Practice Early and Have a Bounce in Your Step the Rest of the Day
Although I know two writers who wake as early as 3am every day to practice their craft, this fails to work for me and most every other creative person I know.
However, it’s true that whether your life allows large expanses of time to create or flings obstacles and distractions at you by the dozens, fitting in your daily effort close to the start of the day has a few benefits.
First, you’ll be better able to handle the rest of the day.
On the days I manage to practice early, I feel more capable of handling whatever else comes at me, even when it has nothing to do with writing or art, which it usually doesn’t. Occasionally, in a stressful moment, I’ll get a sliver of cheer, courage, even confidence when I recall my morning spent writing.
Secondly, while the rest of your day might be satisfying, it won’t be enough.
Here’s what I mean. I called my mom one day while I struggled over a terrible drawing. Life had given me a few very legitimate reasons not to practice art, but I sat at the desk anyway. My mom, also an artist familiar with all the usual struggles, surprised me by saying she was proud of me for getting at it and making time for my work, even if it was failing terribly at the moment. I whined and told her that I find the rest of my life’s work satisfying, so why am I forcing myself to do this? She sighed, and said from what sounded like years of experience, “because you won’t feel fulfilled if you don’t draw and write.”
Exactly. Even if the rest of your life feels satisfying, fulfillment comes from practicing your craft, even if only for a few minutes. A writer-friend of mine, one of the ones who gets up at 3am, put it this way:
“A friend tells me that when he goes to work he can tell which of his colleagues have been writing by the lilt of their steps, the bright glances from their eyes, the easy music in their voices. There is a buoyancy, he says, in the creative life that is sustaining to the practitioner, and also to those nearby.” –Kim Stafford, The Muses Among Us
If you feel guilty about making time for your art even though it’s not currently helping you pay the bills, remember this—your practice helps to sustain those around you by making you a more “buoyant” person to be around.
Lastly, and most pragmatic, practicing early in the day puts your project in the forefront of your mind. So, as you go about your day, mid-email or mid-conference call, you’re likely to have a “Eureka!” moment when a piece to your creative puzzle comes to mind. If you carry a notebook with you, jot down your idea, or you can text yourself, or leave yourself a voicemail, whatever it takes to capture that idea. This insight can then spark your work tomorrow, and on it goes.