The Story Economy Blog

A Writer in Search of Her Routine

[caption id="attachment_2492" align="alignright" width="375"]Photograph by Ashley Schweitzer found on Photograph 057 by Ashley Schweitzer found on[/caption]

Between a long and noisy spring break (not a break for me), being wiped-out sick and then wiped-out sick again, and having to put my beloved cat to sleep, I have been experiencing a serious lack of motivation over the last few weeks.

The ideas are not firing. The words are not coming. The spirit is not finding me.

I keep starting newsletters and abandoning them because they stink. You’re out of metaphors, Judi: just give up, I tell myself.

I’ve been meeting my deadlines, because that’s what I do. But everything around me feels far away. Like there is a layer of dust covering my neurons.

Let’s put it this way: I’m reading a biography about Charlotte Bronte’s life, and it’s so depressing that I relish sinking into it every night. I fall asleep with images of the haunting, windswept moors in my head.

I am a sad sack.

But the real problem is not the kids being home too much. Or feeling like crud for weeks on end. Or even missing my cat.

It’s the disruption in my routine. And that is the only reason I decided to muster the energy to open a Word document and start yet another newsletter.

Because the business of writing (the business of succeeding in just about anything) is about routine.

A, B, C, D, repeat, repeat, repeat.


When Did Routine Become a Bad Word?

The word “routine” gets a bad rap. “Routine” procedures and proceedings are mundane, safe, and unsurprising. As a noun, we use routine synonymously with rut. As an adjective, we use it to mean boring.

The connotation of “routine” suggests that it’s something that might trap you. Like a crater in the earth, you might “fall” into a routine if you’re not careful.

I’ve noticed there’s a lot of advice out there about “busting out of your routine,” as if the sheer act of not following a routine will dramatically improve your life.

I’m not saying there isn’t some truth to that. If you have a routine of eating donuts, drinking soda, and screaming at your spouse every night, busting out of that routine can only help you.

What about busting back into a routine though? Where is the advice about that? Why does no one talk about the delight of crawling back into your crater after a series of unhappy surprises, random sadnesses, and unusual frustrations?

Doing A, B, C, and D over and over again with regularity is the only clear route to amazing and extraordinary that I’ve ever understood. So many people talk a good game, but it all falls apart in the details. In the mundane. Their genius can’t possibly be organized into a routine.

Mine is useless without it.

I used to worry that I was a boring, predictable person. That my proclivity for routine was a limiting quality.

But the older I get, the more I see that routine is my saving grace. And without it, I am overwrought, overburdened, and under-motivated. Having a daily routine, a weekly routine, and a career routine: that’s what has allowed me to venture out and learn new things.

I fully believe in muses and signs and universal forces. I’m all over that stuff. I also believe in the beauty of A, B, C, D, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Routines don’t keep people stuck. They provide the foundation to grow and the confidence to tackle challenges.

I write all of this to remind myself that I can find my routine again, because it is my routine to seek routine! Routine-oriented people are wired like fractals. We are routines inside of routines inside of routines.

No one has ever called a fractal boring.


  • Lori Shutrump

    Posted by Lori Shutrump on 04/13/16 1:05pm

    LOVE THIS! I have a great morning routine and when life gets in the way I'm thrown off my game. I relate to every word in this newsletter.. as always! Thank you for sharing your heart, thoughts, and talent.

  • nancy richards

    Posted by nancy richards on 04/13/16 1:49pm

    Good read. Rounties are grounding. I fiercely protect my am and pm rountines which balance me after the chaos in between. I am an Activity Professional and work in long term living. One of the key questions asked during an assessment is " what are your customary routines?" Those responses are key to serving a person. And for now, as for me and my routines, going to continue.

  • DeAnne Pearson

    Posted by DeAnne Pearson on 04/13/16 3:04pm

    It is funny how we have given a bad name to habits and routines. Not all habits are addictions, pour choices or things to be "curbed". Kissing my kids goodnight, walking the dogs with my husband and yes, getting events added on my calendar then putting those repeatable, foundational steps in place to get that thing done are so important in world where busier, bigger, newer and more are the unending refrain. Thanks for the reminders so well put, as always. I am glad that I get your routine newsletter, since it is always beyond ordinary. My condolences on your dear pet. Pets are such a wonderful temporary blessing to our lives, and I get it.

  • Barbara Lewin

    Posted by Barbara Lewin on 04/18/16 1:46pm

    Thanks Judi! While I've always shunned routines, I realized their importance in having that non-thinking foundation for getting things done. Just as I brush my teeth every morning, I find time to stretch, meditate and plan my day. I believe it's one of the keys to a successful life! Thanks for your article!

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