I don’t know about you, but my creative practice kind of stopped mid-March.

It took me until the end of August to start doing anything that even resembled a serious creative endeavor. I made a few attempts at getting back into the creative practice habit this summer, but it was kind of like “Nicole goes through the motions of being serious in the hopes that creativity will result,” and it didn’t. I was doing for the sake of doing, but it was unfocused and deprioritized and I didn’t really know what I wanted.

I found my way back in through journaling.

At first I simply wrote about what was going on.

Then, exactly like Julia Cameron suggested might happen in The Artist’s Way, I started making connections between things. (You might say, if you were of a profound turn of mind, that making connections between things is the essence of creativity.)

I began to prioritize my journaling. Made it the first thing I did every morning, before checking email or the news or anything like that. Just a few minutes with the blank page and as many thoughts and emotions as I could jam onto it.

I had an unexpected, almost mindblowing artistic growth moment at the very end of August — and oh my goodness I really should write about that, shouldn’t I — and after I realized what I needed to do next, getting back into the daily creative practice routine was relatively easy. (The hardest part was, of course, figuring out where and how to schedule it.)

Although, as I recently told a friend, this newly revived practice was all about studying other people’s work (at the piano, in this case). Not generating anything new.

“Maybe it will be a technical year,” I told her. Sitting down with Mozart every morning can teach you just as much as writing something of your own, after all. Maybe more.

But then I saw this tweet from Atomic Habits author James Clear:

For the last week, I have started each day by writing “What do I want?” at the top of a blank page.

It’s surprising how useful it is to keep asking yourself this question. Each time, my answers get more precise.

Once I know what I want, I translate the answer into action steps.

I added the question to my daily journaling ritual, and kept coming up with the same few responses over and over. One of which was “I want to make things.”

And then I had an idea — it came to me, literally, in a dream — and I woke up and I wrote it down.

And then I started waking up a little bit earlier every morning so I could have time to work on it.

Which brings me to now, 6:55 a.m., the sun still yellow at the horizon. (My new office faces east, which is one of my favorite things about it.) I’ve done my journaling and my making-something-new, and when I’ve finished with this post I’ll do some yoga and share a cup of coffee or tea with the person I love and get ready to sit down at the piano.

And when I’m done practicing, with the rest of the day still ahead of me, I’ll start my freelance work. ❤️

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