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How I Boosted Meaningful Productivity Through These Rituals

Turntable

Daily rituals fascinate me.

Is there a secret to this creative energy bubbling up in writers, poets, artists, and musicians? Would my waking up earlier, staying up later, or drinking lattes with the perfect amount of froth propel my creative energy into overdrive? I can’t say for sure but I have discovered how a few (nine to be exact) wisely-placed rituals lead my day well. This is especially true on the days dedicated to writing, which have radically increased while finishing up my first e-book scheduled for release in April. {I’m excited to share more about that subject in a few weeks!}

Alarm clocks

9 Rituals That Boosts Creativity & Productivity

 

  • Wake up early. Now that Brian has an hour commute we’re waking up by 5:45 am. Even on weekends, I prefer to wake up early. Part of this, I’m convinced, is genetic. But I’m thankful I’ve always been an early riser. For me, embracing the feel of a full day is exhilarating. Add a cup of hot coffee to the mix, and the day is officially underway.
  • Cue the praise music. After breakfast, the TV goes off and the music comes on. I listen to three different channels on Pandora:  Brandon Gilliam {our son}, Aaron Keyes, and Bethel Music. I crank up the music for 15-20 minutes, sing, raise my arms toward heaven, and worship. Zephaniah 3:17 says the Lord sings over us. I love singing to Him in return.
  • A Conversation. The music stays on, but now it lays low. I read through the Bible chapter-by-chapter, keeping my small hardbound steno close by. Speaking, listening, praying⎯all lay the foundation for a glorifying kind of day. At least, that’s my prayer.
  • Get dressed/ready. Now that we live twenty minutes from civilization I don’t “go to town” nearly as much as I once did. It can be semi-tempting to leave on the pajamas and leave off the makeup. But I’ve recently come to see that, at least for me, getting ready helps me to view my writing as work/ministry⎯not a hobby. So I get dressed, comb my hair, and swipe on a little color — sometimes more, sometimes less. {Both grandmothers loved their lipstick. I suppose this is genetic, too.}
  • Switch the Pandora channel to George Winston. This simple swapping of stations triggers my mind that it’s time to shift to writing mode. I don’t play this station any time except when I write.
  • Sit at the desk, not the couch. Another trigger to prompt my brain that it’s time to work, not play.
  • Mute the phone and shut down Facebook. I still check both but only at set times.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to join me in the process. He doesn’t require an invitation but it reminds me that He is with me, for me. That we are in this together.
  • Pour a cup of Paris tea. I reserve this treat for the afternoon, and it’s my way of winding down.

Paris Tea from HarneyI pretty much stumbled upon most of these rituals or at least their order, but when the creative process began clicking, there was no turning back. Tweaking my schedule has increased my productivity two-fold.

Your goals and the steps you choose to attain those goals will probably look different than mine {especially if you’re not an early riser *wink*} and that’s perfectly fine. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than one of my favorite finds, Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It’s a peek into the minds of brilliant artists of all types. Their idiosyncracies make mine look mildly boring, and it’s a lovely feeling, I must say.

How about you? Do you have some type of ritual that helps you to be more creative and productive? Please share!

 

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The Applause of One

 

Only hours before the awards ceremony at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, I crossed paths with Julie at the Cloud Cafe. Although I’d received a positive critique from Dr. Donn Taylor the day prior, I had low expectations of placing in this year’s poetry contest and I was disappointed — not in the assumed outcome, but by the fact that I was…well, disappointed. Why did the award mean so much? Did it mean too much? Would a loss deter me from the path of poetry?

God, through Julie, helped me to see how I was on the cusp of believing the lie that a piece of paper could validate my writing—to myself and to others. God alone stirs this heart to communicate and takes the work to places of His making. I simply need to be obedient (is there anything simple about obedience?)

Tears flowed. Hope arose. God’s Validation Gratefully Received. Win or Lose.

Later than evening, as Eva Marie Everson announced the winners for the poetry category, peace sheltered my heart from any possible disappointment. And then I heard these unexpected words: In first place, the winner is…“The One” by Cathy Baker.

Can I be honest? Hearing your name called, while thunderous applause erupts from those you most respect, is an unforgettable experience. And yet, while making my way to the stage I recalled a quote written in my journal many years ago:

“It matters not if the world has heard or approves or understands…the only applause we’re meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands.” ― B.J. Hoff

To God be the glory.

 

Not What My Hands Have Done


Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

These guilty hands are raised, filthy rags are all I bring
And I have come to hide beneath your wings
These holy hands are raised, Washed in the fountain of your grace
And now I wear your righteousness

Thy work alone oh Christ can ease this weight of sin
Thy blood alone, oh Lamb of God, can give me peace within
Thy Love to me, oh God, not mine oh Lord to Thee
Can rid me of this dark unrest and set my Spirit free

Thy grace alone oh God to me can pardon speak
Thy power alone oh Lamb of God can this sore bondage break
No other work save thine, no other blood will do
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through

I praise the God of grace; I trust his truth and might
He calls me his, I call him mine, My God, my Joy, my Light
My Lord has saved my life and freely pardon gives;
I love because he first loved me, I live because he lives.

– Aaron Keyes

Spiritually Preparing for BRMCWC

✔ Ipod loaded with music from Brandon, Zach (from college days), Aaron Keyes, and David Crowder. What better way to begin and end a day?
 
✔ Lots ‘o one dollar bills for the Cloud 9 Coffee Cafe. Latan, are you ready?
 
✔ My “Edie” notebook, stocked with business cards, writing samples, and a flashback-style plastic pouch filled with pens, paper clips, and sticky notes.  

✔ Much, much more.

If you know me, you know I’m all about the checklist. The process makes me giddy:

  • Empty thoughts onto page. In detail.
  • Grab debit card. Go shopping.
  • Ask hubster to bring luggage down from the attic. Okay, beg.
  • Check off each item — quickly. Score!

Searching for the most comfortable shoes or snazziest notebook is gratifying, but if I’m not careful, I can allow the temporal prep to override the eternal one.
 
Becoming spiritually prepared for next week’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference also involves a process—one of searching the soul, with God leading the way. For me, it looks something like this: 

God, would you search my heart? Turns out, I have a tendency to see only what I want to see about myself. 

God, would you see if there is any offensive way in me? 

  • Pride – even a speck of it can leave enough space for the enemy’s big toe.
  • Envy – “Envy is dissatisfaction with who God has made me to be. It is also suspicion that God is withholding what I deserve and giving it to someone else.” -Mindy Caliguire. God, am I envying someone else? If so, please forgive me and show me how to put on dancing shoes (preferably, without heels) on behalf of another person’s success.
  • Greed – “Greed
    grows out of the suspicion that God will not take care of our needs as
    well as we can do it ourselves.” -Mindy Caliguire. I say I trust You to lead and guide the way on this journey, but when I try to make things happen in my own strength, there’s a whiff of greed in the air, i.e., the stench of flesh. Father, may You find me dying to self, allowing the Holy Spirit to move fully and freely in my life, bringing forth the sweet scent of Your glory.

God, open my eyes to the new and unique ways You are calling me to live out the Gospel as I choose to see this amazing conference as a blessing from You. Not one person will be in attendance by “coincidence”. 

Next week is about You, not me. 
Next week is about transformation, not information. 
Next week is about becoming the men and women You’ve called us to be, not trying to become someone through the process of “doing”.  

“Lay your deadly doing down
Down at Jesus’ feet
And stand in Him, in Him alone,
Wondrously complete.” 

-James Proctor, It is Finished

Today’s Fleeting Moment

Windows down
Beach-like breezes
Pasture-lined roads

Volume up
Folk-pop Fleet Foxes


Thanks to something Aaron Keyes shared awhile back, I not only sensed God’s presence in that moment, I invited it.

You see, somewhere along the journey, I’d decided to “uninvite” God when choosing to listen to anything but Christian music. But why? If the lyrics aren’t offensive to Him, can He not enjoy those moments with His daughter? He absolutely can and does.

That realization came when Aaron shared how he and the Lord sang while making their way down I-85 to a gig. When he mentioned the song (which I honestly don’t remember, but it was secular) I was taken back at first — and then he expounded on the relationship between the Father and His children.

My view had become skewed — but the Lord pulled back the curtain, allowing me to see Him afresh, and I’ve not looked in the rear-view mirror since.

(Aaron will be leading worship at the Heritage Park Amphitheater this Sunday, May 29th, 10:30 a.m. and will be in concert there at 1:00 p.m. If you’re in the area, you don’t want to miss it!)

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