday morning I stumbled in my attempt to write right out of gates, so today I started my morning writing ritual with a morning meditation. It felt like a low-pressure way for me to enter into the day and into my creative process, plus it allowed me to practice and integrate two new habits that are important to me: meditation and writing. So far so good. I’ll see how it goes in the days ahead, and if necessary I’ll make adjustments along the way.
Are there stumbling blocks in your path that you need to revisit? What are they teaching you about your process and what can you do differently to minimize them and optimize success?
Idea 2: You still have to work when it feels like work.
Sometimes work feels like work. Even things you usually like to do can occasionally feel like a chore. How often have you started on something ‘good’ and then been sidelined by lack of inspiration? It happens. Monday morning I was uninspired. As I sat down to write I had any number of topics I could have tackled but my enthusiasm wasn’t there. Everything felt like “not today” and I kept looking for the spark that would get me excited to do the work. Nothing came. Call it Monday, or just an off day but it threw me off and I almost quit before I started.
But over-thinking is the enemy of progress, and lack of inspiration is not a reason to quit. In fact I don’t think inspiration has to be fully present before you kick in to gear. It would be nice if it was, but if I’m honest it rarely is for me. Sometimes, in order to create an environment for success you just have to give the process a little time, a new approach, or a change of plan.
Over-thinking is the enemy of progress, and lack of inspiration is not a reason to quit. Give it time, a new approach, or a change of plan.
Monday morning my change of plan was a mind-clearing meditation, and once I returned to writing inspiration crept in. This morning I started with meditation and then sat down and finished this post. When inspiration is slow to come, push into the work, change your environment, or change the plan just a bit for just a while. You might be surprised at what comes up. For an interesting, punchy take on breaking through the blocks and winning your creative battles, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield… now get to work.
Idea 3: Success comes in many shapes and sizes.
You’ve set the goal and you have an idea in your mind what success should look like. “I’m going to get up every morning and go for a run!” Your first few efforts seem to go as planned and you’re feeling pretty proud of yourself… and then you hit one of those aforementioned stumbling blocks. “I don’t feel like running today.” or “My ankle is a bit sore from when I turned it yesterday.” or “I feel a cold coming on.” What if, instead of shutting down for the day, you find success in a different package? Go for a walk instead of a run. Do some stretching indoors. Give that ankle a rest and do some upper body weights.
My goal for writing book number two involves getting up early every weekday morning to write. Sounds simple. Monday morning I wasn’t feeling the writing love so I felt like I was failing at the goal. Not a good way to start the day. But as I mentioned earlier I’m still getting the hang of this morning ritual. I still need practice at writing since I haven’t done much this past year or so. I’m still formulating book ideas…so maybe at first the goal should just be about doing something …imperfectly? I can write a blog post, read a book for research, meditate imperfectly, formulate my table of contents, and even write parts of the book poorly (it’s easier to edit once something is down on paper). As long as I’m being creative (and not checking email, social media or the like) I’m calling it success.
We learn so much more through the process of doing than we ever will just thinking about it. I’m glad I got up yesterday morning and sucked at the writing. It helped me realize that meditation will be a better way for me to enter into the creative process each morning, and it gave me the idea for this blog post. Perfect!
What needs your imperfect action today? Get started on something you’ve been putting off. Get started so you can see what comes up. It will create necessary momentum, help you identify and challenge the stumbling blocks and get you that much closer to success.
In praise of imperfect action!