This might seem obvious at first. “Daily” means every day, right? Maybe in dictionary terms, but probably not in terms of your day-to-day life.
While it’s true some people adhere to strict daily routines with bottomless buckets of discipline, I tend to find these people profiled in magazines, not in my actual life.
In fact, I don’t know anyone personally who manages to do anything absolutely every day of the week, 365 days of the year. (Well, maybe. See “Ee: Early.”)
Defining “daily” this way proves too rigid and idealistic for me and one of the best ways to set myself up to quit—if I miss one day, I’ve failed, right? So what’s the point of continuing?
A better, more productive, and more enduring approach came to me when a friend told me about giving up wine for Lent. Only one week in, he’d already had wine all but two days. While I would have labeled this a failure, he shrugged and pointed out that he’d had wine two days less than he normally would have.
Defining “daily” in a realistic but committed way helps sustain your efforts over the months and years.
Here’s how I determine if I’ve met my definition of “daily” practice:
–Did I practice more days of the week than not?
–Did I practice more than a few minutes most of those days?
–On the challenging days, did I fit in at least a few minutes of practice?
–Did I accept the day(s) I missed because it was a hard day and I chose to read or go to bed early rather than force myself to practice begrudgingly at the end of an exhausting day? (Because beating myself up for not practicing one day does not inspire me to get to the desk the next day. It’s better to replenish my creative mind with reading or rest.)
With few exceptions, I’ve been able to say “yes” to these questions each week.
If, however, I say “no” to more than one of these criteria, I know I need to reassess:
–Am I working on projects I love?
–Have I put unrealistic pressures on myself that scare me from my practice? (For example, my husband suggested I put off sending work out for publication until I have a stack of work that feels nearly finished and that I love because the efforts to publish pulled energy away from actually writing.)
–Do I need to re-define “daily”? (For example, maybe you’ve had to take on more at work or at home for a while. That’s fine. That’s life. So maybe “daily” needs to mean finding two chunks of time each week and that’s it for a while.)
Or, lastly, have I simply lost steam and need to re-boot? You know from “Aa: Allure,” that I don’t believe in waiting for a fresh start that never comes. However, I do believe you can re-focus and re-energize your work. More on that later in “Rr: Review, Reboot, Reward.
If you can arrange your life so you can practice for a significant amount of time every, single day of the week all year long, should you? I say: no. As someone who completely ignored many voices encouraging me to take a break now and then, I finally get it, but I got there the hard way. Here’s what finally sunk in for me:
If you’ve done your work, put time, energy, and heart into it, then you deserve a break. You’ve earned a bit of rest, some time to let it all go, put your feet up (literally), and rest your muscles, eyes, and brain. Rest is a part of what will sustain you over time, and if you’ve earned it, the break will feel luxurious, not guilt-ridden or like a waste of time.
Find a balance between standards so stringent you must flog yourself to get to your work and such a relaxed approach you never get beyond the occasional dabbling.