Friday, August 10, 2012

Routine...gah!

Routine...

How I hate thee.
How I need thee.

How I suck at establishing thee.
But I have a goal. (That isn’t the same as a routine, so shut up, blathering child inside my head! Quit threatening to haul out the paper and make picket signs! Stop it!)

Yes, after numerous debates with Terrio, listening to author after author after author at conferences, even sitting across from my idle, Jennifer Ashley, and asking for her advice…I’m ready to establish a routine.
I don’t know what it is about that word that just, I don’t know…brings out the tantrum throwing aspect of my inner child, but it’s tough. I want to not need a routine! In the beginning, when I wrote like Niagara Falls flows, I didn’t need a routine! (Of course, I got up early every morning and went to Starbucks and wrote for an hour before I went to work…but that wasn’t a routine!)

(Yes, it was!)

No, it wasn’t! It was a choice. A routine is a forced regime! It’s marching lockstep with the infantry, it’s…
As you can see, I have some issues with this word.

And I know I will continue to have issues with the entire concept, because it just goes contrary to how I want life to be. So, now and then, it’s gonna be war between me and my as-yet-established routine. So, I’m trying to ease into it.

The thing is, we finally hired an official come-to-the-house-and-work-next-to-us-clutter-helper. Mr. Clutter. I like him, I think this is going to work!

And on the list of projects is my office/sewing room/study. I want a real desk to write from. A standing desk, with a big monitor and a keyboard in the correct ergonomic position so that my back and neck quit protesting. (I just can’t sit on the couch bent over the laptop anymore, it’s killing me.) I want shelves for my research books…you know, all those pirate books and sex books. I want a floor heater in this room and I want to paint the walls something energizing. Maybe watermelon…

Yup, it’s also going to be a sewing room and the place I keep all my promotional stuff and … but first, must clear the stuff I need cleared and buy a good standing desk.
But once I do, it’s game on! And I figure it will be October before I have it together…the plan is to start the day with an e-mail check, blog stuff…than an hour of writing before walking the dog and leaving for Starbucks. Might even consider getting one of those espresso machines at home so I can make my own Americano. Plan on writing some in the evening and literally taking one day off a week. Maybe, two. One with the husband, one on my own.

So, what does the word routine mean to you? Is it liberating? Slavery? Any tips on how to work into this routine without setting my tantrum alarm off? I mean, this is the four year old who doesn’t want to nap, so she can’t really be reasoned with… What is your routine? Do you have one?

58 comments:

Marnee Bailey said...

As the mommy of two little boys, I'm all about the routine.

For kids, routine is needed so they know what to expect (helps head off tantrums if they know what's coming and are used to it--nap, bath, bedtime, etc). Now, I point at the clock. "It's 1:00. Naptime." Or, "Look, it's time to clean up and go upstairs."

But, just having it BE that time isn't enough for us. It's only important because I approach the schedule as a sacred entity. I do not do anything when it's naptime. Naptime is sacred, both for my sanity and my kids'. We rarely rarely throw off bedtime. Sleep, especially for little folks, is key to even tempers. So I don't f*$k with it.

If anything, having their schedule has helped me to learn the benefit of a schedule/routine for me. At first, I looked to the baby's schedule and just had to eek in my minutes writing in times he was sleeping. (I didn't start writing seriously until my oldest was born.)

But, over the past five years, I've found that it's not that I'm working around their schedule. It's that our house has the schedule. There are times when I write. Everyone in the house (hubs included) knows when they are. And when it's part of the schedule there's no, "what should I do right now?" moment. It's just, "Kids are in bed, now it's Marnee's writing time." It's an expectation, something that "has to happen."

In that way, I just go through the motions of sitting down and doing it, like I go through the motions of making breakfast, of changing diapers when necessary, of taking a shower/brushing my teeth. It's something that needs to be done. So, I sit down and I make myself do it.

That doesn't mean that it isn't creative when I get there. In fact, once I'm sitting, I open my head and the fun starts. But the physical act of getting their is all about the routine. :)

Does that make any sense at all?

Marnee Bailey said...

First, getting 'there,' not their.

Second, I also don't mean the words come easy every time I'm sitting there. Or I don't get distracted in research or the internet. But, I'm there. :)

Now, if someone could tell me a way to stop getting distracted by the tempting wares of the internet, I'd love that lots.

TerriOsburn said...

I was going to say you need to look up the definition of routine, but then I looked it up for you and changed my mind. One of the definitions uses the word "unimaginative". This explains why you don't like the concept.

I'm one of those strange free spirits who like routine. I live for change yet I have to have my schedule. If someone asks me to do something on a Tuesday night, my first thought is still, "But that's a school/work night."

Like most women, I have a regime I do before bed (nothing Cindy Crawford like - brushing teeth and stuff) and I do these things in a certain order. Wash my face, then brush my teeth. One night I got out of whack and brushed my teeth first then washed my face. Next thing I knew, I was brushing my teeth again. Totally out of habit.

Did I mention I'm weird?

Because I have the day job, writing happens after work, after dinner is made and eaten, and emails are answered. But if writing was the day job, I'd have to set up a very strict routine. Or else I'd never get anything done.

Haleigh said...

I'm the opposite, Mo. I crave routine. I get all twitchy when my routine is interrupted. The past month, I've been traveling, had family come and stay, dealt with a week of Carter home from daycare for a rash -- almost a month of having my routines and schedules all out of whack. I was going nuts.

I get up at 5:15, write from 5:30 - whenever the baby wakes up, then do the morning drama and get him off to daycare and myself off to work. I have no supervision at work, so I need a strict routine there too to keep myself on track, and not just goofing off on the internet all day.

I love that you're inner child throws tantrums at routine and my inner child is the type that needs a strict schedule of exactly what's coming next.

But like Marn, my writing time is sacred, and I find that the more days in a row I do it, the more easily the words come. Not every morning, of course, but much more easily than if I try to just sit down and write at a random time.

Maybe it'll help to call it a habit, rather than a routine...habits seem more about choices than forced structure

Haleigh said...

Ter - bedtime is my one exception to routine. Ever since I was a kid, I have passionately hated any form of pre-bedtime routine, and longed to just crash without doing anything first. Half the time, I can't even manage to get my contacts out, let alone wash my face. So there's the tantrum-throwing inner child in me :)

TerriOsburn said...

If I had cooperative skin, I'd be right there with ya, Hal. But even at 40 I'd have acne without working hard to control it. And I'm not sure I could fall asleep without brushing my teeth. Makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it. LOL!

TerriOsburn said...

But of course, on weekends, most routine goes right out the window. My inner child hates to get out of bed. Not as much as Hellie's, but close.

MsHellion said...

Of course, Terri likes routine, she's a Capricorn--earth sign. Earth signs like stability. (And I think Marn is a Virgo, right? I mean aside from the fact she has kids and pretty much is forced to have a routine in order to do anything she wants, like shower, it also goes with her territory.)

Me, I'm not a fan of routine, but I do understand the value of structure. And I think it's less of a routine for you--because frankly you could write anytime you wanted if you wanted to. It's that you don't have a sacred, happy space to write, where your creativity can circulate. It's why you go to Starbucks. You take a walk (which is exactly the right thing to do to boost creativity and get your story flowing in your head) and then you sit somewhere, where you cannot be disturbed with interesting surrounding (but not too interesting). The Starbucks "routine" is actually pretty perfect and lots of writers do it. It just gets expensive if you buy a lot of coffee.

It would take a different strategy if you move this at home. It's a great idea--you need a place you can go to when Starbucks isn't open, in case you're hit by an idea then. So you need to make your study/creativity area a place of retreat like your Starbucks place. The colors sound good (I'm partial to green for my creativity, but I can't argue that bright would be stimulating). Does your study have a window? If it does, definitely put your desk in front of it so you can look out. I can't tell you the number of articles and books that recommend this for writing. Something about connecting back to nature. It's why walking is so good for you (or one of the reasons--left brain is the real reason, I think.)

Clutter can be uber distracting and it can drain your creative energy if your Inner Critic immediately starts shaming you for all the clutter. You get depressed and end up laying on your couch doing nothing--no one accomplishes much when depression wins the argument. So it's great you're designing your sacred space into a place you want to spend time, but don't think that the IC will give up. Once you lock up in your room, he'll start bitching about the clutter in your other rooms. See, another reason why Starbucks was so successful. Once you were there, there was no point in moping that you couldn't clean anything at home--because you weren't home.

If you don't have a window, make sure the wall in front of your desk has things/pictures/quotes/pictures of nature to inspire you/calm you.

You're not creating a routine, Mo. You're creating a space where your IC can't depress you. Cleaning out that area is only one of the things you'll need to; you'll still need to take daily walks just before you write and that sort of thing. (I wouldn't recommend the email before writing. I'd recommend walking before writing. Do the email after you've written some pages.)

MsHellion said...

My inner child is a sloth, hence the weekends.

TerriOsburn said...

Also why I need to declutter and organize my house. It's so bad I officially have a black hole. In the last two weeks it's swallowed things that were RIGHT THERE a minute ago and now are totally gone.

I know this sounds like an idiot trying to make excuses for losing things. And don't get me wrong, I'm an idiot. But this is NOT me. There is a black hole in my house!

Haleigh said...

I love what Hellie said. Such a better way to think of it. I had a wonderful writing space before it got hijacked as a nursery (not that it wasn't for a good cause!). I painted it a deep, dark teal, and had bright white zebra-striped accents, and bright white curtains on the windows. A startling color scheme, yes, but I found it so stimulating.

I adore your idea of a standing desk, Mo. I've always wanted one of those. And I too have found that bookshelves of a mix of great fiction and writing advice and others is also a great motivator!

Haleigh said...

Ter - for a while I was doing the FlyLady cleaning routine (which is amazing for anyone with a finicky inner child, btw), and she calls those hotspots. Because like a hotspot in a wildfire, if you don't keep it under constant control, it will burst to life and swallow everything in it's path.

So it's not you at all!

Marnee Bailey said...

Ter - But if writing was the day job, I'd have to set up a very strict routine. Or else I'd never get anything done.

Sometimes I wonder about this. If I had all day to write, would I ever do it or would I think that I had LOTS of time and that I'd do it later. I definitely think I'd need a schedule then too.

And Hal said: I find that the more days in a row I do it, the more easily the words come. Not every morning, of course, but much more easily than if I try to just sit down and write at a random time.

This is super true for me. I write at night, when it's silent (hubs up at 5:30), but some nights it's great and some nights I brain cramp. But it's better than if I just wait until inspiration struck.

Hells - And I think Marn is a Virgo, right? I mean aside from the fact she has kids and pretty much is forced to have a routine in order to do anything she wants, like shower, it also goes with her territory.

OH, fine. You caught me. I am a creature of habit. If the kids weren't here all the time, I'd probably be as boring and predictable as an old married couple.

*slinks off to polish my orthopedic shoes*

Maureen said...

Marn - makes perfect sense to me! Now, if I can get my inner four year old into it. ...

Marnee Bailey said...

A tip I've learned for housecleaning when you don't have a lot of time is to break it into manageable chunks.

Don't get me wrong, I love that feeling when the house is ALL clean and pristine. But I just don't have time for that sort of macro, large scale cleaning anymore. I do bathrooms one day, dusting another. Vacuuming another. And tidying as sort of non stop, when I have five minutes, kind of thing.

And, my achilles heel, laundry. I try to do a load a day. In the wash while I make dinner. Into the dryer at night. Thank God the hubs does the laundry for the most part though or I'd probably have loads fossilizing in the washer perpetually.

MsHellion said...

I think we're all creatures of habit about things--it's just that Mo's creature of habit is to go to Starbuck's to write. So it exists whether you want to acknowledge you like structure or not.

But I don't think any of us are particularly boring and predictable. After all, we ARE writers.

TerriOsburn said...

But what Mo isn't telling you is that she can spend hours at Starbucks NOT writing. LOL! I often get the "I can't make myself open the file!" emails.

Marnee Bailey said...

But I don't think any of us are particularly boring and predictable. After all, we ARE writers.

SO true. LOL!

That said, I seriously do freak out when I'm out of routine. Even when I just stay up later or get up late. Grumbly, disoriented. Anxious. And if the house is messy, I can't think at all. I need order. :)

Marnee Bailey said...

DO you guys work better with background/white noise or silence?

Maureen said...

I do wonder, if I had a routine of a daily job, it would be easier to establish a routine that has to work around it... But it's almost like since I hated the routine of having a job...I'm still doing the 'whoohoo! School's out!' celebration...

Yes, I'm 50+ and still feel like I'm on summer vacation...that does take some imagination, right?

The clutter is part of the problem. When I used to get to Starbucks initially, to get away from the clutter, I was good with it. But eventually, the voices of the clutter get too loud and I can even hear it at Starbucks...

TerriOsburn said...

Of course we're not boring. We're writing pirates! That makes us doubly exciting. Just add rum and all.

TerriOsburn said...

I have to have silence at home, but I can work at a B&N or whatever. I can tune out the background noise. Not at home. No TV. No music. All quiet. With the exception of jet noise, since there's nothing I can do about that.

Marnee Bailey said...

I'm always amazed you work so well at Starbucks. I find that so impressive. I know I can't write in places like Starbucks. Even B&N is too loud for me. I always end up feeling like I'm giving dirty looks in the movie theater or the library.

SHHHHH!!!

Then again, I seem to write in moments around the kids juice requests and constant bickering.

Maureen said...

I keep reading the idea of a sacred time/space for writing. And I do think that is part of the problem. If I can wrap my head around that concept, I think I'll leap ahead in establishing that.

Once the room is cleared and I have the desk, which will be close to a window, with the collage I made years ago hanging on the wall nearby. And I want to make a collection of my covers, my back covers...a reminder of what I've accomplished. And a calender with goals...

All of this sounds wonderful and terrifying at the same time!

Haleigh said...

I need background noise. I've never tried writing in a public place like Starbucks or B/N, but I should. I think I could do well with that, and it'd make me feel less guilty because there wouldn't be a kid banging on the door :)

Haleigh said...

Oh I love the idea of a collection of covers and back covers Mo! What an inspiration! You could even frame them - how much fun!

Marnee Bailey said...

Hal - Carter doesn't buy the, "baby, Mommy's saving the world right now" excuse either? Glad it's not just mine. LOL!!

Haleigh said...

Uh, no. And at this age, it's the crisis of the universe if he knows I'm in the house, but can't find me. Dad is just NOT good enough :)

Maureen said...

Thanks, Terri...bust me! Yes, I think it was almost easier when Starbucks didn't have wifi. GASP!

Yes, I was writing at Starbucks when they didn't have wifi.

Once upon a time, Starbucks was my attempt to get out of a very quiet house and have some people-to-people interaction. After months of having a clean house, but never talking to a single person...I started going to Starbucks. And wrote in a notebook.

Over the years, Starbucks changed, I changed and the house got...bad. For a lot of reasons. I ran from the house because I couldn't face the growing chaos.

Over the last year, the chaos sneaks into Starbucks and pokes at me. Never far from my thoughts and that chaos seeps into the attempts to write.

So, I'm tackling the house first...

Marnee Bailey said...

Over the last year, the chaos sneaks into Starbucks and pokes at me. Never far from my thoughts and that chaos seeps into the attempts to write.

So, I'm tackling the house first...


Go you, girl! Wrestle that house into submission!

Maureen said...

So, being a Sagitarius, how does that influence my inner child? ;-)

TerriOsburn said...

And you're going to conquer that house then go on to conquer the writing world. More so than you already have. :)

So, Marn & Hal. Sending my puppy to your houses for a while is not an option? Maybe the kids and the pooch could entertain each other and we all might get more work done.

Marnee Bailey said...

Maybe the kids and the pooch could entertain each other and we all might get more work done.

... or they would make one big ball of yipping chaos.

Either way, maybe we could all slink off and get something done anyway.

Maureen said...

I do tend to like the chaos. Or I used to. I'm not sure what is going on...I figure get the office set up and do some writing with a routine, perhaps with the TV on, or music...

Seldom did the stuff around me at Starbucks disrupt my writing. Hell, the bank next door was robbed, a getaway car fired at the bank as they drove away, the survivors all gathered on tha patio right at the window I was sitting at... And I missed it all. Head down, writing. ;-)

I don't think I'm fighting the house clutter. I had a discussion with my therapist about it all and she asked what the clutter voice would sound like...and I said it just wants to be set free and not be ignored... Yup, I'm setting a lot of stuff free...

MsHellion said...

I literally copied and pasted this from cafeastrology.com--see if any of this looks familiar.


(The Sun is in Sagittarius from November 23 to December 21, depending on the year).

Restless, cheerful, and friendly, Sun in Sagittarius people are generally on the go. They have a love of freedom, and a disdain for routine. Generally quite easygoing, Sagittarians make friends with people from all walks of life. They love to laugh and tease, and get along well with both sexes.

Sagittarians have an often blind faith in people, and in the world. Their optimism is infectious, although it can get them into trouble from time to time. These are curious people who love to learn. Their idealistic nature is hard to miss.

Although generally easygoing, Sagittarius is a fire sign. This gives natives a generally quick temper. Fortunately, they're usually as quick to forget what got them angry in the first place.

The need for escape is generally strong, and some Solar Sagittarians come across as a little irresponsible. They're generally easy to forgive, however. After all, their direct, honest approach in life is admirable.

Haleigh said...

My kid LOVES puppies. Much more than they love him. He chases our dog all over the house. So yes, I vote send the puppy here and we'll both go to Barnes and Noble and write!

TerriOsburn said...

Marn - She's small but fast. She could maybe outrun them.

Mo - I'm taking inspiration from you and working on my filing this weekend. Partly to thwart my new black hole (that sounds dirtier than intended) and partly because I'm realizing there are papers I'm going to want to find at tax time and spreading them throughout the house is going to make that difficult.

Maureen said...

We really need to do a pirate writing retreat... a three day weekend without kids, dogs, cats... Let's see, we could meet east coast, since the majority of you live that way... And I can make the trip easily...

MsHellion said...

http://www.cafeastrology.com/zodiacsagittarius.html


They point out that Jane Austen was a Sag. So if she could write the most memorable books in romance, I'm sure you could write something just as memorable for your genre, whatever you choose that to be. Though I'm SURE she wasn't writing romance. She was writing a comedy of manners. Writing for herself first and her friends.

TerriOsburn said...

"They have a love of freedom, and a disdain for routine."

Am I the only one who laughed at this point?

Haleigh said...

Mo, you missed a bank robbery?!? That's freaking hilarious. I love it. We're such writers . . . my hubs is always wondering how I can miss everything going on around me - it's because what's going on in my head is just so much more interesting!

Maureen said...

Aha! Well, I am a solid Sagitarian! A disdain for routine. I could put this on a button or a t-shirt...

MsHellion said...

No, you were not the only one laughing at that point. *LOL*

So I think the point is not to try to change your nature, Mo, and just try to quell the voices. You're never going to be for routine or absolute structure with no spontaneity. Just be clean enough to keep the voices at bay; keep going to the therapist to find the truth (a big thing for Sags); and write until your fingers bleed.

TerriOsburn said...

What if you set up something like the block scheduling they do in some schools. Like maybe Monday and Thursday you go to Starbucks and write from 10-2. Then Tuesday and Friday you do mornings in the home office and afternoons at Starbucks. Wednesday would be your fun day.

This looks like a routine, but you wouldn't be doing the same "unimaginative" thing day in and day out. And really, when it's writing, there's nothing unimaginative about it, no matter when it happens.

The goal is just to make sure it does happen.

Maureen said...

I figure a few hours in the morning and a few at night should get me back on track... And I am looking forward to doing the desk shopping. Getting a big monitor and a keyboard...and the desk will have a chair...

Maureen said...

I know I'll need several 'unscheduled' blocks to satisfy my four year old. Plus to walk the dog, go to movies, etc...

Steph and I are really determined this time. While I'm in Auburn, keeping an eye on my Mom, newly home from the hospital, he is waiting for Mr. Clutter to come and will spend 3 hours on Sunday in the front room...

When I get home, it's my turn!

Maureen said...

Okay, crew...feel free to rearrange my bar, I'm sure it's as cluttered as the rest of the house! I'm off to run some errands for my Mum, be back later!

And thanks so much for the words of encouragement!

Marnee Bailey said...

I hope you're Mum's okay, Chance. Thoughts with her.

Nancy Northcott said...

Maureen, I'm not crazy about routine, either. I generally fall into one, but I have to feel as though I can break it. I start my day with coffee and the NYT crossword puzzle. I'm not a morning person, so my brain doesn't kick in for writing until about 10 am. I usually try to web-surf before then, though we see I'm behind today, and then write for as long as I can.

I sympathize on the de-cluttering. We need to do that, but it's a constant struggle. Mainly because of books. *sigh*

Maureen said...

Mom is doing good, just wants to be a bit careful and not be alone until she's sure.

Part of my clutter problem is lack of organization. So hoping that will fall into place. The guy we hired appears to believe we can do this!

And I have a feeling my routine, as it develops, won't be really hard wired. More a suggestion that I agree to. I have to be sneaky...

Marnee Bailey said...

Can this guy come to my house? I could use some help in the garage.... :)

Maureen said...

He's really good with garages. ;-)

Maureen said...

Well, Sunday is my husband's time in the front room which stands in for a garage/garden shed/office... He and Mr. Clutter have three hours planned to get through that.

I was supposed to be boxing up books to go, but duty called me north, so I'll make an appointment to work with him when I get back to town. I have boxes and boxes of books to set free. Stuff that really does need to go. Old school books, huge photographic books I got cheap when I worked at the bookstores, etc...

I can picture where I want the writing desk to be and am really looking forward to being ready to shop for that. I just have to live up to the challenge once it's there...to establish a... *choke!
...routine!

P. Kirby said...

I despise routine when it comes to grownup things like a day job. I f*cking hate my day job; it's boring; people tell me what to do (so I have to go all passive aggressive and not do anything; I'm bored out of my mind with my job.

But, for stuff I love, I don't necessarily mind routines. I walk the dog every morning. Garden chores happen every morning (during warm months). There are times when I don't want to do those chores, but ultimately, I enjoy them.

But I've never made writing as much of a routine as I should. Been better lately. Why? Because I've given up on the social networking/build an Internet presence crap. Doesn't really sell books anyway and it distracts from writing. OTOH, I still haven't set a routine for writing. Hmmm. I really should.

Maureen said...

Maybe you have the secret, Pat! Screw the Internet selling aspect of things. I would love to get back to my garden.

Marnee Bailey said...

Saw this on twitter, MM....

"Serious writers write, inspired or not. Over time they discover that routine is a better friend to them than inspiration." Ralph Keyes

Thought of you.... :)

Maureen said...

Ha! Good one, Marn. I think I'll copy that and make sure it's somewhere I see at the start of each day.

Marnee Bailey said...

Wait, you mean like part of a... routine?!

*Ducks, runs away*