Nothing is sacred anymore. That's what they say. I say that, too, but I'd like to stop saying it and make some more things sacred. This is why: I have a really tough time going to bed. During the day, I am a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Lots of early mornings. I actually love the morning. I love knowing what the day might be like before anyone else is even conscious. I love the quiet intensity of it all. But when I have to step my feet on the ground at 5:30am to serve up boatloads of energy and physical stamina, going to bed becomes the battle. Husband is a night owl, so my fear of missing out (I refuse to abbrevs that) intensifies when I know he's staying up late but I've got to crawl into bed so that my morning won't be crisis-laden. I was considering what would actually get me into bed without anxiety and I realized I needed a nightly ritual. I needed a positive, pre-decided reason to get into bed so I could trick myself into thinking going to bed was just as poetic as writing before the sun comes up or just as wonderful as hanging with husband.
Rituals and sacred acts are givens. There is no decision making involved. Someone has already deemed them worthy, so worthy in fact that they have been passed down through generations as a sort of cultural habit. And habits are what get our tushes in the chair (or in the studio, or on the field, or at our instrument) when the trivial facts of the day are converging against us. For instance, my work space is in flux right now. I'm not sure where my work zone even lives. I'm certainly unclear of what time I do my work. And all of these questions leave the decision making to the moment, which is often fraught with a long to-do list and the perpetual search for a snack.
Not much is going to lift off if my creativity rests on whether or not I find myself compelled by mood rather than assuring it will always happen by creating a ritual around it. Just like going to bed, it ain't gonna happen if I leave it to chance. This turning on of the sacred light switch matters. Very much. It's a signal to our creative genius that the time is now.
This is where we artistic types have to look deeply inward. What is stopping us? What are we covering up by forfeiting our rituals? What are we choosing by not choosing a sacred way to bookend our work? For me the answer to that first question was: seriousness. I wasn't getting serious about doing my work because it meant I might be taken seriously. I had to choose to put something out into the world and that choice might be (gasp!) wrong. Didn't want the risk.
But denial (of which I am a master) is the surest way to have the life force sucked out of your work and then, to be honest, we should just go do a job for money and nothing else because what's the point of killing ourselves for art when we're not even making something we want to make? Make something. Obsess over it. Share it. Take it seriously. Deem the time you spend making it sacred. It doesn't have to be good. It just has to get done.
And something Secret-y happens when we cradle our precious art babies with ritual. The work gets better and the work gets connected to the people who need to see it. All the inefficiencies of worry and perfectionism drown out our creative radioactivity, making it impossible for the world to connect with us. There's too much chatter. Too much static. But creating precedent for the good shit to come out by ritualizing the act of creation draws a straight line from us to them. It rubs out the noise and shines a spotlight instead. The search party we didn't even know was out to discover us yells back to those in the darkness, "Hey look! Over here! We found something!"
And sure, maybe some people in the search party won't like it. Maybe they'll keep looking for something else. But you won't care because you'll be sitting down to write or paint or sing or photograph or teach or play because you recognize that the ritual outlives the risk. Because you know when you do what you do, it's a sacred act.