Abbe Driver wrote a post recently about why having a “boring” routine is a key to creativity. It was printed in www.refinery29.uk, if you wish to view the original. Interesting! Best, Christine
People who don’t write usually think that fiction writers get inspiration and then begin to scribble when that inspiration hits. While there can be patches of that lightening striking, most of the time it’s being disciplined enough to sit down and write, discard what doesn’t work, and keep what does. Before I started writing, I thought that you sat by a sunny window and ideas floated in for the seizing, but that’s not how it works for most of us.
Novelist Haruki Murakami gets up at 4:00 a.m. each day and writes for five hours. He then runs a few miles and swims a few miles and spends his evening listening to music or reading. His bedtime is set at 9:00 p.m. He told The Paris Review that repetition becomes the important thing. “It’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”
Those who read this blog regularly know that Hemingway awoke early when he was writing (at about 6:00 a.m.) and would write until the early afternoon. He’d then take a swim or relax and that was it for the day. He didn’t like to stop until he knew what was going to come next. However, he kept that schedule when he was writing and didn’t vary much from it. He usually cut down on his drinking while working on a novel.
Kurt Vonnegut made sure he did his pushups and sit-ups each day. Maya Angelou writes from a specially decorated hotel room she keeps solely for that purpose.
While this isn’t a very deep conclusion, it nevertheless seems to be true: by keeping routines, your creativity can funnel into the work as opposed to scattering into thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner or do next. It’s a little like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs wearing only black uniforms. None of their creativity has /had to go into wardrobe selections for the day.
As Ms. Driver noted in her article, we don’t like to think about this boring routine resulting in some masterpieces or at least in some decent novels. “There is nothing sexy about sitting at your laptop and putting in cold, hard time; far more alluring is the wild-haired genius who doesn’t have to try. But that is deeply flawed logic and a dangerous belief to hold… Routines might work, but they don’t jive with our cultural obsession with the talented prodigy.”
Another observation was that having a routine guarantees you some down time. “Whether you’re doing yoga, listening to jazz or relaxing in the bath, making time for activities which aren’t too cognitively taxing allows your brain to shift gears.”
Gustave Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.