The Creative’s Dilemma: Routine or Free Rein?

Planting_fall_sonoma_283067_lWe creative types like freedom. 

"Don't fence me in!" we cry.

We need to be unfettered and unchained in order to do our best work.

And this particularly applies to anything so prosaic as schedules and routine, which are the polar opposite to creative passion.


That attitude is certainly the romantic vision many of us have about creativity.  I know I tell myself, I need my freedom, every time I spend an unexpected half hour farting around on the internet, or stay in bed instead of getting up early to write.

I need my freedom.  So don't talk to me about writing regularly. Because, you know, it will get done when it gets done, okay?  Which, with this kind of attitude might be, ahem, never.  Case in point:

My Morning Routine at the Start of This Year

I rose every day at 6:30, got my coffee and went directly to the office chair where I like to write in my journal, meditate and pray.  I wrote like a demon issuing orders to her minions.  Pages and pages every morning.  Ideas, brilliant thoughts, parts of scenes.  All that good stuff.  It was glorious.  And then one day it ended.  It just….ended.  I'm not really sure why.  I simply stopped doing it.

My Morning Routine Until a Couple Weeks Ago

I rose every day at 6:30, got my coffee, and went directly to my computer, where I would have the absolute best intentions of writing, but instead would open my email inboxes.  Oh, who am I kidding, they don't need opening–I never close them.  And then–an hour, hour and a half, sometimes two hours (gasp) later I would realize that I had accomplished nothing more than a few tweets, and answering some emails (but they were very important emails).

This bothered me every day I did it, but apparently not enough to do anything about it.  And so the stream of early morning tweets and emails continued.  And then, one day, as suddenly as my writing had ended, a new thought occurred: this transgression shall not stand!

My Morning Routine Now

I rise every day at 6 (I'm doing my best to work it back to 5:30), put on work out clothes, grab my coffee,  and write for 45 minutes to an hour.  Then I walk my husband to the bus stop (30 minutes round trip), thus solving one of my other problems, the fact I sit too much. (The other trick is to stand up every time I think, I've been sitting too long. It's harder to do than it sounds.) Upon returning home, I often sometimes convince myself to go back to the writing but usually breakfast beckons.

So, 45 minutes to an hour–not a lot of writing, right?  Yeah, I know.  But it's a helluva lot more than I was doing.  And I find that with the story in my mind after working on it first thing, I'm apt to steal a few minutes during the day to work on it.  I'm likely to have a couple ideas about it that I jot down.  I'm inclined to take some time on the weekend to work on it.

And when my dear, sweet, wonderful ego starts screaming about how I'm such a creative person and I can't be fenced in and I can't commit to a routine because that would kill the creativity, I tell her to shut up so I can write.  And so far its working out pretty well.

So, really, I'm not going to let any of you off the hook here.  I confess all this so that you know that I know how tempting it is to give into the illusion that we creatives need free rein.  No, we don't.  We need discipline and structure, just like everyone else. 

If you want to get your writing done, you've got to find a way to make it a routine part of your day.  Period.  And for me–and many others–the best way to do that is to get up and get it done first thing in the morning.  You'll feel good about yourself all day, I promise. 

What is your creative routine? 

 Photo from freerangestock.