daily practice


Yesterday's post (and then a lovely conversation with a friend on facebook about journaling) reminded me once again of the importance of daily (or almost daily) practice. 

I have been writing in a personal journal every day (or nearly so) for about twenty years now. I wrote on the day I met my husband. I wrote on the day we married. I don't think I wrote much on the day I gave birth but I definitely wrote a lot during my pregnancy and as much as I could through new motherhood. (It was hard. Early motherhood was hard and writing during that time was especially hard. I've written before about how that led me to photography, which was easier to practice with a small child.)

The point is, my journals have been constant companions. I am (as S put it yesterday) "a hardcore writer."

Which isn't bragging, it's just the truth: I write every day. 

I am not a novelist (though I have written a novella and a mostly-non fiction, can-I-even-call-it-Postmodernist? NaNoWriMo novel). I wrote short stories in college and high school, for classes, but I don't really write them when they're not assigned. I've written a few children's books. Maybe if I get my shit together they'll see the light of day. I wrote a play for a class and an awesome screenplay last year that I've talked about before. 

I mostly write creative non-fiction (hello blogging!) and poetry. 

Poetry has been my salvation. It is my one true art. If I could do nothing else, I would sit and write poems. If I had to give away every talent, every art form I practice, I would give up poetry last. A pen, some paper. Hell, even fingers in dirt. Words chanted in my head. As long as I have breath, I have that. If I can speak, I can write poetry. If I lose the ability to speak, well. The poems will stay inside me. Because they are inside me.

What we practice every day becomes part of us. I don't have a daily poetry practice, but I have a daily writing practice and that is enough to unleash the words when I need them (or rather, when they need me). 

It is enough to practice.

And here's the best part: all you have to do is start. Right now. And keep practicing. Every day. If you stop for awhile, just start again (try not to beat yourself up about it. I have wasted many a journal page with self-recrimination: "I can't believe it's been a month since I last wrote..." No need. Just write. Where you are. Sometimes you have to get out the self-recrimination, but it's gentler to just remember you are human and go from there.)

If you don't want to write, don't write. Not everyone is a writer. Do something else instead. Do what you love.

And remember that everything, everything you do often enough becomes part of you. It gets easier to keep going, the more you keep going. 

Do you want to run? Go run. 

Do you want to do yoga every day? Do yoga everyday. 

Do you want to drink a green smoothie every day? Drink a green smoothie everyday. 

And when you fall off the practice (and you will) just start again. It will be easier every time you have to restart.

I only have four years or so of (almost) daily photography under my belt. But that is four years I didn't have before I started. I can see a difference in the photos from the first year, to the second to the third to now. Daily practice makes a difference.

(I actually have sneakily started a 366 project this year on instagram. I didn't decide until a few weeks into the year, but so far so good. I have no idea how to link to my stream, but you can easily find me there, if you have the app.)

With some things (like exercise), you have to either find a way to love it, or just make it so habitual that you are able to keep going, despite not loving it. I think we all need some kind of physical practice in our lives. Mine is dance and yoga, although they are harder for me to keep up on a daily basis. Still, I have built up to a daily practice a few times now (over the years) and every time I take a break, it gets easier to restart. I've been trying to add hooping to the mix, but I just haven't found my groove again with it, since we moved. I'll keep trying. 

Or as Yoda would say, keeping doing. There is no try. Only doing or not doing.

And that's the key to having a daily practice: keep doing. 
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This photo is a bit of a tease: it's from the last trip we took to Europe, in 2008. This is a Spanish door, in Mont Blanc, I think. It reminded me of LotR and made me happy. I'm pretty sure I took it while we were driving past. We may have been stopped at a light, I don't recall.

Anyway, the reason I used this photo today was that traveling is on my mind. While traveling isn't a daily practice for me, it is a annual practice (or nearly so) and that means I have a lot of years of travel under my belt (less international travel, but that's mostly an issue with money). We've been thinking a lot lately about what our next international destination will be, since it's been almost four years,. No answers yet, but Europe is calling. We shall see!