Writer & Artist Mari Andrew on Her Nighttime Routine

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Mari Andrew was living through a “season of grief” in 2016 after losing her father. She started drawing to bring more joy to her life and posted her illustrations on Instagram each day. Mari was “as surprised as anyone” at the extraordinary response to her work  — she now has over one million followers and has published a book, Are We There Yet! I love Mari’s philosophy that we’re all “connected through shared emotion” and the way she takes special care in cultivating her creativity. Getting a good night’s rest is a big part of that process, so read below to learn all about her nightly bedtime routine. 

Katie Couric: Your story is so inspiring — You didn’t really begin illustrating until you were 28. Tell us how it all started and how you got to where you are today.
Mari Andrew: I didn’t begin illustrating in earnest until I was 28, but I did a lot of living before that, and that’s all the material I use now in my drawings. I used illustration as a ritual to bring more joy to my life, but also to express myself in a different way and process my emotional responses to all the trials of being a young adult without a clear direction.

I posted every day and was always very honest, hoping to discover new corners of my creativity and get to know myself better. I’m as surprised as anyone that it turned into a career, especially because I flunked the only art class I ever took! With a solid platform, I was finally able to get a book published that I’d been working on for years, and now I’m writing my second. None of this has really sunk in yet!

Katie: You have more than one million Instagram followers (!). What do you think it is about your work that touches so many people?
Mari: I don’t have a special talent or a special story. I’m just honest about the one story I do have, and any time someone is honest, people are bound to relate. We are all going through the same things! This is something I learn over and over again with my art. The moment I post about a feeling that I think I’m the first person to ever experience, I get tons of messages from people experiencing the same thing. Art is so healing in that way. We are so powerfully connected through shared emotion.

Katie: I know you were really sick with Guillain-Barre syndrome a few years ago. That must have been such a scary time. Tell us what happened and how you manage your recovery. What part does sleep play in that process?
Mari: It was a shocking and overwhelming disease; I got it very suddenly while traveling in Spain and was paralyzed for a few weeks before a much longer recovery process. It was two years ago and I still feel like I’m recovering–I can’t point my toes (which actually does affect my life as I used to love dancing ballet!) and my hands are very clumsy (though it’s hard to remember if I was this clumsy before!). But the emotional recovery will probably be a lifelong journey. I lost a lot of trust in my body and I experienced a creative person’s worst nightmare: inability to create.

I now honor my body in such a precious and careful way. I used to be a bit reckless when it came to sleep, routine, eating healthy food, all of that. I’ve had wonderful seasons of my life, burning my candle at both ends and really prioritizing fun and adventure above all else. But now, I live a much softer life. I definitely get plenty of sleep, and I love waking up early — that was certainly never the case before! I love watching the dawn and taking a walk to get clear about what I’m grateful for before the day begins.

Katie: Do you think sleep makes you a more creative person? How do you think you move in the world differently after a good night’s rest?
Mari: Well, waking up early definitely boosts my creativity like nothing else. And you need sleep to be able to wake up with the sun! I have a beautiful morning ritual which is dependent on being an early riser. I take a walk around my neighborhood, the East Village of Manhattan, and I watch the sun rise over the buildings. I sit in Tompkins Square Park and read, then go to a coffee shop and free-write for a while.

I come home and write in my “joy journal” about things that made me smile recently, and I do a little blessing over my hands with some oil, asking them to make beautiful things in service to others. Then I dance to a bit of Bossa Nova to get really happy in my body. Lizzo works too! If I stay up too late, none of this happens!

Katie: I read that you love routines, so I’m sure you have a detailed nightly bedtime routine! Take us through it…
Mari: My morning routine is really sacred and important to me, but I think it all really begins at night before bed. I’m the worst because I love early mornings but I also love late nights! It’s certainly a discipline to get in bed at a reasonable hour, which for me is around 11.

I used to love going out at night but now I really, really enjoy cooking for myself and then enjoying a glass or two of wine while I watch a movie or do some evening art or writing. At some point after 10 I reluctantly start making preparations to sleep, but they’re all really enjoyable: I change into my favorite pajama set–Aerie makes very comfy, cute button-up sets–and wash my face. I use a cleanser, serum, and moisturizer. Pretty simple, but the ritual feels very luxurious.

As I’m washing my face and brushing my teeth, I usually listen to a podcast or an audio book. It feels like having a friend talking with me as I’m getting ready for bed–like being at a sleepover!

I banish my phone to another room, crank up the AC (I can’t sleep unless I’m freezing), and read for a little while. I’m lucky I usually fall asleep pretty quickly, and my alarm goes off at 6.

Katie: What’s on your bedside table?
Mari: I always keep sparkling water, a few special stones, lavender oil, and the many many books I’m reading at one time on my nightstand. I’m currently reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, and Walking in Wonder by John O’Donahue. Plus a few poetry books, magazines, and I also like reading cookbooks before bed!

Katie: Do you have a winding down playlist?
Mari: I really like listening to jazz at night, especially as I draw. While I’m brushing my teeth and washing my face, it’s all about a podcast (I love Who Weekly, Keep It, and Good Life Project) or an audio book (I’m currently listening to How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan).

Katie: What’s your most valuable sleeping tip that you’d like to share with everyone?
Mari: Get an EXCELLENT pillow. I don’t know why I didn’t prioritize this before. I bought myself really good pillowcases that stay cold, and my perfect squishiness of pillow. I travel a lot so I always take my own pillow with me–I can’t sleep without it. I’m terrible at sleeping on planes but it really does help to have your own blanket and pillow. It’s worth it to look like the most high-maintenance person on the plane.

Katie: Thanks so much, Mari!