Being there before the light arrives
Rituals play a central role in religion because they provide a framework for worship, even when faith is low.
The same could be said about the creative process. The thriving artist crafts a menu of carefully defined, highly structured behaviors into his daily and weekly schedules because he knows he can’t count on inspiration and discipline alone. He knows rituals create a foundation of security when faith is low.
And so, his rituals insure that he spends as little conscious energy as possibly where it is not absolutely necessary, leaving him free to strategically focus the energy available to him in creative ways.
Schwartz’s seminal book on enduring high performance says it best. Will and discipline push you to a particular behavior, but ritual pulls at you. Even when you’re tired and uninspired and anxious. Ritual reduces your number of daily decisions, creates a foundation of security and activates the creative subroutine in your head.
That’s why I listen to the exact same ambient techno record every morning when I sit down to start writing. It’s an associative trigger. A trusted framework that staves off the tyranny of moods. A nonnegotiable construct that does the heavy lifting for me. A finely calibrated mechanism to help me take advantage of limited resources.
The only caveat is, designing a ritual takes skill.
Debono’s brilliant book on taking control reminds us that a ritual should always be a little big artificial. Because if it’s too natural, then it’s easy to forget that it’s a ritual. And so, as you create a framework for when faith is low, be careful not to make it too easy on yourself. Taking a shower as soon as you get up in the morning isn’t a ritual, but treating that shower as a meditation in which you consciously avoid all negative thoughts about your upcoming day, is.
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That Guy with the Nametag
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