Do you avoid having a daily routine for fear that it will stifle your creativity?
As someone who enjoys—almost craves—flexibility, I used to avoid routine, well, routinely. Then I discovered the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who argues that people who use their creativity successfully often have strict, daily routines that free their minds to do the creative work they love, by eliminating the need to spend time deciding what to do when, what to eat, or even what to wear:
“Most creative individuals find out early what their best rhythms are for sleeping, eating, and working, and abide by them even when it is tempting to do otherwise. They wear clothes that are comfortable, they interact only with people they find congenial, they do only things they think are important. Of course, such idiosyncrasies are not endearing to those they have to deal with…. But personalizing patterns of action helps to free the mind from the expectations that make demands on attention and allows intense concentration on matters that count.” ~ Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, p. 145 [emphasis added]
Recently I’ve had a string of calm, productive days. Why? I don’t know for sure. I like to think that my morning pages practice has something to do with it. Also, I’m at a good place right now in terms of how many responsibilities are on my plate (I do better with fewer that I can do more slowly, rather than more that require a frantic pace). However, as I think about the passage above, I also realize that I’ve been able to stick to a comfortable routine recently, especially in the morning, even down to my usual breakfast (which has been a fruit and yogurt smoothie followed by a bagel with chive-and-onion cream cheese, and a toothpaste chaser).
Why do these kinds of routines matter? I spend no mental energy at all thinking about what to do when I wake up. Instead, I can let my mind work on what to write.
Do you have routines that free your mind for creative work?
How do you handle those inevitable days (or weeks) when you cannot stick to your usual routines?
Are there times when it’s good to break up your routine?