Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


A Year of Mindfulness: Eliminate Filler Words

Each Monday during 2012 I am sharing a mindfulness practice based on Jan Chozen Bays’ book How to Train a Wild Elephant. You can read more about the book and mindfulness here.

Last week’s practice was Leave No Trace which essentially means to pick up after yourself before you leave a room. How did you do with this practice? My big challenge with this practice was cleaning up in the kitchen. I have a tendency, especially during the day, to let the dirty dishes collect in the sink.

With this practice I found myself not only cleaning the dishes instead of letting them sit in the sink, I also dried and put them away. It did feel pretty good to get everything cleaned up and out of the way instead of letting it linger. The one caveat to this practice: my studio. I may pick up a little bit, here and there, after I finish for the day. But cleaning up completely? Nope.

This week’s practice: Eliminate filler words. Oh boy, this could be a real challenge. Filler words, such as “um,” “you know,” “like,” etc permeate our conversations today. Some say it is because we’re afraid of silences in conversation, so instead of silence, we use a filler word. Some say it is because we’ve become lazy in our speaking skills. And others may say that these filler words “fill in the space” while we think of the word we’d really like to use.

Whatever the reason, filler words are an unconscious habit that can be difficult to change. That is the challenge this week. Eliminate filler words.

Reflection: I think you’re all enlightened until you open your mouths. Zen master Suzuki Roshi

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Monday Reflection

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me,
and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done,
and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great men.
And, alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine.
Plus, the intelligence of a man.
You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet.
Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.
Who am I?
I am a HABIT!

-John Di Lemme Motivational Speaker & Life Coach (via Lori McNee blog post on Overwhelm & Habits)


Routines and Habits

One topic in the Blast-off class that seems to resonate with everyone is developing routines and habits.  I agree with Alyson that there may not be much difference between a routine and a habit.  Create a habit and it becomes part of your routine.  At one time I pondered the difference between a ritual and a habit; even planned a blog post on it that never fully developed.  Now I wonder if I was confusing a routine with a ritual…though a ritual usually refers to a religious or spiritual or solemn ceremony.  A habit, on the other hand refers to a constant, often unconscious inclination to perform an act, acquired through its frequent repetition.  Applies to any activity so well established that it occurs without thought on the part of an individual.

Well, there is my problem “an activity so well-established that it occurs without thought on the part of an individual.”

Why is it some activities can become a habit and others don’t?  Brushing my teeth twice a day is a habit.  I just do it.  Spending time on art? Not always so easy or well-established.

Alyson shared the following quote from Dr. Stephanie A. Burns:

The most significant consequences of NOT making something a habit is that these activities would stand a good chance of not getting done, either because we forget about it or because, having remembered, we lack the ability to motivate ourselves at the time of the remembering to take the action.

One of the obstacles that can stand in the way of creating art is the business aspect of being an artist.  Some days you spend more time on the business than on the creation.  Get into the habit of doing the business aspect and it becomes hard to create.  On the flip side, if I ignore the business end and spend more time on creating, then it is harder to get back to the habit of doing business.


Okay, Alyson and others do remind us that we can’t do it all.

So where to start?  First, I sat down and thought about all the things I do for my art and business; the habits I’ve already established.  Surprise, I actually do have some habits in place.

  • I have a designated folder for receipts and other papers related to expenses and income. One day each week I remove all the papers from this folder and enter the information into Quickbooks.
  • I have certain days for writing blog posts.  I try to post 3x/week.
  • I can usually devote 3 days a week to studio time though that time is sometimes split between making art and doing business.
  • I’ve learned to schedule outside activities in the afternoon when possible which leaves morning hours to art and business.
  • In the past I’ve tried to designate Tuesdays and Fridays as shipping days.

To take this one step further toward making a habit into a routine I’m dedicating certain hours to studio time.  Within those blocks of time I’m working on designating certain times to different marketing tasks.  I write all of this on my calendar (both the desk calendar and the online calendar.)

How is it going?  Well, it has only been a week and a hard one at that given the inauguration and a few days of being under-the-weather.  I remind myself that it won’t happen over night.  It has been pointed out that it takes 21-30 days to make something a habit.  I remind myself that I’ve probably never given myself that length of time to establish a habit.

Alyson asks us to remember our motives and reasons for doing what we’re doing and what we’re willing to commit to.  I’m making it a habit to remember this every day.

And as I write this I’ve had another a-ha moment.  Instead of splitting some days into art and business, I will devote one day to business/marketing, etc.  I’ll do this on Tuesdays because part of that day is already set aside for grocery shopping.  Sometimes it is easier to break away from the business aspect than the creating aspect.


Recommended: Check out guest writer Keith Bond‘s blog post on making art a priority on Clint Watson’s Fine Art Views blog