creative habits

And, and, and, and... by Christina Rosalie

Notebooks - Christina RosalieI'm ready to let go of and.

Between the first of the new year, and my birthday (on Sunday!) a ritual of mine is to go back through the previous year's notebooks--capturing story blueprints, noting recurring patterns, and discovering hints and whispers of dreams that bear new significance in the light of reflection—in preparation another year’s journey around the sun. My notebooks (nearly always Molskine) are where I record everything: notes from client meetings, sketches, dreams, lines of overheard dialogue, to-do lists, memories, ideas, glimmers. Whatever my mind stirs up, I capture it there on the page.
The work of looking back is an opportunity to connect the dots, tie off old threads, and begin anew. Disconnected notes from months apart suddenly tell a singular story; certain to-do list items are easily crossed off, while other’s linger providing insight into where my sticking points and resistances might lie; and recurring themes emerge though I rarely notice them in the moment, too caught up, as I often am, in the act of doing.
Without realizing it, I was probably dealing with adrenal fatigue for most of last year, yet I never allowed myself to listen. I’d tell myself—there on the page, I feel exhausted in a cellular kind of way. I just need sleep. I just need to be outdoors. Then I’d ignore it entirely and keep right on pushing.
What’s interesting is how and where that little word creeps in. And.
How again and again, in trying to sort out what I really wanted to be working towards, where I should focus, or how I should proceed, I’d begin begin with singular declarative truth: just write.
But then I’d keep listing. And this, and that, and that, and, and, and.
Like an archeologist sifting through the artifacts of my own soul, I looked for evidence elsewhere and found it. Lists weren’t the only places and showed up. And was insidious.
I used it chronically, to the point that I regularly lead sentences with and; knowing full well I was breaking the rules each time.
What I never realized how this habit also revealed a character trait. What I never understood that my overruling grammatical norms with irreverent and hygiene, was symbolic of how I would chronically overrule my limits.
And overextends.
And says: don’t just do one thing, do many things. And says: one thing isn’t good enough, be many things. It says: You don’t really have to make up your mind. It says: you can do it all—this and that. It says: add a little more to your plate, and a little more. It says: have your cake and eat it too. Be this and that, bread and butter, now and later.
I’m ready to let all that go.
I’m ready to let go of contingencies and extraneous details and distractions that easily pull me off course and blur my focus. I’m ready to have this year narrow to the simplicity declarative sentences.I’m ready to lean into the power of committing to singular goals, one at a time. I’m ready to edit, revise, refine. To be. To write. To strengthen my core.
I’m ready to let go of and.
How about you?

This post is part of the Let it Go Project: a collection of stories leading up to a beautiful releasing ritual, hosted by Sas Petherick on January 30th. Find all the details for this free event + join us here.

Weekending by Christina Rosalie

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Weekending_ChristinaRosalie I pull the shades open to find rain spattering against the window-glass, then dive back under the soft-polka dotted coverlet, homing to the warmth T radiates. For a while we lie this way, just breathing. From here only the crowns of trees are visible: a crosshatching of black and white, a tangle of rain-drenched twigs against the milky grey of the early morning sky.
Eventually, I switch on the light beside my pillow, and T unfolds from bed. I've been crushing on the beard he's grown over this winter, and I can't help but smile watching him on jeans and a sweatshirt. Soon the warm place that he left has been filled by Clover, her sweet yogi-self pressing against me, tail wagging. I tousle her velvet soft ears, and when we've sufficiently greeted each other she curls into a ball, and keeps my feet warm as I write.
T brings tea, and from the next room over I can hear the boys in their room chattering in the perpetual way they do, and I fill page after page in the yellow legal pad with whatever comes to mind until the half hour mark, when I put my pen down, refill my tea, and head to the yoga mat with T for a half-hour morning practice.
This has been our ritual every morning for the past week, and I love what it's done to set my mornings right.
It's been my goal this year to build simple routines that sustain my core. Rituals that soften the edges and simplify the moments and reduce some of the stress I find all too easily creeps in.
Another ritual is simply to let the weekend be what it is best: a time to rest. Instead of filling it in with doing, I'm practicing doing not so very much. Sitting all morning with more tea in the big white chair by the windows watching the rain while Sprout puts out fires in the play castle he's set up across the room, and then heading to the studio after a snack to make some new art, Sprout in tow while Bean hangs out in his bed reading and organizing collections.

I would so love to hear about some of your weekend (or week day rituals!). Tell me: what makes you feel whole, and simple, and quiet, and good?

5 things to fuel your creative soul this weekend: by Christina Rosalie

 Creative Process -- Christina Rosalie 1. Review all the notes you've jotted down throughout the week. I often take notes on my phone, but if I don't make it a ritual on the weekend, I forget the thing's I've noted there.

  2. Start a Spark File. Steven Johnson first coined this phrase, but it's something I've been using for years. Pam Houston calls it her "Glimmers" file. I keep mine as a single document in Evernote, so that I can access it from everywhere, and I put all my ideas there for for everything I want to write or dream into reality.

  3. Eavesdrop. On everyone. Your kids. The people standing next to you in line. The couple at the restaurant, leaning in. The two old ladies with cool hats walking to church. Listen to the cadence of their dialogue. To what they're saying and how they're saying it. Take notes. Good dialogue in stories is born of eavesdropped moments.

  4. Get moving. We're made to move, not to be still. Even though it's raw and muddy in Vermont in April, with my favorite turquoise Hunter boots on, and camera in hand, the meadows beg to be explored. What's around you? Get out and see.

  5. Underline in magazines. There's something about the temporariness of magazines that makes us read them more quickly. We tend to skim, reading subtitles and captions and pull quotes. But I've found that when I read with a pen in hand, underlining as I go, it gives me a reason to read more deeply, and to begin to parse together new thoughts stirred in my mind by the underlined fragments.

  What are some ways you love to fuel your creative soul on the weekend, when there's a little more time to sink into the moments, sip coffee, and soak up the world? I'd love to hear!

Resistance to change, creative habits, and Sprout is growing up by Christina Rosalie

Resisting change + new habits for Sprout Resisting change + new habits for Sprout

Resisting change + new habits for Sprout

Resisting change + new habits for Sproutphoto-3 It’s taken us too long, really, to be firm. To take a stand. To say enough’s enough. But to be honest, we were resistant to making the change because we were both a little afraid of what taking it away might mean for the balance in our lives. We pictured bedtimes of wailing, naptimes gone, perpetual whining in between for a week. He’s that kind of kid: stubborn when he wants to be. Also, he has unbelievable eyelashes and the biggest, widest eyes.
Unlike his big brother, Sprout totally loved his pacifier as a baby. It was a great self soothing mechanism, which, while he was small made all the difference in lulling him easily to sleep. But somehow he’s not small anymore. He’s lanky-legged and solid, and when we’re driving somewhere, just the two of us he’ll tell me silly stories about bears and foxes and coyotes that almost inevitably end with all of them putting spaghetti on their heads and tails, and then he devolves into laughter.
And still, the paci has stuck around. It became a habit long past when instincts linger, and lately? The more he’d use it, the more bratty he seemed to become. Whining at everything. Yelling. Throwing fits when he didn’t get his way.
Still we hesitated, and the truth is I don’t think either of us made the connection entirely between his behavior and our reticence to help him give up that final habit of babyhood. We had a lot of conversations around his fourth birthday. There was mention of a “Paci Fairy,” whom he seemed to marginally believe might really come to collect all his pacis and send them off to a baby who needed them. And there was the suggestion that his baby cousin might need it instead and we should ship them to him instead.
I admit the logic was warped in all cases. But I know you've done this. Made some halfhearted attempt to see just how gullible your kid is, in hopes of being able to make a point or change the course with the least amount of resistance? Wool over eyes. An impossible suggestion to make a point. Knowing the entire while that it won’t really work unless you get behind it too.
All this to say: We were afraid of his resistance and because of this we were halfhearted. Our lives have had all kinds of curveballs lately, and every time we ran the scenarios through in our heads, and we’d end up shrugging and giving up saying, “Well, he’ll grow out of it eventually” or, “He won’t go to high school with it.”
But then this past weekend he was a whiny monster all of Sunday, and at one point when I removed him from some utterly nonsensical embittered argument with Bean over legos or blocks or whatever it was that had devolved into yelling, and while I was carrying him downstairs he wacked a block towards one of the newly painted hallway walls. And somehow that was it. My resistance to change was shaken. I was really in.
I plunked him in a chair for a time-out. He wailed. I resisted, and when repentance crept into his voice, he started asking for his pacifier, out of the blue I said simply, “No, you’re too old for pacis. You’re done. Your behavior has been showing me that it’s making you think like a baby when you need to be thinking like a kid. All done.”
It wasn’t a threat. It was completely the truth. That is the phenomena that I’d been noticing. And when T heard me say it, he nodded and said, “You know, you’re totally right. That’s exactly what’s been going on.”
And just like that, we were both in, and he cried for a while and asked for it about seven hundred times and then he finally climbed down from the chair and ran off to do something else and that was that. That night I heard him muttering “Oh, right, no paci.” And it took him all week to figure out exactly what to do with himself at bedtime—but he did, and we did, and it was almost entirely a nonissue.
His resistance in our heads was so much worse than the actual event.
Which got me thinking about how this isn’t just true with parenting. Watching Sprout ajust to new habits made me realize how often the narratives we tell ourselves resisting change are more difficult to overcome than making the change itself. This is certainly true with my own life too. The starting of a creative habit—the waking up daily, the building of an unbroken goal streak*—it’s actually harder in my head in the moments before I commit to it, than when I do.

So I'm wondering: How many times have you resisted making a change because there’s some story you’re telling yourself in your head? How many times has your own inertia that kept you from swerving off the course you’re on, even if the swerve would inevitably lead to growth? How often do you resist, simply because the story of your resistance is stronger in your than your commitment to change?
What if I told you that all that resistance is far worse than the actual event of change? What would you let go of? Stop doing? Start?

    *More on goal streaks & creative habits in my next newsletter coming out on April 1st! SIGN UP.

Let the choices you make today be the ones that make you glad by Christina Rosalie

The-Universe---Christina-Rosalie  It’s before the dawn and I’m up. The choice is mine. Hello writing practice. Hello day. I lie in bed for a minute or maybe five, feeling the way my mind slips like a gymnast between one state and another: one second I’m here, the next I’m somewhere else entirely, with people I’ve never met whose faces are as vivid as the day is new.
“Are you getting up?” T asks. He’s rubbing my feet, a ritual he started sometime this summer when he realized, maybe for the first time, how I settle into myself in the morning. Head first, then body slowly.
I’m always surprised that I can talk at all then, with my eyes closed, and my body still enmeshed in the silken cobwebs of drowse and dream.
“Maybe,” I say. The choice like a soft purring animal in bed with me.
But the truth is, I’ve already committed.

Yesterday I spent some time with my priorities for this year, looking at how each breaks down into hours and minute spent daily toward achieving them. And writing, as always, was at the top. It’s the most important thing to me, above all the urgent things, to show up and put to the page as the world turns to blue. Before there is rush, and fragment. Before the trees take on the pale color of day, and then are painted gold and blue as the sun climbs up through the tangled ladder of their branches. Before other things chime in, to make arguments of urgency that cannot be avoided.
And so even as I’m lying in the soft warm dark with this purring animal kneading the rumpled edges of my dreams, I know I’ll get up, press a hot wash cloth to my puffy eyes, pull on sweatpants and pour tea (never coffee first thing) and wait with the cursor at the page.
It takes another minute of struggle to do it. To get up, really. But then I’m here.

Last week my sister sent me a link to the Huffington Post essay, “Leaning In: Similarly Yet Differently” by Carissa K, about two friends whose lives had since high school, run on parallel tracks, careers, companies, promotions, each of them making one choice and then another; each of them progressing, or sometimes outpacing or catching up until the author went and had a baby, and the other friend did not.
Then, inevitably like tracks in a switching yard, their courses changed.
Isn’t that the way it goes?
I found myself nodding as I read, aware of my own narratives about how, and who, and why, things have turned out the way they have for me. The stories I’ve told myself about the life I’ve chosen. Now, at 35, I have enough of a past to look back on roads not taken, and the outcome of those choices not made will always be fiction, played out by the actors and actions of other peoples lives.
What I’m trying to say, I think, is that we all have our own version of Kate. An alter ego. A parallel universe. A real-life or imagined embodiment of what if, or if only. The way we didn’t go.
And truth is: at every turn, we choose, and with our choosing, the inevitable slice; the bifurcation; the way thing sheer off from our lives: opportunities, outcomes, options. The inevitable nature of choice is that there is always another. The what if? The passed-up chance. There will always be something we leave behind in order to make the choice we do.
This is another way of saying: the choices we make matter immensely.The ways we wake up or stay asleep to our lives. The ways we choose urgent over important, or the times we decide instead to do the most important thing, even when other things and other stories thunder in our ears with their urgency.
This is also a way of saying: those things you didn’t choose? Don’t let them define you. The lives you passed up in order to live this bold, glorious life? It’s all fiction. It’s all a story you’re telling yourself in your head. I'm reminding myself of this today, and also, hopefully reminding you:
The parallel path is not your path. Put your time into here, into this now, into this bright new day. Let the choices you make today be the ones that define who you are.

Creative habits: glimpses from around here lately by Christina Rosalie

Creative habits form slowly, and as I've been making them new, I’ve found that every action I take must be intentional: prioritizing what’s important over what’s urgent; really sinking into conversations that matter; saying yes only when I really mean yes, and no unequivocally the rest of the time.
I don’t think I understood really, how flat-out I’d been. How the pace of my life had become my life. How, in spite of writing a book about this very thing, somewhere along the way I slipped back into the groove of doing the day to do it, rather than to be in it. And now, after having come to a full stop, I’m beginning again, with tender intention to form new habits that feed my soul.
Habits are interesting things. When we create them with care, they can be our secret weapon, jet fuel for living at our truest velocity. But when we simply react to our lives, habits form too. The past few weeks for me has been all about peeling back the layers of self, and finding the fulcrum of habits that have formed out of self-doubt and self-preservation and angst and worry, and letting them go. The next part, which has been surprisingly hard for me, is defining the shape of new habits that support my greatest intentions, and align work with joy, so that instead of becoming a job, the work I do becomes my livelihood.
I’ve been writing lots of lists. Sorting. Sifting. Prioritizing. Downsizing. All of it feels, as I’ve said before, really right-timed right now, with spring creeping across the fields as the snow melts and each day new birds arrive. The air in the morning now is filled with calls, even as now flurries still fall.
Here are a few glimpses from what our weekend looked like. One of the creative habits I want to grow this month is blogging regularly--even when I all I have are a handful of snapshots, moments un-curated and in progress, the little glimpses of life as it's happening around here. It's something I struggle with--because I always feel like words should be there too, crafted and thoughtful, but lately I've been wondering if that's just another story that I've been telling myself. Maybe less is more here too?
Happy Monday, dear friends!
In the comments will you tell me: what does the word livelihood mean to you? And also: what creative habits are you trying to cultivate in your life right now?