The Importance of Routine

I am quickly learning the importance of routine to — I want to say any creative endeavor, but I will err on the side of not being an overgeneralizing jerkstore and say — this particular project of mine. No matter what I do, it seems I have had and certainly will have good days and bad. Days when the stream of words from the spigot rushes out like the water punching through that wall at the end of Temple of Doom, and days when the stream dries up and the handle falls off and a tumbleweed blows past and there’s a bleached cow skull in the middle distance. Nonetheless, routine helps me to encourage the flow (I’m picturing a metaphor with a middle-aged dude in a suit standing over a urinal, saying to his dinger, “come on man, just a few drops,” but nah, I will take the high road and not go down that path. OOPSIE).

When I got a dog, I was instructed in the importance of routine. “If you do the same thing in the same situation everytime,” they said (they of course being the proverbial “They” who are, of course, in charge of flitting about and dispensing dubious wisdom), “then the dog will learn how to act all the time.” Uh huh. “If you feed the dog at the same time everyday, it will be less inclined to bother you at meals.” Okay. “If you let it outdoors at the same time everyday, it will be less inclined to poop in the house.” KEEP IT COMING. Have you met my dogs? I’ll be the first to say that I never really took the time to “train” them, per se, but these mutts persist in some of the dumbest behavior that ever dumbed.

Then I got a kid. (I wrote that merely for the satisfaction of my inner ego-writer so that I could have a nice, pretty little parallel structure. My wife and I had a kid. What we got was a tiny devil monster.) “Put him to bed at the same time every day,” they said (same “They,” bunch of jerks) and he’ll be more likely to sleep through the night. To be fair, this one’s actually been pretty true for my kid. But tell it to my sister and her husband and they might stab you with an electro-microscopic-spanhammer (that’s a thing, right? They are engineers and I don’t know sciencey things, LEAVE ME ALONE).

That said, routine has been pretty good to me. When my little routine lines up nicely, I can get my 900-1200 words done in about an hour if not slightly less. This was the case today. When the routine does not line up nicely, I can spiral around for hours thinking of things that have no business being on a page, so it helps when I can lock things down and, like a poorly-trained dog, allow my Id-Writer out of his cage at a pre-arranged time to chase bunnies around the backyard and spew his word-poop on the neighbor’s azaleas (he’s house-trained, but only JUST).

A pretty good day for me goes like this:

Wake up at 5.

Go run. I write better on days when I run, I’m convinced of it. There’s a reason for that which I am not scientifically qualified to pinpoint, but I’m of the notion that if it ain’t broke, get the fargo out of its way.

Head to work, and upon arriving, read over my writing and any notes Past Me left for me. This helps me get primed and allows the ideas to start percolating while I get down to the work that I actually get paid for.

Actually work.

At lunch, toss a sandwich and a bit of fruit and some diet soda down my neck and use the next thirty to forty-five minutes to write. I primed the pump earlier so I’m ready to jump in and get it done. On a good day I’ll get my proscribed writing done in this time. On a bad day I’ll run over a little, or simply won’t finish. Use the rest of my lunch period to grade papers, plan for the next day, or whatever else teachers do (I have no idea, really). Then:

Actually work some more.

End of the workday, I head back to my office and mull over the day’s writing just a bit — polish up any messy bits, add on a little more if I didn’t write enough, maybe start a blarg entry — all this while waiting for the parking lot to empty out. About twenty minutes.

Head home, and on arriving, play around with the sprout and/or cook dinner and/or run errands and/or otherwise do dad type things til sprout’s bedtime.

After the sprout goes to bed, it’s time to kick back with the wife, and if I was slack during the day, time to get in the last of my tasty word-count. But the Id-Writer has a hard time focusing at home, so I can usually multiply by two the time it will take to write anything.

Go to bed at 9:30. Yes, that’s a goal. A day in which I’m in bed at 9:30 is a good goldfinger day.

When I can stick to that routine, the Id-Writer seems just a bit more tame. A bit more agreeable, a bit more willing to write things that are usable, a bit less likely to fling poop at me or bite my fingers or eat Cheetos and smear the orange powder all over everything. Deviate from it, and the Id-Writer gets feisty and grumpy and fit to be tied.

Today was a pretty good day. Twelve hundred words, and the Id-Writer didn’t even draw blood today.

He did, however, come up with this gem. So welcome back to the not-quite-daily favorite-passages-from-today’s-writing special.

Here, then, is a dude getting smashed by a piano, because this is totally happening in my book, now.  At least until it gets edited.  And maybe beyond.

Much as it gets used as a trope in film and especially in cartoons, the business of having a piano dropped on you is not a pleasant one in any way, except perhaps that, as far as you’re concerned (“you” being the one dropped upon), it’s all over in a flash.  A piano reaches terminal velocity rather quickly, and then you’ve got a solid six hundred pounds or so of earthbound hardwood and ivory and tensioned cable rocketing toward the ground.  The impact itself is lethal in its own right.  The sound of splintering wood and a noise like a toddler banging on the keys come together with the squelch of flesh being smashed to a pulp in a way that can only be described as unsettling.  The aftermath is truly horrific: nothing but cracked beams and scattered ivories and neatly tenderized organs amidst a mass of tangled piano wire.  The splash radius is a lot bigger than one might expect. Such was the imagined and magically presented end of Lexi’s manager.


Being a writer is so much fun.

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