If you look up the word “adult” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of my parents.
My parents have systems for everything. They keep Day-timers. They keep an inventory. They Dewey Decimalize their computer files.
They love routines and habits. And so I resist routines and habits like a stubborn toddler. Nothing strikes fear in my heart like the idea of doing something every day. “Just make it part of your routine!” well-meaning people will say about some desirable habit: flossing, eating vegetables, cleaning the tub. “Make it something you do without thinking, like brushing your teeth.” Even that doesn’t make it sound any easier to me. I mean, sometimes I brush my teeth before my shower, and sometimes after. If I’m running late, I’ll do it at work, and on the weekends, sometimes I don’t do it until noon. And sometimes, before bed (whispers) I’m too lazy to do it at all.
But somehow, in the last few years, I have finally developed a routine. And I like it. When it gets disturbed, I miss it. It’s my Saturday morning routine, the routine I follow any day when I’m not working.
On a typical Saturday, I wake up between 7 and 8. I don’t use an alarm on any day of the week, unless there is something Very Important (flight, doctor’s appointment) happening first thing in the morning. I think I have set an alarm maybe 5 times so far in 2013. I have the type of job where if I come in 15 minutes late, I can just stay an extra fifteen minutes in the evening.
So, I wake up. I make oatmeal with peanut butter and brown sugar (it’s really good, I swear) and eat it while either reading the Internet or reading a book. I don’t rush myself at this point in the day. I rush myself enough on weekdays. On weekends, I read until I feel ready to move on.
By 9 or 9:30 I’m usually ready to exercise. I put on my exercise clothes and dance for 30 minutes to one of my workout playlists, trying to work up a sweat and use as many muscles as I can.
Post-workout, I often read the Internet a little more until I cool off and am ready for a shower. Then I go to the library to feed my book addiction. I don’t spend much time at the library, just long enough to drop books off and pick up my holds.
By the time I get home, it’s usually 10:30 or 11. I put on water for a tea. I put on my around-the-house shoes, a pair of glittery Old Navy sneakers. I find it easier to be productive if I’m wearing shoes. I open Scrivener, the program I use to write.
If I’m feeling procrastinate-y, I might mess around on the Internet a little more. But it’s getting later, and it’s time to get serious.
My goal for a typical writing session is either 1,000 words or 2 hours of revision. I got this idea from Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life, which is a book I recommend to anyone serious about writing.
Since I tend to write too much and then need to cut down, I usually end up doing 2 hours rather than having a word count goal. I get my cup of tea. I set an online stopwatch for two hours. And then I write.
Two hours feels like a good chunk of time to me. It’s satisfying. I feel like I’ve made progress. Sometimes, I’ll keep going after two hours, or come back to the book later in the day. But after I’ve done my two hours, the choice is up to me. I can write more. I can read one of the books I picked up at the library. I can take a nap. After the two hours, it doesn’t matter. I’ve earned the title “writer” for the day.
And I guess, if it helps me feel like a “real” writer, I can live with a little routine.