Like a lot creative people, I have always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with habits and routines. Being completely honest, up until to this recent history, it has been mostly hate:

I hated the idea of routines, I hated the idea of habits, they seemed boring, and like a waste of time and the farthest thing from the creative life I wanted to cultivate. I could see, theoretically, how they could be helpful, but it just seemed so booorrrinnngg to implement.

A turning point for me came when I was working for myself, and I was no longer at the mercy of a schedule that I didn’t have a large amount of control over. Suddenly most of my time was my own—to decide which goals to pursue and how.

Now, those of you are perfectionists know what happened next: I waffled between trying to find a perfect schedule, that maximized my potential—to get everything done, be super creative, take care of my health, and have plenty of time for meaningful relationships—and collapsing in a heap, doing nothing, and calling it rest—rest that I really needed because I was running around like a damn lunatic.

At some point, I realized that I was spending so much of my mental, emotional, and even physical energy on figuring out how to spend my time, instead of actually spending my time wisely.

I’ve also been lucky enough to move around a lot in the past couple of years and those experiences really drove home the importance of habit to me—the importance of establishing a set of habits or routines was crucially grounding, especially in the midst of experiencing the un-groundedness of my nomadic life.

But the final piece that transformed my on again off again relationship with structure and habits and routines into a more permanent, committed partnership was when I realized that routines are about way more than what I had been making them mean. Routines and habits are not draconian, boring, creativity-killers. They are actually essential for creative growth. 

Routines and habits are one of the best ways I can practice self love, care, and acceptance. Habits and routines are my way of telling myself that I am worth a peaceful, calm, creative, and protected life. They are also my way of making that life happen.

This is what some people–even people who are huge proponents of habits–are missing when they talk about the value and utility of habits. Sure, habits are a great way to save yourself some mental energy, by automating stuff. But more importantly, they are a great way to practice: to build up you willingness to stick to something you want even when it’s hard, because you believe you deserve to have it. They are one of the best ways to build up your resilience, willingness, and self-love muscles.

Once I made that shift—from thinking of habits at some boring assignment that I had to rebel against to thinking of them as a means of loving and taking care of myself—that was when I realized their power.

And I realized that when I had been struggling against routine and structure, I, had in part, been struggling against giving myself the loving container that I and my creativity really needed. I had been leaving the “practice” part out of my “creative practice.”

For me, habits are ultimately an expression of self-love.

It is about saying, I deserve to have a life that starts calmly and peacefully, that contains space for my creative expression, that allows me to cultivate a sense of peace and stillness and connection to my creativity and inspiration.

I deserve to have a life that looks the way I want it to look, even if it means giving up a perfectionist mentality that is about quick fixes and immediate results.

Especially if it means risking my ego and being momentarily uncomfortable to get where I want go.

Because, that’s the only way to get where the getting’s good, my friends.

So, how are you going to put the practice back into your creative life?