From dancer/choreographer Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit:
"I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 a.m., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and 1st Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I have told the driver where to go, I have completed the ritual.
"It's a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it -- makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.
"Some people might say that simply stumbling out of bed and getting into a taxicab hardly rates the honorific 'ritual.' It glorifies a mundane act that anyone can perform.
"I disagree. First steps are hard; it's no one's idea of fun to wake up in the dark every day and haul one's tired body to the gym. Like everyone, I have days when I wake up, stare at the ceiling, and ask myself, Gee, do I feel like working out today? But the quasi-religious power I attach to this ritual keeps me from rolling over and going back to sleep.
"A ritual, the Oxford English Dictionary tells me, is 'a prescribed order of performing religious or other devotional service.' All that applies to my morning ritual. Thinking of it as a ritual has a transforming affect on the activity.
"It's vital to establish some rituals -- automatic but decisive patterns of behavior -- at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.
"Turning something into a ritual eliminates the question, Why am I doing this? By the time I give the taxi driver directions, it's too late to wonder why I'm going to the gym and not snoozing under the warm covers of my bed. The cab is moving. I'm committed."
What rituals do you use to start your workday, or to help you cross over from the everyday world into the time-bending realm of creavity? This is a discussion I keep returning to (we've spoken about it before here and here) as each season brings new work and health challenges, and as I strive to use my time and energy (my spoons) as wisely as I can. If you participated in the previous discussions, have your rituals changed in the intervening year? Or, perhaps, are you one of those contrary creative souls for whom the very idea of a ritual or routine is anathema? What helps, what hinders, when you're at your desk or in your studio, and it's time to begin?
My apologies for the late post today; we're having difficulties with our Internet service. Images above: These early morning photographs come from a blessed day of sun this past weekend, the landscape glowing, saturated with rain.