It’s different every morning.
Sometimes it’s cleaning up the kitchen, righting everything in my path. Emptying the dishwasher and wiping the counters while waiting for my coffee to finish brewing.
Sometimes it’s listening to a podcast and hoping something sticks.
Sometimes it’s setting up my office outside, and lately it’s been heading for the local Starbucks.
Today it was praying to all that’s holy: “Carry me.”
Finding a way into your creative work can be the hardest part of working.
The monumentally stressful bits aren’t what everyone would imagine them to be: writing once you’ve started, or painting once you’ve made the time, or making up a recipe once you’ve gathered your ingredients and laid them all out before you.
The hardest part is the first step: staring at the blank page. Stepping into the studio. Giving up all the chores, tasks, and to-do’s you use to distract yourself in the name of starting to work again today.
And it’s always today.
Sometimes I feel like I’m banging at the door to the muse and I get the My Girl response: “Go away, and don’t come back for five to seven days!” But I’ve noticed some patterns that make it easier to find a way into starting the work.
Finding a way in gets easier with time.
I’ve been writing professionally for years and years now. It used to be a big deal to start, and now it’s often a matter of setting the timer for 20 minutes. I can sit and dick around for 19 minutes, sure, but if I have to publish whatever I’ve come up with, I’m not going to do that. Time limits help, as does the passage of time spent with your craft.
My pattern is to be working around 9am, and I feel the loss of it when it’s 9:15, 9:38, or 10:02 and I’m still OH SO BUSY doing something else. Starting at the same time eliminates the drama of deciding when to start.
When nothing else is working, I grab my supplies and get the fuck out of Dodge. I head outside if I’ve been in, inside if I’ve been spending most of my creative time outdoors. I’ve written in meadows and coffee shops, rented hotel rooms to get my work done, and written copy on my phone while getting my hair cut.
The world whispers whenever you pay attention.
You don’t need a whole room for your work.
I used to dream of a special room for writing, so I paid an interior designer for a floor plan and furniture recommendations. I oohed and aahed at her brilliance, then promptly failed to use any of those plans. Must be too fancy, I thought, so I asked my Dad to make me a standing desk instead. I set the whole magical fantasy writing room up, and failed to use it, too. Turns out I like writing at the kitchen table best of all.
A bigger space or more supplies won’t make the difference between your doing the work and not doing the work.
Only calmly, consistently finding a way in will help you make any headway.
May you calmly and consistently put your attention on what matters to you, and may you find a way into your deepest work again today.
P.S. If writing is what you’re finding a way into, here’s how I write books in 6 weeks or less. (SPOILER ALERT: I say “fuck the plan” a lot.)