Clearing space for tiny sparks / by Susie Lubell


I am starting some new habits. Small daily practices, if you will. Until last week the only consistent actions I did each day without fail were brushing my teeth and drinking my coffee after I drop off the kids. Everything else either happened or it didn't. There was no schedule. There were just wide open days that were either productive or they weren't. It felt like bumbling. Made me long for the days when I worked in an office and someone managed me. 

WHAT? Yes, I just wrote that. Because working from home as an artist can feel very sloppy. I am constantly distracted by the laundry, the unmade beds, the thought of dinner and the empty refrigerator, the lives of the three children I manage, the lives of my friends near and far, the news, the gremlins in my own mind that are often mean and outspoken.  And this feeling like it all has to be perfect and lead to a final piece or product so there's no room to play. I know that sounds counter-intuitive - needing structure so I can relax and play. But imagine a room with hundreds of toys on the floor. My kids might jump in but then quickly feel overwhelmed and step to the side. Or more than likely they would look at the mess and whine that there's nothing to do. I need a system to manage the internal and external chaos. I need a schedule. I need deadlines. I need an order of operations. I need daily motivation and daily inspiration. I need all these things to help me quiet the distractions and allow my imagination to breathe.  It turns out the sloppy bumbling nature of my day is making me unproductive and actually stressing me out. So last week I started a daily practice to add more structure and rhythm to my life, the idea being that a daily practice, not related to my creative work, creates a space for ideas to spark. And I tell you, it is working already.

I decided I would wake up at 6 am every morning and do 20 minutes of yoga. A few months ago I signed up for this service called YogaGlo and it is fantastic, when I actually use it. You pay a monthly fee which is less than the cost of a one hour class in some cities and then you can filter the zillions of classes they have by duration, type, level, teacher, area of concentration etc.  Of course, as Murphy would have it, the minute I started waking up before the kids, they started waking up earlier too. So a few times this week I enjoyed doing shivasena with a giggling toddler sitting on my heart chakra. Nonetheless I managed to do yoga five out of five days and I actually looked forward to waking up at that ungodly hour. I'm trying to add other daily habits too. Sketching. Hand-lettering. Learning new tools, new media. Taking field trips. Writing. Sharing it all in a  way that doesn't feel socially spastic. I am finding it very challenging. But little by little I'm hoping the structure will lead to more sparks and the sparks will lead to a big ass inferno.