In Praise of Routine

Get up. Empty the dishwasher. Make the coffee. Walk the dog. Work. Lunch. More work. Walk the dog again. Think about dinner. Open a bottle of wine. Watch the news.

Sure, it can get boring, and sometimes I have to have a break. Go somewhere I’ve never been before. Hop a plane to a city I love–or want to see if I love. Do something unexpected.

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Me and Domnica Radulescu in Romania. Now, this was unexpected and great!

 

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Castle Bran–the “Dracula” castle in Transylvania. I had always wanted to see this, but actually getting to do it came as a welcome surprise. Well worth ditching my routines for. Thanks, Domnica!

But, for the most part, I need a routine. I know when, during the day, I’m supposed to be putting in what my husband and I call “butt in chair time,” when I am writing, or at least staring at some writing trying to figure out what’s wrong with it or where it goes next. If I am not there, I’m losing something–an idea, or the time to have an idea.

It’s the only way I can get anything done. And, as I get older, I find peace in routines that keeps me sane. I live out in the country, where it’s usually pretty quiet, and, though I enjoy visiting cities, the sounds of birds and wind are mostly what I need most to keep my mind clear enough to meditate and to work out problems, both in my writing and in my general thinking.

This time of year, my routines tend to get lost in the holiday shopping and end-of-semester tasks, and when something unusual happens, like the dog breaks her toenail (OK, this is not very unusual, but it happens rarely enough that it throws me), I find myself scattered–and scatty. I’m nervous and dread the December party-circuit. It’s over-stimulating and sometimes distressing.

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The bandage bothered me more than it bothered Gypsy. I was picking at it way more than she was–and thinking about it more, too.

I will arrive home with groceries and leave the car door–and then the house door–standing open. I forget to buy things like milk or bread, because I get so absorbed in researching where to get the shoes my grandson wants that I forget what time it is, what I need to accomplish, and where I am supposed to be.

So, yes. Routine. I am something of a recluse, so it works for me. Is it noon and I haven’t done my work yet? Not keeping to the straight and narrow?

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Well, that is a problem. Is it five o’clock and I haven’t worked yet? That’s a big problem, and it likely means I won’t get much in the way of writing done. Too many days like that, and I can no longer call myself a writer.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that I can’t turn down a different path now and then, or fly off to do something wonderfully different. But if I do, it has to be planned–or I might never get back to that strict, but productive set of routines.

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