A Habit Must Be Established Before It Can Be Improved

A Habit Must Be Established Before It Can Be Improved

This is my 100th blog post. It took one-month shy of seven years to get here.

Nobody knows what they’re doing when they start. I didn’t know when I started but I know more now. What might I know in ten years? I hope I find out.

The title quote is from James Clear. It helped me a lot. I was not doing things I “wanted” to do because I didn’t really want to do them. Or I “wanted” to do them at a high level, a level so high it was only possible to imagine doing it, not actually do it. I “wanted” to do yoga for an hour like I did at my yoga studio before the pandemic. But I never wanted to be in my living room with my yoga mat for an hour. Never. Never once did I want that in the past year. That’s why I went to a yoga studio in the first place. Because once you’re there, there is no escape. The social pressure is really important for me to overcome lethargy.

But in dwelling on the quote, I thought maybe I could start with something very very short. I could just do it for the length of one song. Just a few stretches. That’s it! One song Caren. You got this.

It worked! That was not too bad. I did not hate that.

Over time, I found that I was totally willing to do yoga for the length of a few songs. Sometimes I would do more than I intended. Isn’t that fun? That’s like a habit starting to form. Woah! I now exercise several mornings a week for ten minutes. Ten minutes is something I can manage. Ten minutes doesn’t freak me out. Ten minutes is happening. I don’t have to pressure myself into it. It’s something I actually like to do. I’ve built a habit.

Rather than make your hopes and goals bigger make them smaller. Make them so small you are doing them.


Are you by chance curious what little book I wrote this quote in? It’s last year’s pandemic little book. Here is a picture of the cover. I can’t get my fill of Danny Trejo in pink. His vegan donuts are off the hook. Try them if you are in Los Angeles.

HIIT for Creativity

HIIT for Creativity

Sometime in 2015 I started making 9 inch by 9 inch abstracts with alcohol based markers. I do this activity most weekend nights. Pre-pandemic, I would also socialize but I usually make about one a week. I haven’t counted my output but it’s a lot.

Maybe a year ago the supplies were organized, markers separated by colors into three containers (warm, cool and neutral), finished work dated and put in box. Now there are many containers with no categorization. Worse, there are four pads of paper, each holding undated finished pieces, some that still have the tape I use to hang them while working. A few are quite good. One I felt should be framed and hung. How had it gotten so neglected? One was stunningly bad. Color selection is atrocious. Why put baby blue with so many warms tones? Composition is maybe the worst ever. The opposite of harmony. Looking at it is like eating a lunch of leftovers from three culturally distinct meals, spaghetti with seaweed salad and a few bites of burrito. That one is never going into the box!

I was noticing all of this as I set up last night. It made me a little uneasy. What is all this about? my mind demanded to know. What exactly are you doing here? What’s the point? You’re awfully messy. If you can’t even preserve the ones you’ve already made, why are you making more?

Ack! I couldn’t put the music on fast enough!

With monkey mind diverted by song I choose some markers and got to it. Ten songs later and a good way into the piece I started pondering again, but with a more enthusiastic perspective. Doing this is practice for everything else. If I can be brave enough to confront a blank piece of paper and not walk away until it’s totally filled, I can do that in other arenas as well. I can do that in my job, which requires a lot of stamina and creative decision making. I can do that in my relationships, which require me to fully be present and open to unknown terrain, some of it quite anxiety producing. By engaging over and over in creative uncertainty, watching it resolve through choice and time, I learn that I am competent to do that. There is almost nothing more useful.

Making one mark after another over and over makes me stronger. It’s a workout for creativity. It’s like a very targeted exercise that uses repetition to build of intuitive muscle matter. Some are good and I feel so grateful. Some are hideous and I hate it. It’s not about getting it right every time, it’s about getting it done and learning from what the finalized piece has to offer.

I like the thoughts I have while making art so much more than the thoughts I have when I am only thinking about making it.



I am a stickler about accuracy and my headline does not match my essay. I didn’t draw a sufficient parallel to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I just used the word as a synonym for workout because Workout for Creativity is Blah! Maybe another time, goodness knows I’ve been known to do a part one and part two of a topic.