Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive. ~ Edith Wharton
Six months ago, Bob and I changed our eating habits and routines in order to get healthier and lose weight. Our breakfast routine became oatmeal with fruit, cinnamon and honey or, instead of the oatmeal, chopped walnuts and almonds.
No more granola, no more French toast, no more Sunday morning eggs and bacon.
There were changes in the way we ate lunch and dinner as well, and almost a complete elimination of treats like cookies and brownies. Our new routine resulted in significant weight loss and improved sleep and health.
But Sunday morning, while Bob finished shoveling snow from the walks around our house, I made bacon and eggs—a break from our new routine. Bob’s eyes lit up when he came inside, his nose scenting the bacon, and as we sat at our kitchen table, we savored the creamy texture of the eggs and the salty flavor of the bacon. Yum!
The next day, it was back to fruit and oatmeal, because that’s our routine.
A routine is a pattern of actions that are repeated. In the best of cases, routine saves time both in thought and in action. In the worst of cases, routine dulls awareness and shuts down creativity, something we definitely want to avoid.
But, creatives too often avoid routines and habits that have the potential to strengthen their creativity.
Yes, I did just write that. An accomplished musician, especially a professional, has a routine, a habit, of practicing his instrument—voice or otherwise—consistently, usually every day. Any successful creative has developed a routine, a habit, a practice of doing her creative work regularly.
Having a habit of writing or painting or whatever other creative endeavor you are involved in diminishes the likelihood of falling victim to distractions, procrastination and resistance.
You don’t have to stop and think, “Do I feel like writing?” or “Shall I write now or after dinner?” No, you just go write. Same time, same place, same station.
On the other hand, breaking routine is necessary to spark creativity. Changing up Sunday morning’s breakfast sparked the idea for this article. And I wasn’t even wondering what I should write about. The idea rose unbidden with the sizzle of butter in the pan.
Breaking any routine, from the way we brush our teeth to when and where we write, jolts those neurons onto new pathways and our creativity into insights and ideas we might never have had otherwise.
Routines can be a blessing or a bane. It’s up to you. But here’s how to make it a blessing:
- Create a routine that minimizes the opportunities for procrastination and resistance around your creativity. Examine your energy and your schedule during the day. What part of the day would be the easiest time for you to regularly do your creative work, taking into consideration when you feel your most creative as well as the other demands on your time and attention?
- Give yourself time to get it well-established. Popular advice, including Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, says to give a routine or habit at least 12 weeks of consistent action in order for it to become well-ingrained. Just remember,developing a routine that is good for your creativity is not necessarily easy. It takes commitment and time.
- Once you have established it, break it. I don’t mean break it completely or break it regularly because that then becomes a routine in itself (is your head spinning?). But once in a while, when you feel the impulse or you need a breakthrough or, like here, it’s the middle of winter and you are going stir-crazy, break the routine. Do something different, fun, or “bad”.
Routine can be your friend, especially with your creativity.
It’s up to you. Blessing or bane?