What makes daily practice easier?
I’m an Advocate (with a capital “A”) of daily practice, and have learned a thing or two over the past few years about what supports me in achieving consistency in this special endeavor. I have created guidelines for myself that I reflect on before diving headlong into a new practice period. (I love defined beginnings and endings.)
What about you? When was the last time you sat with yourself, perhaps enjoying a beverage, and mused about what makes practicing and growing your craft (whatever it might be) easier, more fun, and successful?
I’ve just concluded Bijou’s* Be Well, 21-Day Zentangle Journey. That experience and another, with mindful stitching every day, reminded me of what keeps me engaged in the “daily-ness” of it. Here are my realizations:
The practice needs to:
- be immediately clear to me—what am I working on today?
- be brief—15 to a maximum of 25 minutes per day
- the set-up for the work has to be simple or left for me to come back to easily (without taking over a portion of our home)
- provide a sense of completion in my chosen timeframe (I don’t have to finish a piece though I have to find a place to stop comfortably to feel accomplished)
- keep me moving forward—revisiting a rusty skill, refining a new technique, deepening my competence, or broadening my repertoire
- bring me pleasure or joy—”plorking” (playing and working) with the materials, having fun messing about, achieving my desired result (these last two areas sometimes occur on their own and sometimes in concert—think of a Venn diagram)
I learned with the mindful stitching practice—making a small square or rectangle a day using one or more stitches and/or threads—that I:
- had to work too hard to think of what I would do
- didn’t want to put the work down until I finished the square for the day—because who wants to fall off the schedule?
- worked for too long (and I saw my evenings evaporate)
- had to learn too much to be able to move forward at my desired pace.
Of course, I could have engaged in a kobayashi-maru** (changed the conditions of the work to be done) but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I finished the month, am proud of my work, and won’t do that again!
On the other hand, the Bijou’s Be Well 21-day Zentangle Journey was perfect for me! It ticked all the boxes. And because I loved it so much I went a bit beyond my (self-imposed) timeframe, making multiple tiles of some patterns) because it brought me such joy.
I have just started Tammy Garcia’s ICAD/Index-Card-A-Day Challenge. (You’re not too late; it just started yesterday, lmk if you join!). I have started it before and had a little trouble staying on track because I’ve had to think about the prompts I want to use instead of just taking hers (which don’t always feel like a fit for me). However, since I’ve just come off such great success with the Zentangle Journey, I am all in. I will say that my good buddy, Julia, is doing it too, and the incentive to do it together and support each other over the 61 days (because that’s a long time!) has bolstered my resolve. Another important piece to this is that I am focused on fun and experimentation—leaving “results” to show up as they will. That wasn’t true of my tangling days, as I am very focused on the end result there… This will be a fun shift in perspective! Perhaps you will join me?
I know that I have waxed on about the joys and challenges of daily practice. It is my hope, (as it was my intention), to ask you to reflect on your (perhaps)unarticulated) guidelines for ensuring that you are growing and enjoying your daily practice—whether it’s drawing, tangling, painting, gardening, running, writing or…
I would LOVE to hear about how you stay on track; please tell me!
(*FYI—Bijou is the name of a type of tile/paper we work with in Zentangle and the name of a whimsical, wise character/personality in Zentanlge lore.) You can learn more here, https://zentangle.com/blogs/blog/bijous-be-well-bundle-a-21-day-tangling-journey)
** for all you Star Trek fans out there