Routines

This post is earlier than you might expect, because Sarah asked me to cover for her while she’s on the road. It’s also later than you might expect because I forgot I said I would do it, despite writing it on the calendar. In true author fashion, I remembered my promise at three in the morning, after being jolted awake by a cricket that decided the HVAC duct was the best place for serenading all the lady crickets. I was trying to get back to sleep and abruptly realized that it was technically Wednesday, I didn’t have a post ready to go, and that I really should get up and write one before I forgot again. Then I promptly fell back asleep. Oops.

But it all works out, because I want to talk about routines, and the segue is less inane than usual, all because of The World’s Loudest Cricket.

When I lived in Colorado, I didn’t really like my routine, but I was able to get a reasonable amount of stuff done, simply by telling myself, ‘Okay, check the list. It’s time to do XYZ.’ Now that I’m in a new house in a new state, a lot of things have been upended, and I’m still sorting it out. Which explains why I started off this year meaning to publish eight times, and I’ve gotten precisely two of those projects out the door.

Part of the problem is that I’m a morning person, so I want to do everything early, and relax in the afternoons. And I mean everything. I want to write, clean the house, do errands, ride the horse, etc., all before noon. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

As for why I need some semblance of routine, it’s so I can improvise the rest of life. I’ve gotten reasonably good at winging it, but that works best on discrete projects, not on something as amorphous as ‘life’.

Some of us can’t live with routine; others can’t live without it. But I’ve found that writing books works best for me, when I write at a defined time of day. I alternate between projects, and some of them are unpublishable, but getting the words out is important anyway.

I’ve also found myself developing some bad habits, the most obvious of which is avoiding the hard parts of books. I began by using placeholders for names, etc., so I didn’t have to stop and fill in every little gap. Now I’m using placeholders for entire chapters- I kid you not, one of the recent ones was ‘Gavril finds the treasure and brings it back.’ That’s the plot, contained in one sentence. Then I wandered off to do something non-productive and never got back to figuring out how Gavril rescued the treasure. I don’t even know what the treasure is.

Another interesting development is that I write long, detailed to-do lists, and don’t end up doing half the tasks. Some of them were never really necessary, and some don’t have a specific time frame- those last few moving boxes have been neatly stacked in the living room for months; if they don’t go in the attic today, it’s no big deal.

So the point of this little screed is that I need to reintroduce some order into the slow-moving chaos. And no one’s going to do it for me- the combined joy and peril of working from home.

How to do it? Good question. I think I’ll keep going with to-do lists, and possibly do daily and weekly ones, to help sort out my priorities. Get up when the alarm goes off, and roll directly from the bed to the computer, so I don’t have a chance to get distracted. Maybe write a couple of short stories, to get myself in the habit of writing ‘The End.’ Go to bed at a reasonable hour, not, whenever I feel like it.

What am I forgetting? Besides another cup of coffee- a useful part of any good routine.

17 comments

  1. Helpful with check lists– prioritize them.

    Both by how big they are, and how important.

    One to ten, where one is high priority, and ten isn’t; one is fast/easy, ten is long/complicated.

    So, boxes in the living room being taken to attic, that’s a 5 on the trouble scale, and a ten on the priority scale.
    If they’re in the guest room, and you have company coming that weekend, they jump up to three or four on the priority– it needs to be done by soon, but it can honestly wait until the reason for it is there, although you’d rather not. (I have been the company helping move stuff out of the room we’re to sleep in!)

    Ones are the low hanging fruit– it NEEDS to be done, and it can be done relatively easily.

    This can also bypass the too detailed list problem.

  2. How to get the house clean: be trying to write the next hard chapter on the WIP.
    How to get the WIP written: be trying to clean the house for guests who’ll be crashing in the guest bedroom I use as a laundry room.

    Mornings are my most productive time, too, partially because I work swings, so almost all of my afternoons are at work!

  3. The “get the house ready to sell” to-do list is very intimidating and mostly, but not entirely, bigger things. My routine is one task – not necessarily from the list – every day after work and one thing off the list each weekend.
    Yesterday’s task was “frame one laser disc for nostalgia and throw the rest away”. Today’s task is find THE album I want to do the same with (which pushes “buy an album frame” into next week sometime) and toss the rest. That mostly empties a cupboard, so Friday’s task will probably be “empty/tidy the rest of the cupboard”. None of those are from the list. I don’t think a list to that level of detail is even possible (“finite but unbounded” comes to mind).
    The weekend from-the-list task is a new toilet in the basement bathroom; it’s sitting at the top of the stairs (I bought it last weekend – because I was at the store for mortar for the “tuck point porch” weekend task).

    The point being: I get the benefit of lists and planning with the opportunity to be spontaneous yet focused.

  4. I have to have a regular schedule every day and every week and every month. A daily logbook to remember for me. A year-at-a-glance calendar (get the biggest size, 36 inches by 48 inches) to see what’s coming.

    The single most important thing I did to improve my writing I learned from the Arch Druid.

    Finish what I start and not go haring off after a fabulous idea. Never finishing what I started taught me to not finish.

    I do stop to write down the gist of new ideas because otherwise I forget them, but then I return to ‘Escape to HighTower’ as I have to get ahead of the story prior to serializing it on Wattpad.

    Also, wear compression gloves when you type and your hands won’t hurt.

    1. I LOL’d.

      It’s a real castle, in the north of Portugal- the name escapes me, atm. I took that pic last year and was pretty surprised at the way it came out. I’m still thinking I should write a book specifically so I can use that as a cover image.

        1. Can’t tell if you’re serious or not- it’s a real, full-scale castle. I took the picture on my phone, and it just happened to come out looking like that, no filters or alterations.

        1. A very silly place, but at least they were kind enough to have English translations of the museum exhibits, so I could understand what I was looking at. In true forester fashion, I admired the timber work almost more than the stone work.

  5. I know it might seem to be another distraction, but I would recommend you check out FlyLady.net You seem to be the kind of person that would take the ideas presented there and run with them. Getting yourself up and flying in no time.

    I find that I have to redo my routines each major season change, especially now with hubby being a teacher. So, when he’s home, when he’s working, and with the Covid interruptions last spring and this fall, there have been other interruptions as well. So, I try not to beat the dead horse, I keep the skeleton and re-flesh it for the new time period. (That sounds rather necromantic, but fitting for the season, I suppose!) And yes, this fall has already had to be redone twice, as hubby was going to be teaching from home, but now is going to the school, but still teaching online for a couple of months and as I’m now also homeschooling a 6 year old 4 days a week.

    Maybe I can also get my vampire/zombie story finished and actually published before Halloween this year, it will be year 3 of trying to do so.

  6. Nobody’s likely to read this, but I figured out what’s contributing to the inability to settle down and work: I recently started using the desktop for writing, and hadn’t yet installed a blue light filter on it. So that was dramatically affecting my sleep. Installed f.lux yesterday, and- magic!

    Not quite. But I did sleep a bit better last night, and feel more alive this morning. Blue light filters are your friend, ladies and gents.

    1. Muwahaha, I laugh at your first claim in EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION!!!!

      Seriously, though, I’m glad you found something that helped; blue light filters do nothing but annoy me. Started taking magnesium citrate with dinner and it’s helped me fall asleep very well. Had a really rough week or two where I was taking it “after dinner”– which meant anywhere from six to nine at night– and woke up juuuuuust enough to turn off my alarm in the morning. 😀
      It’s amazing the effect it’s had on my heart rate pattern and I think quality of sleep. The ideal is roughly tracker shows you aren’t walking around=> heart rate drops=> heart rate keeps dropping with minor ups and downs, bottoming out between one and three in the morning=> heart rate rises up to close to what it was when you fell asleep, as you are getting up. Before I started supplementing, jagged drops of no particular pattern. Similar to napping, really. Taking the supplement too late, jagged, then a drop– and then it shot straight up to up-and-walking-around because I WAS up and walking around, though groggy as heck. Take it with dinner– defined as “my plate is still on the table”– and I had a whole week of perfect u-shaped-drop for sleep.

  7. Routine. Routine. Routine. Shaping your routine with an iron hand works. Start with one new habit at a time and be RUTHLESS with yourself.
    Right now, exercise is mine. Roll out of bed, hit the eliptical. It’s becoming easier three days in. But I’m told it takes three weeks.
    I’m trying to re-establish writing habits too. But it might take till exercise is easier. Hence why Peterson started with “make your bed.”
    You CAN’T do everything at once. You can’t reorganize your entire life at one go.
    But doing things at a certain time on certain days works. I have to learn this lesson over and over again, because one week is enough to nuke a habit, but it takes three weeks to form it.
    It doesn’t seem fair, but it’s true.

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