Notes on The Creative Habit: Morning Rituals

“It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it – makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently.  It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about”

-Twyla Tharp


Every morning, Twyla Tharp wakes up at 5:30am, goes outside and hails a cab to the gym.  “The ritual is the cab,” she says.  “My morning ritual is the most basic form of self-reliance; it reminds me that, when all else fails, I can at least depend on myself.”

I’ve had many different morning rituals and routines over the years.  Being a musician means having to make up your own daily routines. You have to decide what to do each day.  The only time you get a break from this is when you’re on tour, when your day is laid out for you and printed out on an itinerary that you can keep folded up in your pocket.

Igor Stravinsky played a Bach fugue every morning before beginning his work.

Beethoven would walk every morning with a pocket sketchbook, scribbling down the first melodies that popped into his head.

Tharp’s morning ritual of getting to the gym is all about heat.  “I am in perpetual pursuit of body warmth.” Dancers need to have warm bodies.

I’m a seasonal person, and I do best when I allow my rituals to follow the seasons.  My current morning ritual is to write 750 words before my brain has time to settle into it’s normal patterns.  Then, immediately after this brain dump, I do something to focus my brain for the day.  I use this notebook…

…and I go through the following steps:

1. In one column, I write my 3 big current projects. (Projects that will take at least a few weeks to finish.)

2.Under each project, I write out the next 5 things that need to get done to move that project forward. They don’t have to be in perfect sequence or anything. You end up writing the same steps day after day, which is great because after a while you have them memorized.

3. In the blank square at the bottom of the page, I write out my “Top 3” for the day. These are the 3 most important things I want to focus on and get done before the day is over. (Things that don’t belong in this box: gigs, commitments, anything that will get done no matter what. The point is to get stuff done during the “free time” of the day.)

The other column and box on the page I use to write down random ideas and “to-do’s” during the day.

My morning ritual in the summer was to get up, put on my running shoes and get out the door for a 30 minute run.  Now I’m in the habit of doing this mental ritual. But the purpose is the same; running and writing are both activities to focus the mind.

How do you start each day?

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5 Responses to Notes on The Creative Habit: Morning Rituals

  1. I love morning rituals. I think that’s probably my favourite part of working out, is feeling like it’s this thing I know begins my day, that gets my body and then my brain moving. When I was writing a couple years ago, even if I didn’t feel like going out, I went over to Alternative Grounds and tried to work for an hour with my morning coffee.

    PS which notebook is that? I’m currently all un-lined blank pages but I love your idea of using the columns to timeline and prioritize.

  2. Aerin Caley says:

    Mornings… bleagh. I hate ’em. My morning ritual is to get myself out of bed and hope that my partner remembered to put the kettle on for tea. If I manage that, everything else is a bonus! I have lunch time and before bed rituals, which are where all my equivalent stuff get done.

  3. Pingback: Christine Bougie » Blog Archive » It’s All About The Morning Routine

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