In Praise of Routine

Man table work routine

Routine isn’t most people’s favorite word. Many try to escape it any way they can. But can quality be achieved without the repetition and regularity that characterize routine?

However tedious a routine may be, sometimes it’s often preferable to the stress and disabling tension of not knowing what to do or how to do it. With routine usually comes familiarity, constancy, and security. When you have a routine, it’s easier to have a plan. And when you have a plan, it’s easier to set objectives and track.

Routine is deeply integrated in the human mind. The mind needs structure and familiarity to function well. It sees patterns everywhere, it creates repetitions, it generates habits. Take the master of routine Himself, the Sun. What would happen if the Sun relinquished its routine and showed up on different days at different hours? Would we still exist?

Routine becomes tedious when it’s not aligned to our passions and values. School or work can easily create this type of routine. sYou may be trapped in what you think is a sad routine — studying boring subjects every day, filling out forms, or making pizzas. But even then embracing that routine and working to perfect it may be the fastest way to a new, better routine — an undergraduate degree or a better, more suitable job.

Writers and artists need routine, too. Read about the lives of the world’s greatest writers, and you’ll see that most of them, if not all, have a writing routine, working between certain hours on certain days. Routine keeps the words flowing, and it is from that flow that, like fishermen, we can scoop our catch — inspiration, creativity, and our best ideas.

Creativity, too, needs a routine to manifest itself. The creative process may be hard to pin down, but the stimuli that usually trigger it are deeply rooted in a routine of discovery of knowledge and sense impressions. When you keep doing certain things regulary — visiting galleries, spending time with artsy friends, traveling — inspiration tends to show up more frequently.

Looking back on my life so far, I find many enjoyable days spent among the simple pleasures and easy familiarities of routine. Days when I wrote, drank my tea, strolled through the park, cycled, cooked my food, took a warm bath, and slept quietly, without dreams. Days when nothing surprising happened to me. When I met no one and when no one bothered me.

Routine may not create vivid memories or titillate our senses. It may not make us feel intensily alive. But it can polish what we do and make it as good and as precise as it can be. The satisfaction of doing something well can be a stable, long-lasting, and positive energy in our life, more dependable than adventurous excitement.

Rather than trying to escape routine, we need to align it to our passions and values, to make sure we constantly do the things that we enjoy doing over and over again. That’s the only way to overcome routine, and probably the best way to be successful in life, too.


Does routine make you uneasy? Do you usually try to escape it? 


On Accepting Our Writing

Woman reading stack of books

Quite often, the hardest part about writing something isn’t the writing itself, but reading it after. Despite the effort and enthusiasm that went into it, it may feel not quite what we hoped it would be.

You often read or hear about how some great writer or other rewrote a scene or chapter countless times, and still wasn’t entirely happy with the published version.

Writing, as with most things in life, doesn’t usually come out like we like. The writing of ideas or scenes that we do in our head is quite another matter from the writing on the page. Sometimes the writing on the page is uplifting and inspiring — it may make us laugh or cry or feel good about ourselves. But quite often, it seems only a fragment chipped off from something greater that happened inside of us.

What do we do then? Do we crumpsle the paper and throw it away? Do we delete the document? Language is but one dimension of the multi-faceted experience that is life. It is limiting. If there’s freedom in writing, it is only in accepting its limitations.

Writing isn’t butterfly-catching. Or at least writing prose isn’t.  It’s more like pottery, a steady, focused work, that calls for the right tools and materials, and above all, for the patience to make mistakes and keep on laboring undaunted. No word is wasted, because every bit of effort helps to wire the brain and the hands for writing.

There’s no promise that with experience or enthusiasm we’ll achieve greatness, but then why would we need such a promise? Billions of people write every day. Some of them are called writers, or like to call themselves so. They may nurture the hope of becoming authors one da. . They may write every day, stacking up manuscripts.

What drives them to write word after word is the writing itself, the synergy of mind and body that dives deep into the unconscious only to emerge again above the surface in moments of lucidity. Sometimes the words themselves build something greater than what the imagination conceived when it wrote the first word on paper. And those moments make the writing worth it, even when the only reader that will experience them is the reader in us.

With each piece of writing that we do not throw away or disparage, we become better, and a bit more confident. It then becomes easier to keep on writing and pile one word upon another, building an artwork that celebrates humanity, language, and the imagination.

There’s no promise that writing our days away will make us rich or famous. But satisfaction is guaranteed, and with that comes the peacefulness of the mind that knows it has freed itself from its fantasies and sins, its sorrows and its dreams.


What do you do with writing that doesn’t satiafy you? Do you throw it away? Archive it? Rewrite it?