The Life-Altering Wizardry That is Morning Work

Hey Get Messians, it’s Cait! This is my last inspiration post! I am going to miss doing these posts BUT I am beyond excited to read everything the new Creative Team comes up with!

So, I am going through a particularly productive patch, artistically speaking. I absolutely attribute that to my newly established habit of “morning work.”

Here’s what it looks like for me:

  • I get up early, between 5:45-6:15am.
  • I wash my face, I put on some comfy warm day clothes (it’s winter now), and I make a cup of coffee.
  • Finally I sit down at my desk, light a scented candle (for real, it’s very dreamy), and make art while I listen to podcasts, until I don’t feel like it anymore. (Usually for 45-90 minutes.)
  • When I feel done, I clean my paint brushes with a paper towel and then I blow out the candle and walk away.


It’s glorious, it’s heavenly, and it’s making me love my life again after dealing with some circumstantial sadness & depression.

I feel it is important to note that I am NOT a morning person. I struggle even being spoken to in the morning. In the past I have tried to start early morning fitness habits, and I have not wanted to maintain them. But for some reason, this morning art time is different.

First of all, it’s gentle—it’s getting comfy, having coffee, and basically doodling in the dark.

Secondly, it fills me up first thing in the morning. As artists we need to make sure that we get our own personal art-making time. I am surprised to realized that this rather short chunk of time is enough to make me a lot happier for the rest of the day. I am more present with others because I have already gotten my art-making energy out of my system.

Days that I don’t do my morning work, I notice I feel short-fused and frustrated.


Tips for establishing an art journaling ritual:

1. Set up your space

Even if you don’t have a studio or designated art room in your house, you can set up a small desk or area to have this morning ritual. If there’s no room for even a designated art desk, try an art basket that you can easily bring out and pack up.

Gather supplies and inspiration fodder (images, flowers, pinecones, crafty things, whatever can spark you to begin) so everything is ready to go.


2. Pick a time of day.

If the morning doesn’t work for you, you could pick another time to have a daily art making ritual (before bed, after dinner, while watching Gilmore Girls or what-have-you.) The benefit of the ritual comes from regularly showing up, but it doesn’t have to be in the morning.


3. Get a fancy candle.

I recommend this so much! Don’t underestimate the fancy candle. It feels like a treat, it feels a little witchy/magical, and you start to associate the smell with art making time. It’s also satisfying to blow out the candle in the end and signify to yourself that you are officially DONE.


4. Pick your sounds.

Make a fun playlist, listen to the How She Creates podcast, or pick an audiobook to listen to. Or listen to rainstorm recordings which I am doing right now! It helps you focus.


4. Show up for it.

This is your special sanctuary, so make the time to use it. The best part about a ritual is all you have to do is show up, sit down, and start. That’s the ritual. The actual art making is the product of that ritual. More often than not you will get started and fall down the art-making rabbit hole.



Cait Sherwood is a mixed-media painter who works into art journals daily. She lives on a farm in Brookeville, Maryland. She is obsessed with understanding the creative process.


  1. Katie Smith

    I love this, my most favorite time to create is in the mornings!

    • Cait

      Me too! <3

  2. Sarah mason

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been getting a bit frustrated recently because I don’t have anywhere in my house that’s “mine” (currently living with in-laws and only have the bedroom as a private space) or even a desk to work on in the bedroom. I like the ideas you shared and I think I need to start buying candles again haha.

    • Cait

      Oh, yes. That would be a challenge, living in someone else’s house. Even just mentally making space to create. But that’s what’s so good about art journaling, you can just pack it all up when you are finished.

  3. julia Thomas

    YES. I love to create in the mornings (I wake up early so I have around an hour and a half before I have to leave for work) but I find winter mornings really difficult. A fancy candle might help with that 😉


  4. Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

    Fancy candle and you own time and space to get in your art time…brilliant. My biggest takeaway is the idea that you don’t feel that frustrated balled-up feeling if you get your art time in. i really like this idea because with kids, there is always something calling for your attention and I get very frustrated if I don’t have this art time. I’m going to try and block and regular chunk of time each day for this. Thanks Cait!

    • Cait

      One day I will have a kid and then let’s see what I have to say about art making time!

  5. Sandra Karlsdóttir

    Yes! this is just what I needed to read. I’ve been trying to fit everything around sleeping as late as I possibly can… Well, maybe not as late as I possibly can, but definitely not getting up before I need to.

  6. Melody Willoughby

    I create everyday as soon as my husband leaves for work. A fancy candle is a must! I prefer the silence for this hour or so. The secret of my ritual is not to worry about what I am making. Thanks for sharing a little of your day with us. I adore your art.

    • Cait

      Omg, my husband is my bestie but I LOVE when he leaves for work! I am just so terrible with others in the morning, it’s a selfish time for me. Glad you like the post!

  7. Meghan Deinhard

    I really relate to the ritual aspect. Right now #playwithyourart is my ritual and it seems to happen in the late afternoons (at least this month) (my mornings are meditation and morning pages time). My art hut is still not fully insulated so I take over the dining table with my art stuff (I have a few tupperware containers and a big art bag full of stuff). I haven’t tried the candle, but I do set an intention as I sit down. I’ve been so happy to find how easy it is to create when I sit down, now that the habit and ritual are set. I love seeing your work Cait, it is beautiful and wild and intimately expressive.

    • Cait

      I have a barn studio outside of my house and it is not insulated either! Such a similar situation. Also there are rats there.. which makes me feel afraid when they scritch and scratch. Totally agree about how creativity becomes easy once that habit is established. It’s a beautiful thing.

  8. Heidi Lilley

    I’m really struggling with deep depression right now. Anxiety and panic are my moment by moment friends. I’ve not been able to pick up a paint brush or even look at my desk for 3 weeks now, but today I am managing to actually force myself to get up off my butt and pick up a paint brush and tell myself even if it is only for 5 minutes just try to do it. I don’t have to finish anything, just put a little bit of color onto a little piece of paper. Your idea of a candle and something to listen to, I really like that. I live alone, I have no television, and I rarely turn on my music, so I rarely hear anything but an occasional bark from my dog when someone walks past the house. Maybe some nice jazz or blues and a candle when I go sit at my desk might encourage me to sit there for more than five minutes and put more than one color on a tiny piece of paper. Thank you for writing this and giving me ideas to push me off the sofa.

    • Cait

      I am so glad to hear that the post got you going, Heidi! You must have been ready to do some creative work. Sorry to hear about the depression and anxiety! I get anxiety sometimes, in the night for some reason. I wake up all of a sudden and I am feeling this very worried doom-like feeling about my life. That sounds so extreme, but I honestly enjoy my life during the day. I think doing a little bit of art (5 minutes, like you mentioned) goes SO FAR for anxiety, especially if that anxiety is at all related to your creativity. Also great for listening are audiobooks!

  9. Tanyalee Kahler

    I so want to be able to work on my art in the mornings, but it just can’t happen for me right now. I leave the house at 7.30am as it is and am dealing with chronic fatigue that just makes me want to sleep forever. That said, I do have a ritual at the end of the day so that balances things out. Thanks for sharing your wisdom for the last 12 months Cait, its been awesome being on the team together.

  10. Amber Coulter

    Thanks so much for this! I am attempting the 100 day project this year and am doing morning art pages for mine! I appreciate the tips for making it more successful!