You’ve seen the common perception of “artists” — disorganized, flighty, not always entirely in touch with reality. Mess and disorder, partying ’til all hours and sleeping in, drink and drugs and bad behavior of all kinds. Artists aren’t expected to behave like “normal” people because, y’know, they’re artists.
Truth is the more habits you institute in your life the better it is for your art. Here’s why.
Using Up Willpower
Exercise strengthens muscles. It also strengthens willpower.
Muscles get tired and have to rest.
So does willpower.
The strongest man in the world can’t carry a Volkswagen around very long. At some point, he has to put it down and drink another spinach and raw liver shake. Muscles have limits.
So does willpower.
The strongest will eventually wears down and must rest. Willpower is not simply choosing to do or not do something. It is making a choice which goes contrary to your natural inclination.
Eating lunch is, in general, a decision. Having ice cream or bourbon for lunch probably doesn’t use up much willpower. Having a salad when you’d really prefer ice cream or bourbon — that’s willpower.
Energy expended on willpower is unavailable for other mental effort. Your brain gets tired, having to push you to make choices which conflict with your human nature. When your willpower is used up, when your brain is tired, you will not write. You will not write well. You will not write when it’s hard. You will not write for your 15-minute daily commitment or your 1,666-word goal.
Not Just Willpower
Every decision you make uses mental energy. Not just willpower decisions, but all decisions.
What time should I get up in the morning? Take my walk before lunch, or after? Cereal or eggs? Rock or jazz? Turtleneck or button-down collar?
I don’t advocate the Phileas Fogg school of “set it and forget it” decision about wardrobe, diet, and schedule. I also don’t object if you want to do that. Make smart, healthy choices once, and never decide again. I actually like the idea.
What Should I Do?
My days tend to be sloppy and disorganized. Schedules annoy me and I can’t know what I’m interested in eating for lunch until it’s lunch time.
Too much of my time is spent choosing the next decision to make. Regular in habits and schedule reduces the mental and emotional load, freeing energy for art.
That’s why I should create a schedule and a menu and all that and stick to it. Will I?
I haven’t decided yet.