When you move to a new place, you pack up all your stuff, take it with you, and leave routine behind (along with those old boxes of stuff you haven’t seen or thought about since the last time you moved). That’s what life has been for me this past three weeks. I’ve been playing routine roulette…letting the spinning wheel dictate the flow of my days and the extent of my activities.
It’s not the best way to move forward in any measurable manner, whether I’m talking about my novel or my life. Now I’m working on re-establishing some of the routine that existed before the move.
A friend recently told me there is no such thing as routine. I took him to mean that it’s an illusory concept, that our time and how we use it each day evolves into its own unique creation, regardless of any “Groundhog Day” sameness that may be present in the days before or after. If that’s what he meant, I can see some logic in that point of view, but I don’t want to get into a metaphysical debate with myself about what is real and what is not. I believe that routine is real…and real valuable.
My definition of routine for this post is doing the same things over again, whether they be the same activities, in the same place, or with the same people. We all have some routine in our lives, even if it’s something as simple as having a cup of coffee after you get out of bed. You might get up at different times, you might have a different flavor, but you always have that coffee.
That’s the kind of routine I created with this novel I’m working on. I got up, got my coffee, got to the keyboard and got to the page where my novel resides. With the recent move, it’s become routine to sleep later, work on putting the new home together, take care of the day-to-day, and leave the novel to write itself. It’s not going well. As much as I’d sometimes like it to happen, the creation is not continuing to create in the absence of its creator.
I think we all create our own routines, whether on purpose or by circumstance. A tune by Rush says, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Same with routine…if you choose to be less-than-intentional about it, you’ll still end up with a routine. It probably won’t be the one you’d rather be living. I’ve learned through trial and error (mostly error) that an intentional routine can be a highly valuable tool to get where I want to go with my life, and with my novel. The point being, you can get there from here, if you have a map and follow it. My routine is my map, and my being disciplined enough to stick to it is following the course it provides.
“Turn and face the strange…ch-ch-changes” sang David Bowie. The changes I’ve made by moving to a new place are the ones I face in getting my routine on again. Some things are the same, like my laptop, or the time I have available to write before work. The changes are largely environmental. I no longer write sitting on the couch. I now have an office area with a desk, which I’ve used to write at in the past, but not on this novel. That’s a good change. I also have an extra 15 minutes in the a.m. because we are closer to my workplace. That, too, is a good change. However, I’ve yet to use that time to write. I’ve been using it to sleep longer instead. If I want to finish this book, I will need to change that…before it becomes routine.