“Repeat good habits daily.”
– Tom Brady
Welcome to this emerging-from-lockdown limbo, fuelled mainly by cinnamon buns (my not-so-secret lockdown toolkit essential). Add a flat white and a walk with a friend, you have a life-giving remedy. One I’m here for as we Zoom towards the imminent Quaranniversary.
Cultivate creative habits
I’ve been thinking about habits a lot in lockdown. Especially in terms of how they shape our work practices. The habits that connect and replenish – coffee catch-ups, laptop dates in a café, grabbing a Pret sandwich and noodling on an idea with a colleague – have been pared back to zero.
So how we get closer to the new product launch, the course, the book proposal, when our creative resources are so sparse? I currently have a creative project taking up roughly 75% of my headspace, none of my actual time…
I know I’m not alone in needing more inspiration in my lockdown toolkit especially as we come out of it. I reached out to three multi-passionate writers, coaches, and community builders to share how they keep showing up to The Big Thing.
Consistently, generously, honestly.
Start with the least scary commitment
Parul Bavishi co-founded London Writers’ Salon with Matt Trinetti. When lockdown hit last March, they started Writers’ Hour, committing to showing up for 10 days, Monday to Friday. Nine months later, and Parul’s been there almost every morning.
“The secret to staying motivated and bright-eyed? Honestly? I think it’s down to three things. First, and this sounds a little silly but I only work with people who make me happy. Second, we started with the smallest least scary commitment, 10 days didn’t seem intimidating, and while we plan for the year, I only think about my commitment for the day ahead.”
“Finally we have a rule…we only do this if it brings us joy. If it starts becoming difficult, we say so and we will somehow pivot, adjust. Life is too short to do things that make us unhappy, life is too short to be around anyone that makes you feel bad. Just knowing that I always have a parachute out keeps me wanting to show up.”
Writer’s Hour is by definition a space for its super-inclusive community to repeat good habits daily. It’s been a lockdown lifeline and joy. I recommend it to everyone I speak to 😉
She says, “I have found it very hard to sit alone at my desk and write over this last twelve months. At the beginning I was too freaked out to write the book I was meant to be writing – it seemed silly and pointless in the face of what was happening. I did very little for months. Then I went the other extreme and tried to be strict with myself and get up and do the hours but it felt joyless and the writing was flat.”
“What has helped me a lot is doing things alongside other people on Zoom. I wake up and do early mornings of writing with a writer friend, Carrie Jade Williams, then I go to the London Writers’ Salon co-writing and I hold my own workshops. Being with other people and working together is a joy and not how I thought writing could be done. I always thought of it as a ‘lock yourself away’ solitary activity. But I realised how much I needed other people and this writing in community approach has been an unexpected blessing.”
Being in community for me is a real antidote to the relentlessness of lockdown living and working. It’s like a refuel as you connect to something bigger than you and, PS wrapping up your week with Marianne’s thoughtful and wise Friday newsletter Help Me! is a gift.
Enjoy the process – and rest!
Incredibly, writer, coach and co-host of Is this working podcast, Tiffany Philippou, wrote her first book during lockdown. As someone who is working hard at resting, her words really spoke to me – here’s how she stayed motivated.
“Writing a book during lockdown was a blessing and a curse. I appreciated that I had something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time to focus on and writing is one of the greatest pleasures of my life. My memoir is about a very personal subject – my boyfriend’s suicide – so that, coupled with general pandemic anxiety meant I was battling against a lot of sleepless nights when writing.”
“I kept going by stopping and sleeping when I needed to. I’ve always believed the key to productivity is to rest rather than powering through. I would do short, sharp bursts of concentrated work, maybe up to only three hours a day and spend the rest of the time looking after my body and mind. I treated it as a marathon rather than a race and that’s the approach I take to all my work: there is no end destination, this is it, so let’s enjoy the process.
“The Tiff Weekly” newsletter is smart thinking on modern living joy. I save my Wednesday Diet Coke break for it.
I hope you found inspiration and reassurance in these wise thoughts. The tension between mind full and mindful is real right now, so it’s about the small habits, over big, big wins.