Building better habits


Fox in Snow
Watercolor sketch done as part of nightly habit-building practice

Since surgery, I’ve been having trouble climbing back on that part of the wheel where I paint and draw. It’s not just the exhaustion and residual pain that keeps me from picking up pencil and paintbrush; it seems like something deeper. It’s as if my drive chain got rusty from all the anesthetics and antibiotics.

This will never do. A few days vegetating in front of Netflix is okay, but I would never be happy with this as my lifestyle.

But serendipity often smiles on the frustrated. This week, Paul Fox at Learning to See began a daily practice forum that will last for a week. Only 6 days. And the beauty of it is, he emails every morning to remind us.

The idea is this: To develop a habit (any habit, but in this case, a daily art practice habit), you look for a trigger action. It can be anything small, but definite. Like drinking a cup of coffee. Or combing your hair. Something that’s routine, so that you’ll do it everyday.

You use this trigger as an entry point into the habit you want to create. It reminds you of the following action. For example: After you drink your coffee, you take out your sketchbook and draw.

I chose the trigger of our nightly walk, which is a longstanding habit that’s triggered by eating dinner (believe me, we never miss a meal). After coming home from my walk, I stretch a bit, take off my shoes (putting them away), and then start to paint.

It’s worked for 4 nights in a row. We’ll see if I can keep it going after this lovely little habit-building forum is over.

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