Thoughts on Daily Rituals and Containing Chaos

I just finished reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey last night. It was a fun and easy read consisting of one to two page articles on different creatives (architects, writers, painters, composers, etc) and how they work.

Did they sleep in or get up early? Did they nap? How did they eat? Who was involved in their creative process? Where did they work?

The last artist featured was Bernard Malamud. I haven't read any of his works. From all accounts, he was disciplined and developed rituals that enabled his creative work. When asked by an interviewer about his rituals, he explained that discipline is key, but that you are who you are, even developing the best of habits won't turn you into someone else. What struck me was this:

"Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery is to crack you."

These words have been sitting with me. He was specifically referring to writers, and possibly other creatives. While I have always enjoyed creative pursuits, I am far from an artist. I dabble in hobby crafts. At best.

But when am I going to crack the mystery of me?

What I am trying to find my best way in is my home and my family. In being a better person. Since the beginning of the school year this year, I have felt off, run ragged, like I'm failing. I can't get up early enough or stay up late enough to do X or Y. My house is always a wreck, and my kitchen counter always covered by a mountain of paper and random items left, en route to another location. Eventually.

Projects left half finished, stuff piling up everywhere.

The mystery I'm trying to crack is me. What am I doing to make this better? Make it worse? What is making me tired? Is it me? Is the problem me? Is the solution me?

Is the self-centered nature of my inquiry the problem? ...

The few disciplined actions that I do engage in have helped with the feeling of chaos.

Using a planner helps. I have to write it down or I will forget about it, and I prefer paper. For a few weeks, I was forgetting to turn in library books on time. A minor thing, I know, but it was making me crazy to fail at something so small. Our library even sends out email reminders before the books are due. No reason to ever forget. And the library is conveniently located between our house and the kids' school. No reason to not return them. I just didn't. Now I write in my planner on the day books are due "X books due". Then I can look on the app or on my email and see which ones. Hooray for progress, albeit tiny.

Getting up earlier than everyone else helps. If I can start the day prepared, then I feel better. (See my post on managing mornings with kids for more tips on being prepared for the day ahead.) But with darker and colder mornings, I'm pretty much kissing that goodbye until spring.

Not procrastinating helps. I am the queen procrastinator. When I was a kid, I would clean out individual drawers before cleaning piles of clothes or toys covering my bedroom floor. Surprisingly, not much has changed there. So now I try to act the first time. Open mail and shred, recycle, pay the bill. Move an article of clothing not from one chair to the next, but from a chair to a hamper or a drawer or the closet. On a hanger. I'm not doing this 100% of the time, but when I do it even some, it helps so much. Touch it once.

I'm trying not to panic before the holiday whirlwind starts, but every day life feels like a lot right now.

Does everyone feel this way this time of year? Most of the time? How do you manage the chaos? What daily rituals do you have to help make your day and your work-- creative or otherwise-- better? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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