Pruning the Routine

So much has happened since my last blog post in May.

In what was thought to be the tail end of the pandemic, U.S. states started re-opening businesses in earnest. More Black deaths at the hands of police prompted a massive national Black Lives Matter movement. Rioters took advantage of peaceful protests to pillage and loot. U.S. Covid cases began to rise again dramatically in the Southern and Western states (and many parts of the world). Amid it all, I moved the micro-version of my home studio back to my external studio.

While it feels good to be back in my dedicated creating space, it has been challenging to return to what feels like a regular schedule. There have been distractions – both welcome (watching and listening to BIPOC authors and artists to learn more about racism and my role in it) and unwelcome (obsessively reading Covid-19 news online and then, just as obsessively, researching distant vacation and apartment rentals looking for somewhere to escape in an inescapable situation).

Full disclosure: I’ve been struggling with motivation and debilitating despair since the end of April.

History is happening RIGHT NOW. Living inside it is exhilarating, terrifying, and exhausting. There were several weeks where I felt that I might not be able to shore myself up enough to make anything ever again.

Saying that I’m never going to create again sounds dramatic but I assure you it felt wholly real. The What’s-Going-To-Happen-Next monster that lives in my brain is currently out of control and has grown three sizes, overwhelming and crowding out my will to create.

Crowding it out, but not extinguishing it.

For four years I’ve had a basil plant on my kitchen windowsill. In its first year we went away for a week in August and returned to find it had shot up all leggy and scraggly. It was still producing leaves on the top – a miniature herbaceous palm tree – so I didn’t have the heart to chuck it in the trash. Although the stems look like death has already happened, this basil plant flat out refuses to die. A week ago I decided to drastically cut it back, wondering if doing so would finally cause it to expire.


Instead of dying it started to sprout new leaflets all along the dried up stems. Proof that something which seems dead can resurrect when given some tending.

After accepting that returning to “normal” life is going to be a long haul, I realized I needed to drastically cut back the dead wood in my routine (aka unwelcome distractions) in order to eliminate stagnation and encourage growth.

By following this short list of DON’TS with alternative DOS I’m hoping to keep focused (honestly, don’t we all love a good list?):

  1. DON’T end – or start – the day with an online news spiral. DO have someone else fill me in on the important bullet points.
  2. DON’T give in to despair-inspired Netflix binging. DO go to the studio and create (remember how empty a glut of media makes you feel vs. how satisfying an afternoon in the studio feels).
  3. DON’T go awol on your daily to-dos. DO keep focused by referring to the list and moving forward on that day’s tasks.
  4. DON’T sacrifice self-care. DO choose exercise or meditation over checking off one more admin task if you need to cull your to-do list.
  5. DON’T beat yourself up if you get derailed and end up in your bathrobe all day watching the entire season of Netflix’s Skin Decision. DO gently and firmly steer yourself back on track the following day.

Number 5, of course, is key, and one rule I’m sure I’ll keep coming back to. Fall down seven times, get up eight.

There is much to be grateful for and so much more to be said.

4 Responses to “Pruning the Routine”

  1. Caito Stewart says:

    Ugh, Jody, thanks for sharing your struggles. It has been so up and down for me, too. I am all over the place, bouncing around from idea to idea, desperately looking for jobs or ways to make money and have barely made progress on my sculptures. Some days it feels like, why bother? The struggle is real. You know how to reach me if you want to talk! <3

    • Thanks, Caito! There is comfort in knowing that I’m reacting sanely to an insane situation. It’s a tough deal to have finished your MFA and not have the usual next steps to fall back on. Our superpower is our creativity and we will find ways! Thanks for reaching out – let’s talk soon <3

  2. Steven Speliotis says:

    Hey Jody,
    Your posts resonate with me & they stay with me –
    and as they should. Your words, reflecting your emotions your life rings true for what we THE WORLD are going through…
    I’ve never seen myself in this way before.
    Even though I’m a bit of a loner, I find a bit of community is also important for me and missing that is a good part of what has me feeling awkward…

    I do want to send a message of gratitude to you.
    for sharing your experience & rising up…

    You are an inspiration…
    & I am truly excited to see the sardine cans
    come to life….

    all the best

    • Thanks for reading, Steven – I’m so happy to hear that my words connect with you! Your support inspires me to keep forging ahead and make the sardine cans a reality. xoxo