I just might despise the daily practice mantra.
That’s right. I’m saying it. I’m acknowledging it. And I’m giving myself permission: it’s really okay to hate the taste of this ‘medicine.’
What I haven’t decided yet is if it works.
Both Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg swear by it. Both prescribe to unleash the (caged) writer/creative within. I’ve completed the Artist’s Way at least twice, and have ‘tried it’ innumerable times. I also own all the various iterations of it [accept the cooking one?]. Cameron has a whole program that includes “artist dates” and “morning pages.” Each work is a series of tasks and reflective activities meant to uncap creativity.
Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic poses the idea that if we aren’t in regular practice, when inspiration comes calling, we won’t be ready. And further, if we ignore inspiration too long, the universe will send it further along to someone more receptive.
Look, I read this one twice. And it’s like Gilbert is giving her readers a personal pep talk and I even wrote a poem in part based on the seed she planted and what I may (or may not) believe about the universe. And yet I’m still HERE, believing the daily practice mantra might be bullshit for some of us.
There is this standing mythos that women writers and creatives can do it all–if we would just get up early enough in the morning. That somehow the only thing holding us back from creative output is time. If we can stay awake long enough, past when we put our children to bed, somehow that spark will be there, and we can just open to the flow and record.
I listened to a talk years ago with poet Kevin Rabas. He shared his work, both as a musician and a writer, and he described a creative practice that still baffles me. He admitted that there was a device or paper or a method to record, in nearly every room in his house. That way, whenever inspiration hit, he could immediately jot things down. Convenience–I can appreciate that. But none of the devices linked or were synced up. Some of it was even defunct technology, like a Brother word processor. “What do you do if you lose your poems?” I asked, stumped by the disorganization.
“There’s always more where those came,” he said. “I can always write more poems.”
Damn. No fear of scarcity in that one.
And it’s not because he’s male, although I can certainly dwell in speculation about whether he carries his weight in the invisible labor of raising a family.That’s not really where I get stuck. It’s in the fact that he’s reached a place in his creative life where he has absolute faith that the universe will provide more opportunity to have shareable, worthwhile work
Poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, co-host of the podcast Emerging Form, has a poem-a-day writing ritual: https://ahundredfallingveils.com/ She shared with her podcast audience that the writing helped her process and grieve after the tragic loss of her son. My friend Roy Beckemeyer is also an incredibly prolific poet, https://royjbeckemeyer.com/, further proving that apparently a daily practice is the way to go.
But hear me out. I think I’m reaching for something…
If you’re dealing with a lot of burnout and disappointment like I am, it feels unproductive. It doesn’t feel like a box to check off from a to-do list because so many times you’re just producing shit.
I know I know. Anne Lamott says go ahead and write shitty first drafts; give yourself permission to create crap. But the reality is that that crap is demoralizing if you’re shoveling a bunch of shit.
And you can’t seem to get anywhere in the production of your own craft.
It’s frustrating. And we’re often stalled out in the development of our own skill and talent. And so sometimes I think it’s okay to back off from that daily practice. I have 100% backed off my daily practice, and it’s been the right thing for me to do. It became a crazy sore spot, a place of guilt every time I looked at my journal. So while it certainly works for many, and has even worked for me in the past, this doesn’t seem to be that time.
I know I’ll be returning to this idea, that I haven’t made any final decisions. Let’s see where this goes.