In the absence of clear direction, a good routine is priceless.
Heard someone say that once, and she may have been quoting me. But this week’s Pearls Before Swine (6/2/2008) portrays routines as passion-killers. Made me stop and think. I’m feeling a bit disconnected this morning; four hours in the very hot sun and a day full of running, without much time to think, will do that to me. Not feeling all that passionate about anything. However: my routines will pull me through.
When David Allen states that most people have 100-200 “open loops” in their to-do lists, I was not at all surprised. That’s the way I live. My list started at 150 and grew, in units of 20, to about 250, where it appears to be stable for today. At least now that I started a “one day” tab for things that simply aren’t going to happen any time soon, and don’t have to get done before the heating season starts again (improved energy efficiency in this house). That’s 250 small steps; to the best of my ability to define them, each item is a specific action to be taken, with a clear start and finish point, and some tangibility as to whether it’s been completed or not. Many of these items will in turn generate next steps as soon as they’re done.
I suppose passion can be killed by routine. I suspect just as much passion is killed by the lack of good routines, as disappears to habit. A clean sink soothes tempers. When I’m not feeling particularly creative or artful, I can still slice. My rug creativity increases in direct proportion to my stash, and slicing t-shirts into stash is absolutely 100% routine at this point. No passion involved.
From time to time, I wish I were a person who was more moved by grand passions, rather than a person who lugs around a 250-item to-do list on her cell phone. What actually happens, however, is that the grand idea reformats itself as a series of component steps almost before I’m done thinking it. “Make spangly skirt for parade hooping” is far too big. “Make skirt” is six hours. “Cut out fabric” may be a 45-minute exercise with a start and finish. “Pin vertical seams” is something I can do on the phone. (Home Ec grads will recognize the sequence and the actual steps depend on the pattern.) Sew. Press. Pin next. Sew again. Etc. And one smallish “passionate” idea, fueled by envy of the girls with mylar pompoms in last year’s parade, turns into reality, after dragging itself through at least 10 to-dos. (There will be as many again for the parade hoop, and for the experimental tiara that needs testing to see if it’s even feasible (hooping and head-gear can be problematic) before I put too much energy into making it.)
I wonder how people who can’t do project planning get their passion onto the paper. Or canvas.
Art can be ephemeral and random, appearing where it will. I’m not even talking here about the discipline of showing up to a canvas or sketchbook or keyboard every day. I’m simply thinking of all the other routines, the things I do out of habit that keep my life running smoothly and “out of the way,” so that even when I’m not feeling creative, it’s possible to make progress on creative output.