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“She woke at 6:30 A.M., ate breakfast in bed, and began to write.”

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?

4 Responses to “She woke at 6:30 A.M., ate breakfast in bed, and began to write.”

  1. Oh, how I loved this post, Rachel! And it’s soooo true! We creative types really DO flourish when we have a routine. I’m ridiculously strict about mine: up at 5:00 a.m., coffee, plus a lemon-spice muffin, and a rerun of Fraiser starts my day, then I’m off to walk the dogs, then off to walk my five miles on the trail, then home, shower, and I’m at my desk and cranking out pages till 4:00 p.m. After that, I take a two hour break to make and eat dinner, and catch a little of the news, then back to the computer from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

    If there’s any break to this routine, I often feel like I haven’t accomplished what I needed to for the day, and the idea of a vacation with oceans of time and nothing I’d have to do in it, makes my palms sweat. I thrive by this living-by-the-clock routine. It’s the metronome for my life, I think. :)

  2. Clix says:

    I’m afraid I’m exactly the opposite. Beyond the cycle of biology (eating, sleeping, etc.) and the requirements of my job, I’m routine-free. This has its ups and downs; while there’s something that seems quite reasonable about, say, doing laundry when I notice I’m getting short on socks rather than because it’s Tuesday, it also becomes difficult when I do need to follow routines – I’ve been prescribed a medication that needs to be taken twice daily, for example. Did I take that this morning? Or am I remembering yesterday?

  3. Hillsy says:

    I have ADD so routines have a special little place for me. Sometimes I over complicate, like I have a work shirt for each day of the week, and specific t-shirts for the weekend. I vacuum the house using the exact same route every time. Vegetables have their order to be chopped (Potatoes, carrots, onions, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes last). Basically, us ADDers need routine or we end up plugging in the hoover, then realise 2 hours later we left it in the kitchen.

    It sucks a bit but, hey, it works pretty well

  4. Teri Carter says:

    I love a routine. And I have 2 dogs that like a schedule as well, which makes the days clip right along. There is the morning dog walk — where I do most of my gearing up, thinking about where the writing is going to start, what I want to tackle, etc…. And the afternoon dog walk, where I listen to a book on tape and try to forget about what I’ve been working on.

    I’ve tried (often) to stop being a routine girl, but it’s just not in my DNA. I love a deadline, I love a schedule, I like being on time. No matter how dull it sounds.

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