Operation:Disrupt Routines

After pondering several blog ideas, I decided to talk about routine and the value of having certain patterns in ones day. I think this is especially important for artistic folks. Of the writers I know, some like to start their writing very early in the morning before the busyness of the day interferes. Some like to write late into the night when all is quiet. But most have some sort of routine.

For my purposes, a routine is a pattern or sequence of events that are preplanned, orderly, and comfortable. It’s a method of de-stressing the brain so that I can go on autopilot and accomplish the tasks at hand. Now, I’m only guessing here, but for those that are very neat and orderly such as, Type-A personalities, or OCD, or pathological neat-freakism, these routines are probably sacrosanct.

On the other hand, there’s another type of personality that is less about order and more about utility. I’m afraid I land in that camp. I’m sort of a right-brained free-flowing spirit who is blessed with a very good memory so I’m able to get things done on my own floating schedule without a lot of preplanning or distress. Yes, I know, I’m very lucky.

This is the part where want to talk about writing because this is my third lifetime career or avocation. The third act of my lifetime. Since I retired, I have avoided constraints or daily obligations. I can plan each day as I wish; I have the freedom to change the plan when I want.

           Okay, don’t everyone pile on, your day will come.

Since I started writing on a regular professional basis, I formulated a loose regimen. Although I don’t use an alarm clock, I generally wake between seven and eight in the morning, get up, take care of the morning routine for the dogs and me, then gradually move into my office/craft room, and turn on the computer. From there I check the news, Facebook, e-mails and finish my breakfast and coffee. Then I choose the most pressing project.

When I’m in the midst of writing a new story—that takes priority over everything and generally that’s the engine that drives the machine. I write as long as the story keeps flowing, take breaks—but I’ll continue all day or into the evening if necessary. I try to end the day in the middle of an important scene and then save everything. By doing that, the story continues to ferment as I go about my other activities. By the next morning, my thoughts have solidified and I’m anxious to get back to it.

Okay, that’s “the plan”. However, for the past six-months, I’ve been working on revisions, which is a different animal altogether— for me at least, it’s much more difficult. Free-floating ideas come easily but the fine-tuning is usually much more difficult mostly because it involves left-brain instead of the right. Alternating between the two is sometimes difficult for me.

Anyway, all this to say that the “routine” usually helps. I don’t know anyone who isn’t challenged to maintain their creative output when the routine is disrupted. The slightest deviation can throw a wrench in the works. A phone call, an e-mail, a knock at the door, dogs barking, and even strange noises from the kitchen will definitely interrupt The flow.

I chose this topic (I know, is she ever gonna get to the point?) because, this summer has been one “wrench” after another. Traveling visitors, acts of nature, house sitters, cross-country trips, and mishaps have all played a role in distracting me from my goals and disrupting my routine. Most people, I think, would describe me as flexible, free-flowing, and easy-going. Well. Surprise, I’ve become rather set my ways and I do not like distractions. Not one bit.

I have a half-dozen writing projects in various stages of readiness, and the interruptions have made it difficult to concentrate on any one of them for very long; so I hop from one to the other — which is not the ideal way to focus. I’m looking forward to November and NaNoWriMo. (write 50,000 words in 30 days) For at least a month, I set myself to the singular task of ONE project. I’m hoping it will give me a chance to reboot and exercise those muscles once again (as it has for the last five years). I’m convinced this will be easier to do with a new roof, new windows, and the specter of hailstorms firmly cataloged as a past event. In the meantime, I have two manuscripts getting ready for publication and third ready for the final revision.

This week the repairs began on the house. I’m astonished that phone calls and visits from repairman and insurance estimators have been so upsetting. This has been an ordeal I do not wish to repeat.Once everything has been cleaned up and my things back in place, hopefully. I’ll feel a little more stable and focused.

So for now, I’ll say adieu, I’m off to town to meet with some ladies for lunch—a welcome distraction! Wish me luck.

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14 thoughts on “Operation:Disrupt Routines

  1. If you want to set-up repeatable checklists and routines you can use this web application:

    Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

  2. When I know I’m getting a long to-do list I try and schedule as many projects as possible in one day. I skip writing that day and do research or “putter” with a manuscript. I usually only have 2 days a week to write, so I’ll try and stagger the $^%#@ chores to one day a week, but if they have to be contiguous I just take the week off and don’t fret about it. If I have to I’ll take longer. I find that the more I trust that time to write will appear, the more that time does indeed appear. This from a woman who used to be up religiously at 5 AM and except for a half hour lunch, would work straight through until 5PM! It’s a lot easier, and I think my writing’s better when I work with life instead of against it.

    • I appreciate your comment and can certainly understand your point. I have certainly “stepped back” from time to time, and it does help.
      I’ve found that my lack of motivation is sometimes a self-fulfilling prophecy and I need to break the cycle. I feel best and most energized when I write. Something, anything just to get the right brain engaged and the juices flowing. Creativity feeds me. If I can trick myself into starting…the process will have been inadvertently jump-started.

  3. Morning writing on a schedule with a timer is what has worked for me in the past. But, yup, lovely as it was summer had more pull than my will to write. Love September because it means back to work. Hope we all write our heats out. oosallyb

    • Thanks, Sally. It seems to be the consensus that this summer ran away with our collective ‘will’. I’m girding my loins–figuratively– to achieve my lost focus. take care!

  4. Wishing I had the notion to have 6 projects going at once. Only have 1 and it’s still hard to stay on task. I’m very good at finding distractions.

  5. There seems to be a theme here. The summer of 2012 has been challenging in very different ways for all of us. We’ll all unite in support for each other and good vibes for creativity in the new season! Take care.

  6. So many things we have to do that get in the way of our writing. “Sigh.” I totally have to have a schedule in order to keep up with things. Good luck with the homeowner stuff. Bev

  7. I know, you know! You forgot the “Move” too. I never appreciated the peace and quiet so much. I’m sure you had the same –only louder and longer. The things we do for our craft…

  8. Having had the summer from hell, I can totally relate. The construction of the barn and garage and constant presence of workers on the property have thrown a huge wrench into my writing habits. Thankfully the routine with the horses and dogs has kept me out of the looney in. Good luck. L

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