After having painted a couple of lovely little pastels, I hit a brick wall.
Now, I'm not one to give up on a painting easily. I can wale away on a piece for a really long time before I admit I'm licked. And I got licked twice last week. O u c h.
So I did what I always do when I get stumped in my studio. I cleaned 'er up. Put stuff away. Actually dug out an old towel, stuck it under the tap and wiped down just about everything I could. (Those of you who are pastel artists know what a job that is.)
It wasn't just cleaning this time around. It felt like something different.
In her book, "The Creative Habit", Twyla Tharp devotes an entire chapter to developing and honoring rituals. Gail McMeekin uses several pages in her book, "12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women" to do the same. So does Julia Cameron in "The Artist's Way". In fact, most authors on the subject of creativity suggest creating rituals, or at least observing habits that help jump start a desired activity. (Lest you think I'm a devoted researcher into the creative act, trust me, I'm just lookin' for short cuts.)
I've never really thought much about my rituals. I don't light candles unless I burn supper. (I have a tendency to forget lit candles until reminded by the charming shriek of the smoke alarm.) Music goes in one ear and out the other, without spending much time in between. On a more mundane front, to me at least, reading the morning paper is simply a civilized thing to do, and getting the crossword done before noon is less a ritual than a clever plan to stave off dementia. (I'll let you know how that's working one of these...uh....hm, where'd I put my keys?)
So what was with the cool vibes I got with my overloaded dust rag?
Without realizing it, I have been establishing a ritual. I realized that whenever I get stuck artistically, I dig in and dig out. I essentially wipe my slate clean. The junk I've been collecting on the desk top gets neatly put away. The residue of paintings that put up a fight gets wiped down. I've even been known to toss into the trash old paintings that I had come to resent.
It's not so much a routine house-cleaning as it is a spiritual cleansing of my creative space.
For the next week, I'll pay attention to my actions and see which ones are routine, and which ones are rituals. Which parts of my day need greater attention and which actions deserve more respect.
Why don't you the same? Don't just plow through your week hoping Friday will get here sooner. Pause. Pay attention. Seek out the rituals in your life, and make them routine.