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Monday Musings: Finding a Routine that Works

Happy Monday friends! Confession time: I’ve been having some MAJOR writer’s block lately.

I know that’s the case because: a) I haven’t posted on the blog in a week b) my apartment is looking suspiciously clean and c) I’ve been enthusiastically responding to emails (and texts and FB messages and tweets) all day…rather than writing.

I’ll be honest, self-discipline isn’t my strong point. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, one being a whimsical toddler and ten being someone who can complete a marathon or a juice cleanse, I’m a three. (OK, maybe at times a four.) It’s truly amazing to me that I’ve managed to work as a freelancer for the past 4 years, since time-management is still a mystery to me. And yet, without structure, the hours seem to fly by and I wonder what in the world I actually did with my time. Case in point: it’s 3 pm, I just poured myself a third cup of coffee, I’m slowly working my way through a dark chocolate bar, and I’m staring at my computer screen wondering what in the world to write. Sigh.

Not to say that there’s nothing to write about. There’s plenty of exciting things I could tell you about. Like the wine-pairing dinner I’m cooking for Wednesday night in collaboration with Hoopes Vineyard, my favorite Napa winery. I’m launching a new entertaining column for one of my favorite magazines next week (details coming soon!), and Oprah.com just featured 3 of my recipes in their Easy Weeknight Recipes round-up (!!). We’re working on a redesign of the blog, and there’s some very exciting book news on the horizon! So many things are happening, and I feel both insanely grateful, and yet weirdly unproductive.

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Largely, this is because I don’t have a good schedule in place right now. I feel like I’m just kind of drifting, responding to whatever seems the most urgent, rather than really having a solid day-by-day plan. Can any of you all relate to this feeling?!

I had coffee the other day with an artist friend of mine who is in process of creating a new body of work for a show this summer. She has essentially 6 months to complete 12 portraits – and, in the meantime, has to make money to support herself. Talking with her was incredibly inspiring for me, as she is both highly creative and – by necessity – highly disciplined. Five days a week, she gets up at 6:30 a.m. so she can work out, have prayer time and eat breakfast, then is in the studio by 9 and paints all day until 5. Once the light is gone, she does paid freelance work from 5-8 pm, and then has two free hours to have dinner and catch up with friends. Then bedtime at 10 so she can be alert and ready to repeat the cycle the next day. She said that by being so disciplined, it has actually increased her creative freedom, and she finds herself actually completing her paintings faster than usual.

I think it’s easy to think of creative endeavors as purely inspiration-driven. But honestly, that’s such a small part of the equation. Much of the creative process is simply showing up to work, day in and day out, whether that be songwriting, painting, writing, cooking, or whatever your craft may be. The most successful writers I know have a routine that usually involves a strict schedule where, like it or not, they’re at their desk typing away. (And ideally with phone off, and email and social media closed.) Putting a framework into place allows creatives to thrive.

Writing this post is convicting me in a major way to practice what I preach. For accountability’s sake, I’m going to work out a daily schedule – one that includes blocks of time for writing, recipe development, and photo shoots (and maybe even a workout or two!) – and post it on the blog later this week. Because I guarantee you – if it weren’t for you guys, and your accountability, I would never have completed 100 days of The Cookbook Diaries, and I most definitely would have never completed the cookbook. So thank you all for your support – even from afar!

I’d love to hear from any of you pursuing creative paths – bloggers, artists, writers, etc. how you combat these lull periods between projects, and how you incorporate structure and routine into your day. Seriously, please share your wisdom with me! I need it!!

xo, Anna

P.S. I’ve got a cozy winter dinner party menu I’ll be sharing with you later this week…stay tuned!

(Opening photo by Nate Poekert)

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