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November 8, 2014

Thank goodness for therapy. In my latest weekly session, I got some insight on how to begin living with greater satisfaction.

As you know, I’m trying to write at least 1,500 words every day during November. The goal is to have 50,000 words by the end of the month. It’s a challenge! I’ve already missed both the word count and two days.

But the good news is that I am writing nearly every day. And the practice has given me a new view of my creative process.

“A writer has to write,” I told my shrink. “I want to get a life where I really, really do this every day.”

I don’t mean the madness of meeting a specific deadline. I know how to work round-the-clock on a project. No, not that.

I’m talking about a sustainable, do-it-daily routine, which is beyond my experience. My typical 24-hour cycle is filled with freelance teaching gigs, household¬†details, errands, the gym and an effort to get at least six or seven hours of sleep. I’m dealing with groceries, bills, the cats…

As I talked, my shrink sat in his chair and listened. This is his usual pose as he offers feedback here and there. He rarely tells me what to do. On this particular morning, though, he told me what to do.

“If you’re working for yourself, then you have to pay yourself first,” he said.

Interesting.

The point is that if I’m gonna take my writing seriously, then I must write. Seriously. Every day. And not just any time of the day but when I’m at my best.

For me, that would mean being on my laptop first thing in the morning, when the house is very, very quiet. This is when I’m most centered, peaceful and fresh.

Now, here’s the trick. I’d love to devote a couple of hours to creativity in the a.m. but it’s not realistic.

“An hour, take an hour,” my shrink said.

Hmmm, one solid hour of me. At my best. What could that lead to?

Years ago, I saw an exhibition of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings. The display included his drawing journals. Every morning, he’d take his dog off-leash for a stroll in the woods. Bonnard would always stop and make at least one rough sketch.

He didn’t use a large, impressive sketch pad. The show featured frayed notebooks small enough to fit in his shirt pocket. These doodles inspired his remarkable paintings. Surely, many of those walks took less than an hour!

I don’t know about you, but this is a different approach to creativity. I tend to think an hour’s not enough time to get into the zone…

When I look back, I can see where I’ve limited myself with this mindset. The new me has to stop rushing around with a to-do list and start relishing an hour as a precious, 60-minute open window. That adds up to 3,600 luxurious seconds of emotional sunshine in my daily life.

So a blog post scheduling update is in order. I’ll keep working on my writing project, which is part of the NaNoWriMo marathon. But I won’t blather every week about it, as originally planned — it would be too boring. Besides, there’s too many other things cool things to blog about.

Meanwhile, it’s a glorious autumn here in New York. The leaves are dropping from trees in a spectacular death of saturated reds, oranges and yellows. What a great season for making changes. Let’s do it with flair!