Routine and the precious commodity of time


A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods. –Mason Currey

 I think a lack of routine leaves room for our time to be filled aimlessly, like the tide rushing in to fill the sandy grooves leading to the castle. Sometimes necessary things fill in the grooves of time, like dental appointments and grocery shopping, and work. But there are also those other things- the optional ones such as all that information, streaming in, all the time, everywhere, by mail and web, radio, and by osmosis. The Time magazines that seem to be floating around my home, reminding me I haven’t read them yet. And the newspaper, black ink scolding me for only skimming – This is the world for crying out loud! Read it all!

 Instead I’ve been reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, a book about renowned artists’ and authors’ work routines. I am thoroughly enjoying this book and picking up some good tips. But I’m also noticing the daily life stuff is suspiciously missing from the pages. The routines look a lot like “wake up early, have coffee, go for a walk, write until lunch, resume writing until late afternoon, break for dinner with friends” etc. Nowhere am I reading anything like this: did six loads of laundry, called the insurance company, prepared dinner, picked up the dry cleaning, brought dog to the groomer, paid the bills, made doctor appointment, shopped for birthday gift, called mother, answered emails, scrubbed the toilets, swept and vacuumed, bought groceries, took out the trash, got a haircut, went to Target, the vet, the dentist, the post office and the gas station. Exercised. Squeezed in a little writing.

 And I can only assume none of them had kids because there was also no mention of took my kids to the dentist, doctor, playground, school, soccer, ballet, went to school meeting, spent quality time with kids, helped with homework, discussed curfew, toured colleges, met new boyfriend, quietly fretted, analyzed and obsessed over choices and futures and goals, mine and theirs, but mostly theirs, doled out chores because it is really nice not to empty the dishwasher for the second time in one day.

  Perhaps they had an unmentioned, designated time of day or week that they called all the stuff I have to do if I am to consider myself a functioning adult. And all the stuff I want to do because I am a parent. Being successful artists and authors, they surely made their work the top priority, and somehow fit everything else in around that, not the other way around. Life is so full of all the extraneous stuff that can fill in our precious time, as well as the important stuff that keeps us whole. There are limited hours in a day and a finite number of days in a year. This forces us to pick and choose what the important stuff is. We just don’t have time for everything. Therefore, here is my short bucket list:
1. Finish and publish current book.
2. Write several more.

That’s it. Some other things, such as traveling to Finland or meeting Stephen King, (I’ve only read his memoir, but this was enough to make me love him) would just be pleasant bonuses.

And speaking of Steven King, here are just two of his 20 Rules for Writers:
8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. The least of all (your concerns) should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
Good news. What a relief. Such a time saver too.
10. You have three months. The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.
Not so good news. Three months? I am way, way behind. How about three years? Maybe I’ll hit my stride by book two and quicken my pace. For now, I’m setting new deadlines and a firmer routine so when the tide rushes in, which it always does, the big stuff won’t get washed away.

The complete list of Stephen King’s 20 rules are here: