Building a creative routine for a new normal

By my calculations this is Day 46 of quarantine. I am starting my count from when I started working from home. It appears I will be working from home for May, but that may change over the summer.

When I started this “adventure,” I was initially good about my self care. For me, that is mainly exercise and staying physically active. I was doing 30 pushups and 30 squats every morning. I tried to do yoga every day and lift dumbbells and I went on a run or two. For me routines are also really important in building a sense of structure and security. Simple things like using my moisturizer, taking showers, five minutes of meditation. When you can’t control anything else, you can control what you do in the mornings and evenings with the time you have available.

The longer that uncertainty prolonged, the more I found myself slipping on self care. My partner and I go on walks around the neighborhood every day, and we have not fallen behind on that. But I wasn’t doing yoga. I was tweeting too much. I was staying up too late. I was eating too much cake.

I saw an effect. I felt lethargic on weekends, and I didn’t feel like doing anything creative. I think the whole glamourized, Hemingway-esque hard-living version of the writer at work is never one that has worked all that well with me. I do draw inspiration from hard times in my life, but when I am not taking care of myself, I don’t write. I don’t shoot photographs. I don’t stay creative. I get mired in my own head and I can’t escape the prison of my thoughts. The blank page becomes a torment.

When I’m taking care of myself, though, is when the words flow and I feel the spirit of inspiration. When I’m journaling every day and talking to my real life friends on the phone instead of fake friends who don’t know me on Twitter, I am able to process my emotions better. I understand vulnerability on social media is a way that people cope and I am not judging that, but when I do it, I find it becomes toxic for me.

I have deleted the Instagram app from my phone and I’m going to step away from it for a few months. I found everybody was posting about how they weren’t quarantining and I could not take it. I did not want to see how much they supported small businesses or their fun jaunts in the great outdoors or their photoshoots. It made me realize that Instagram was the only place people get to see my photography and I wondered how much that influenced what I shoot.

I am going to keep posting to my Redbubble store instead, and now that I have more time for them without Instagram, I am going to explore 500px and Viewbug instead. I was starting to grow dissatisfied with Instagram anyway; engagement was down there and I was routinely only getting 15-20 likes per photo, and I was stuck at 400 followers. I got some movement on it by connecting with authors and bookstagrammers on the platform but it is still pretty dead these days. I guess everyone has moved onto TikTok.

I have had great plans to do some more self portrait shoots but then I’m not motivated to set up my lights and backdrop. I have struggled with feeling stressed out and drained on weekends. Work during the week gives me structure that weekends lack.

I’m working on manufacturing more of that structure. Today I started back on my exercise routine. I wake up earlier to fit it in; I’m going to start having to wake up even earlier so my transition to my old routine won’t be such a shock. I am trying out an app called Sworkit. I had discarded it in the past because it was focused on home workouts and not gym workouts with machine exercises, but now that I don’t have access to gym machines, I thought I would give it another shot. Sworkit is $10 per month, and my yoga app, Down Dog, is $7 per month, and my gym membership had cost $35 per month. I am hoping the expense will help motivate me. I also don’t have Netflix, Hulu or Disney Plus, so I think adding these new subscriptions will be worth it.

I have also returned to my New Year’s resolution to write a short story every week. I wrote a flash fiction piece last weekend and submitted it to a magazine’s monthly flash fiction contest. I wrote a piece that was a little longer than a flash story and submitted it to another online magazine. I have mainly written magical realism thus far but I am going to try my hand at a contemporary literary piece next. For some reason, it is harder to come up with story ideas when there is not something weird shaping the arc of the story. But maybe I am just out of practice. Imagination is kind of like a muscle, after all, and you need to exercise it to make it stronger. I find submitting to magazines to be inspiring to me. I use the style of the literary journal as a prompt for my writing. I have also noticed that flash fiction has become a trend; more publishers are interested in publishing it.

I have also been pecking away at a novel, of which I wrote about 8,000 words, but now I want to change it from third to first person, make it about a photographer instead of a writer, and set it in the modern day, so I’m going to be trashing it all and starting over. These things happen. I have been more inspired to write short stories than work on the novel, anyway. I thought there are too many novels now about student writers. Photography is something different. And I think there is far too much NA, as well. I hope to make the characters in their early 20s but build more adult than NA or YA themes around it. It’s more about art than starting out as a new adult.

I also have been tweeting less and reading journalism more, mainly the BBC. I don’t want the dreams and goals of other writers to influence my own. I don’t want to write what’s popular or what sells. I like my day job. I want to write high-quality literary fiction that changes perspectives. Some of it will be weird fiction. I like weird. I like defying convention.

This week I intend to exercise and meditate every day, take more flower photos, work on the novel, and do more work in the yard, as weather permits.

That’s all for now. Happy Monday, world. Stay indoors. Stay safe. If you must go outside, wear a mask and stay 10 feet away from people. Don’t be selfish.


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