I bought the teapot last May at the Potters’ Market, an annual Guelph craft festival, in hope of revitalizing a morning routine. I have other teapots, but this was a gift to my creative self. Ever since, it has served as a daily morning companion. It is easier to prepare for work if I start with the ritual of putting water in the kettle, warming the pot and selecting a flavour of the day from the tea drawer.
A ritual is a kind of framework we give ourselves to help get things done. 29 Ways to Stay Creative, an info-graphic by Islam Abudaoud, reminded me recently of the value of building time structures (click the link to see lots more creative ideas).
I have never liked to think of myself as a creature of habit. I am game-oriented, so random, unpredictable elements appeal more to my imagination. But every game must have its rules.
Writer Tom Franklin says, “Discipline is remembering what you want and acting upon it.”
A little routine can help us remember.
One of my guiding principles says the first thing I do each morning is make a proper pot of tea and take it to my desk. It is supposed to put me in the frame of mind for writing. Sometimes I get distracted, but the pot helps remind me why I am there, what I want to do.
These frameworks do not exist for their own sake. They require periodic evaluation. Does this assist productivity? Does it support my wellbeing?
Habitually I had been taking the tea upstairs and opening my laptop right away. The computer is a tool of my trade; I cannot work very far without it. Email and certain forums play a vital role in social networking for this cloistered writer. But if I dip into them before my brain is in gear, I inevitably lose an hour to passive absorption.
To avoid this, I recently renewed the habit of writing longhand in a journal before turning on the laptop. The Echo Smart Pen adds to the fun. This gives priority to my own ideas and inspiration. Out of the inner morning fog, this writing practice draws threads of imagery, half-memories of dreams. The intercourse of consciousness with pen and paper conceives poetry and prose. So the day begins creatively. Sometimes I get intent on something and must move to the word processor, bypassing the web browser, which is just fine.
Sometimes creative frameworks evolve and sometimes they return to older, better patterns. It is a learning process. In this way the tea ritual serves as a gesture of focus and self-care.
[Edit: This post has been edited to correctly reflect Tom Franklin’s original quote. This version originally referred erroneously to determination rather than discipline.]