As the Gregorian year of 2023 drew to a close, I used this arbitrary marker to take stock, to glance at my process of the year, and to key into what I hope my process to be for the next year. Here are a few thoughts on my general process, written at the end of December, 2023:
On a call with one of my handful of coaching clients, I talked about the importance of making a plan, if only to have something to deviate from.
Plans are the backbone of my creative and business life, but not the heart. The heart is my wish to connect. Structure helps me connect to others with more clarity and reach.
As I look back on the past calendar year, I can see all the things I accomplished, what I learned and integrated into my process, and what I finally got around to starting that is on the schedule now for next year.
I’m a creative who works for myself. That means I must have structure—however arbitrary—because there is not one imposed from outside. The only outside structure imposed on my life are bills that need paying, and some people who rely on me. Luckily, I have intrinsic internal motivation, which I know not everyone has.
But internal motivation itself is not enough. There are plenty of ambitious people out there who don’t end up accomplishing much. So, every year I set a writing, teaching, and production schedule. Every year, I set myself business tasks to learn, experiment with, and then implement. Threaded through these schedules are commitments to my health, spiritual practice, and my family, community, and friends.
Around once a quarter I reassess my plans and adjust them accordingly. I always go off schedule, whether because of the vagaries of my autoimmune disorder or brain injury, or simply because my ambitions slightly outstrip my capacity.
But I understand there will be deviation, going in. I build in buffers and time cushions and set my goals pretty low compared to some of my colleagues.
People are often amazed by the amount I get done, when I feel as if sometimes, I barely work at all. My schedule is the reason why.
How many books do I want to write in a year? How many Kickstarters do I want to run? What sort of teaching—if any—do I want to do? What do I want to study? What business practices do I wish to implement?
Part of my planning process is to include plenty of time for research and study, usually over breakfast or during my daily walks or weekly gym time. There are projects that, three years ago I thought, “I really should learn how to implement that.” But there were systems I needed to shore up or put in place, and research to do before I got around to it. Those “I really should” plans didn’t make it onto the schedule, except as something to study when I had time.
Late this year, I finally got around to starting one of those larger projects, and plan to get it up and fully running in the next calendar year.
Another project is one I’ve danced around for a decade, but needed to stabilize my health again, and get core creative and business practices firmly established first. It’s a podcast on magic and creativity that I plan to launch project next month, on a trial basis. Yeah. I’m easing in and want to see how it goes. Flexibility, right?
My process is filled with determination, consistent showing up, and a whole lot of wiggle room. That is how I get things done. I’m rarely frozen by indecision because I have a raft of projects to work on. If my brain can’t manage project one today? Off to project three, it is!
Over the past few decades, I’ve seen creative after creative flourish: knitting, writing poetry, making music, doing crafts, building, writing novels, dancing… Some of these creatives are full time, but many of them create part time. I’ve also seen creative after creative stall out, undermined by life, indecision, or self-doubt.
The difference is not only prioritizing creativity—which is key—another important facet of consistent creativity is allowing ourselves to remain flexible and curious. And to breathe through any perfectionist tendencies. A lot of creatives become frozen because of a need to tell the right story, or to make the perfect song.
They forget that they’re the ones in charge. Stalled or burned-out creatives allow creative expression to become a chore, instead of a source of curiosity, discovery, and joy.
And that is another thing my production and writing schedules do for me: they remind me that I’m responsible for my creativity and my business. They remind me that I’m fortunate enough to earn my bread doing things that I (mostly) enjoy. Scheduling also reminds me that the things I deem as important need me to show up and actively illustrate that I care.
If our subconscious decides we’re not all that interested in whatever it is we say we want, then it won’t happen. We retrain our subconscious through action, not through saying something is so.
So that’s my process in a nutshell: I decide what is important and I place an arbitrary structure around it to help me show up for all those important things.
How about you?
How did your past year go? How do you hope the current year will go? Do you wing it? Do you make resolutions? Do you have a plan?
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