Things were going fine. Like clockwork, I’d get up at 5 and go through my ritual.
And then, one day, I abandoned it. I started thinking it might just be a waste of time. Instead of doing it, I could just get straight to work. Right? That’s an extra hour or so I could spend doing stuff.
Wrong. My writing suffered. I became disconnected. Scattered. Convoluted. It wasn’t until I abandoned my morning ritual that I realized how vital it was to my creative life.
After going back to the ritual, my writing immediately healed. I felt more relaxed, organized, present, and connected with my audience.
The concept I’d like to clear up is this: The morning ritual, although it seems like it just adds another stressful thing to the day, is ultimately a process of removing.
A morning ritual is a process that sheds the layers of our nervous, clueless, frightened, scattered monkey minds.
I noticed, when I wasn’t going through my morning ritual, I felt like a gorilla was sitting on my shoulders while I was writing. My thoughts felt muddy, disorganized and bogged down. It was: write, delete, repeat — the evil, time-wasting, stress-inducing loop of creative doom.
This is no place to create from.
Through our morning ritual, we shed our extraneous layers to access our true, creative selves.
Philosopher, futurist, and creativity extraordinaire Jason Silva discusses his ritual as a way to achieve the same flow state freestyle rappers and improvisational jazz musicians tap into. Silva claims the aim of a creative ritual is to shrug off our internal editors so we can get out of our own way.
In our morning ritual, we’re dumping the proverbial trash bin in the control panel of our souls and freeing up space for something greater to shine through.
I’m writing this from the perspective of a writer, but a morning ritual can help anyone — writer, coder, carpenter — anyone who uses creative superpowers in their work.
Now, telling you my ritual and leaving it at that would be a disservice to you. Because it’s not about how you do your ritual, it’s about the intent of it. That’s why I’ll share not only what I do, but the key concepts and intentions behind each part.
1. Get caffeinated (or at least hydrated).
I prefer coffee. A big ole’ cup of Joe suits me just fine. Tall, blonde, and sweet (no, I’m not talking about my wife, she’s more like a shot of fine espresso). Anything to warm and replenish the soul (leave the peyote, moonshine, or any other mind-altering elixirs for Tuesday nights).
2. Get comfy.
Sink in. If you’re cool in the lotus position, awesome. If you’re like me, and you’d rather take a pair of vice grips to your molars, just lean back and recline in your favorite chair. I sit cross-legged on the couch. Whatever makes you comfy without putting you back to sleep.
3. Release and renew.
Breathing is nice for this. In through the nose. Out through the mouth. On the inhalations, let your abdomen fill up. Breathe in all of your tension, stress, fear, and overall negative static.
As you exhale, release it all through your open mouth as your abdomen contracts. Make an ahhhhh sound, like you’re fogging up a mirror. Allow the nonsense you’ve collected to follow your breath to the end of the horizon and disappear.
If the breathing thing doesn’t work, throw on some music and let yourself sink in. Or just become aware of your surroundings. Anything to get you centered in the day.
4. Listen up and dictate.
By now, something is probably starting to speak to you. Get it down. All of it. Fast.
No matter what you do — even if you’re not a writer — a 10-15 minute stream of consciousness freewriting session (coined Morning Pages by the brilliant, Julia Cameron) works magic.
Get it all down. Even if it seems nonsensical like, “I don’t know what to write… This is stupid… This is a waste of time… I really want to work right now…”
Eventually, a thought will emerge that you can follow. Here’s a nifty little online tool to help you do this if you need it.
If you write a lot for the web, you’re probably really good at writing how you speak. Don’t do that here. Instead, write what you’re thinking. Stream of consciousness. What we’re doing here is flipping our internal editor (I have a different name for him, but this is a family blog) a huge, well-deserved middle finger.
In time, you’ll become a good listener to your soul. Your inner ear will relax and open up. This is when the magic happens.
5. Get inspired.
Now that you’re comfortable, caffeinated, cleansed, renewed, and open, it’s time for some inspiration to give you a boost. You can make this as long or as short as you want. Do something that gets you creatively inspired. Something life-affirming.
If you’re a coder, look at some cool things others have done that you want to play off of. For me, as a writer, I love reading writers that I wish I could write like (Simon Rich, Neil Gaiman, and Marianne Williamson are my fav’s right now). This is more of a meditation than an information-getting session.
6. Go to the end-point.
Close your eyes and mentally envision your desired result in whatever you’re about to do. I stole this from author and creator of Notes From the Universe, Mike Dooley (to see his whole ritual, jump to the 9:10 mark here).
Set a timer for one minute. During that time, imagine you’ve written that awesome article that leaves readers enraptured. You’ve finished that website and it looks incredible. You’re looking at that finished piece.
Whatever it is you’re wanting to achieve, you’re there. Fully. Enjoy yourself. Feel it in your bones. Raise your hands in the air like Rocky if it gets you in the mood. Then come back.
This one’s simple (now)… Write the piece. Enter the code. Sketch it out. Create. Pull from your freewriting, if applicable. Do the dang thing. You’re more than ready.
8. Walk away.
Yep. Every time. Before you ship it, give it some time. Even if you think you nailed it.
If you can let it sit overnight, great. Two days, even better. But if it only happens to be an hour or even 20 minutes, that’s usually good enough. Just walk away from it and let it percolate in the creative juices of your subconscious.
Every time I haven’t done this, I wished I had.
9. Refine and finish.
Come back to it and revise. You will most certainly have a revision or 10. Take what you have and make something shareable out of it. Mold it into something that’s clear and impactful. Something you can put out into the world.
It’s time. Share it. Put it out there. Are you scared to hit ‘publish’? Good. If not, consider going deeper.
Now… Make your own morning ritual (or, feel free to follow mine). If you achieve #4 (releasing and renewing) by going out and jumping in the pool, fine. If you want to skip steps, add them, etc., go for it. Just make sure each thing you do has a purposeful intention behind it.
And remember, your ritual shouldn’t add to the stress and strain of life. It should make things simpler. It should help shed your extraneous nonsense to get at the core of who You are (yep, capital “Y”) so it can shine through in your work.
Simpler. Purer. And bolder.