#MakingSpace: Routine Matters
Is routine important to you? What happens when it goes awry? PHS Editor Kali Anthony talks about how she recovered her creative mojo, when things went wrong...
To look at me in June, you would have guessed things were just peachy. Getting up early, writing words I enjoyed, feeling as if I was achieving something and meeting milestones in my creative endeavours. My routine was set in stone, and nothing could change it. I was unassailable *insert manic laughter here*
How a couple of months can change everything. As we all know, there is this little thing called LIFE, and boy can it get in the way.
Paid work becomes not simply busy, but insane. Personal life, about the same. Add in a bout of flu that lingered longer than the proverbial unwanted houseguest and the picture is clear. When my brain wasn’t so fuzzy that I couldn’t even read (think understanding each individual word but none of them stringing together in a cohesive sentence) it was so full off stuff I had to do that all I could hear was:
You get the picture. There was no room for creativity. My characters slammed the door in my face. In the moments I could snatch at the computer nothing, NOTHING would come out because my head was crammed with white noise.
So what did I do?
Writing is food for my soul. It’s something I need to keep happy. The thought that I simply couldn’t squeak out a word, terrified me.
I’d had times like this before. When I’d lost my mum, and then five years later, dad. Those times I could understand. They were caused by something tangible, grief. This came out of the blue and knocked my confidence flat.
I emailed an author friend of my screaming HELP!!!! She put things in perspective, reminding me that I had been sick and to give myself a break for goodness sake. It was a little grab by the scruff and tiny shake to remind me that taking some time to get life together, was fine.
Then I workshopped my routine, to see what had gone wrong. I realised then that my usual big writing day, Friday, had been overrun by jobs leaving me no time to write. Fridays are vital, being my weekly circuit breaker. I lock the doors, turn off the phone and write from the time the kids go to school till I have to pick them up. Five hours for me and my characters to commune. I needed to claw that day back for myself.
I also recognised that because I’d been so stressed when I left work, I was getting to sleep too late to wake up early to write. Throw in the flu, stir, and all I had was the creative equivalent of cold, congealed porridge.
With those revelations, I made some changes. The first thing I did when I walked through the door of home, was to let the day go. A little mantra to say things at work were out of my control, and I was doing the best I could. This allowed me to clear my head and talk to my characters again. More a, ‘Hi, sorry I’ve been away. What have you guys been up to whilst I’ve been gone?’
They were a little miffed, but they opened the door a crack and begrudgingly let me into their lives again. I read over the story so far and trusted they would tell me where they wanted to go, eventually.
The next step was to re-establish my routine. Get to bed at nine, read a bit, and go to sleep early. Since I was still sick, I continued to set the alarm late, but found I was naturally waking up earlier. I allowed myself some leeway here, because you need to take time to get well and pushing yourself does no-one any good.
Most importantly, I cleared the diary on my Friday, locked the doors, turned off the phone, turned on the computer and planted my backside in the seat. Took a deep breath, set a timer, switched off my analytical brain and started typing.
In twenty five minutes I wrote 600 words, then another 400… For the day, I achieved almost 2,000. They didn’t set the world on fire, but the story was moving forwards. I was creating something, and tapping out the occasional sentence which might survive the cutting room floor. The panic subsided. My writing mojo (such as it is) materialised.
What I realised from this eight week hiatus is that I am a creature of routine. When I don’t have one, things become chaotic. Routine gives me what is most important to me as a writer, the mental freedom to think creatively. Because in the end it’s all about doing what we love. Immersing ourselves in an imaginary world where we can help our characters reach their own happily ever after.
Have you ever fallen out of your writing routine? What have you done to get it back when things go astray? Tell us in the comments or use #RoutineMatters on Social Media to join the #PHS readers conversation on this topic.We'd love to hear from you.