On routine

05 September 2014

It has taken many years for me to understand and accept that I love routine. I may not even be entirely there. As I type that word, I still recoil inwardly. Routine? Routine, to me, is synonymous with boring, unoriginal, expected. None of which are words with which I like to identify. I mean, I have a tattoo of a Jack Kerouac quote on my arm. I resisted becoming the sort of person who had a routine with every bit of my creative soul for almost all of my life.

However. I’ve learned that holding to a routine is the key to my creativity. A routine is not a structure imposed from outside of me, but an emergent foundation built from my own values and priorities. The more I can automate and schedule tasks that I don’t care about, the more I can devote energy and time to those pursuits about which I do care. I can also establish good habits that sustain the worthwhile pursuits, rather than drain me and train me to reach for distraction.

I get up between 4 and 5 every morning. I stretch and do yoga, make tea, start the Sinatra internet radio station, write by hand until all of the errant thoughts are released, then I get to work on side projects. On days off, I walk to the lake first. I do all this because throughout the rest of the day I also have to oversee my daughter’s routine, work and keep up the home. And, because I flatter myself I’m not boring, unoriginal or expected, I have many ideas of things to do beyond that. But if I get mired in thinking about and dealing with the details of daily life, I never get to the beyond ideas.

If I didn’t ground myself in a sustaining routine, I wouldn’t have the spirit to do the rest. It also works when I’m away from home or have events going on that interrupt my daily schedule, because my routine is dependent on my inner life, not my external. My love for Kerouac notwithstanding, I’ve learned that if I really want to explore new frontiers, I have to start with beating my own personal path.

See all notes