Routines. They comprise such a large part of the day. They vary from the mundane “First things first, I need to brush my teeth, then put the coffee on…and then let the dog out” to the individually specific “I will put on my favorite pandora channel, silence my phone, click on the light, and look at the work from yesterday for a few minutes while I drink my coffee. And then I’ll pick up the palate and brushes.”
Routines are important. In the words of Scott Kelley (Man Cave Zen: http://mancavezen.com/274/importance-routine/ ) “A good routine can make the difference between floating through life and actually accomplishing things.” They give order and purpose to our actions; intentionality, regardless of the pursuit one follows in a career. In particular, routine can be especially important in individually motivated careers such as those maintained by many writers and artists; routine supplies the discipline that is often created by the spatial parameters of a “job”. A job requires you to arrive at a specific location at a specific time, and perform specific actions throughout the hours you spend there. In much the same way, routines of individuals create patterns that in themselves facilitate discipline of a sort; follow the routine and things that need to get done, will.
Without effective routines, the hours and days drift by with very little momentum; only a ceaseless inertia and inevitability that can be numbing in the absence of fulfilled purpose. Of course, it is important that routines impose order, but a certain amount of flexibility is desired as well, especially in careers that rely on creativity. In my own artistic and creative pursuits, whether they include studio work or curriculum design, I rely on imposed routine.
I have noticed there is an ebb and flow to my routines. Usually, I rely on a very specific working routine that I follow for months. Occasionally, I will break that routine for a few weeks, and allow myself to drift towards one whim or another. But inevitably, the awareness of purpose, the desire for a sense of fulfillment, drives me back to the comfort of routine.
This article on Brain Pickings (Maria Popova: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/ ) discusses the routines of various writers, speaking on the importance of routine in their practices. This quote from E.B.White struck me in particular:
“I never listen to music when I’m working. I haven’t that kind of attentiveness, and I wouldn’t like it at all. On the other hand, I’m able to work fairly well among ordinary distractions. My house has a living room that is at the core of everything that goes on: it is a passageway to the cellar, to the kitchen, to the closet where the phone lives. There’s a lot of traffic. But it’s a bright, cheerful room, and I often use it as a room to write in, despite the carnival that is going on all around me. A girl pushing a carpet sweeper under my typewriter table has never annoyed me particularly, nor has it taken my mind off my work, unless the girl was unusually pretty or unusually clumsy. My wife, thank God, has never been protective of me, as, I am told, the wives of some writers are. In consequence, the members of my household never pay the slightest attention to my being a writing man — they make all the noise and fuss they want to. If I get sick of it, I have places I can go. A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
Timing. The idea of waiting for the perfect time to create something, be it an art piece or a written work, is something which I have known many peers to struggle with. Not something I have ever struggled with myself however. Sometimes the work produced within the confines of a set schedule might be a bit lackluster, and have the feel of the plodding mule.
However, I am a firm believer that if you build the right routine, the work will come, and it will flow beautifully. What routines do you create in your life to elicit creativity? I’d love to hear of the habits you have formed that are particularly useful tools.