I woke up late today. Not too late, mind you. No, I still had time to shower, dress, get a cup of coffee (or two) and work on the crossword before I left for work this morning. But still, it was later than usual. Later than I’d like. Later than I’m accustomed to waking up, because if there’s something I take comfort in, it’s routine. It’s only when I do silly things like sleep too long, or important things like make doctor’s appointments that still throw my normal schedule out of whack, that I notice how much my routines mean to me. Especially in the morning. Even if I have enough time for things, it’s that they happen at the usual time that matters. I want the same sort of time that I would always have, and if I get to the coffee shop in the morning and someone else has the Arts section, I’m seething for a few minutes. It’s not that I don’t have a perfectly good book in my bag to entertain me, but it’s that mornings are for the crossword, in my mind.
I console myself with the reassurance that I am hardly alone in my preference for the familiar. There are a good amount of people that I see in the same coffee shop, sitting in the same place (it had better not be my table) at the same time daily—we’ve become the sort of chatting, waving and smiling acquaintances that rituals tend to allow for. When I bike or walk to the train, I pass the same people on the same blocks, biking or walking to their destinations. Waiting for the subway, I get on the same car with a familiar group of people every day. It’s nice, in a way, and assures me that I’m on time and doing things correctly.
It’s not just everyday people who gravitate towards this self-imposed schedule. Creative types revel in them, too. I was introduced to Daily Routines a couple years ago, which chronicles the routines of “writers, artists, and other interesting people” both in the past and present. While it’s been awhile since the blog as been updated, the content is still pretty neat. Emily Dickinson’s 12:00 PM calisthenics and Truman Capote’s penchant for lying down to think, smoke, conceive ideas and drink bring forth an insight into how these venerable literary figures organized their days. Without these routines, the creative juices might trickle instead of flow or for some, refuse to work at all.
As writers, readers, artists and workers, what sort of rituals do you feel you must partake in daily? Are there activities you don’t feel complete without or perhaps it’s a timing thing. Or do you revel in a routine-free lifestyle?