Some of the hardest times for a writer to hang onto writing routines are what I call transition times, those times when something in the normal schedule changes. It can be as simple as adding an evening activity, as big as a cross-country move or as life-changing as having a new baby. It can be the transition between summer or holidays to daily work and school days. Whatever the change, the routines we’ve struggled to put in place often shiver and shake and fall apart leaving us to dig our way out of the chaotic rubble.
How do we keep that from happening? What can we do to make sure writing doesn’t get lost in the minor and major upheavals of our lives? How can we stay in control even during the hectic times of our days and lives?
Shonna touched on it last week when she talked about establishing automatic routines, especially routines that happen even we’re not focused on them. Well-established routines can add stability to the disorder that comes with transitions.
I implemented one such routine in my own life at least fifteen years ago and it has remained a constant through several major moves as well as tiny schedule tweaks. Until today, it never really had a name. I’ve decided to call it my Redeem the Time Cache because that is what it does. Whether on a holiday schedule, a normal work week or in the midst of a cross-country move, my Redeem the Time Cache helps me productively use time that would normally be wasted.
Whenever I know I’m going to be somewhere with nothing to do but wait, like a doctor’s office or waiting for a child to finish a class or in the passenger seat during a cross-country move, I take my Redeem the Time Cache with me (or a selection of items from it). At any given time, I have a pile of papers, magazines or books to read, letter writing supplies, a folder with items relating to a current project, anything that can be done in the little bits of waiting time that fill my day. When I was still homeschooling, that pile often included things I needed to plan lessons or assignments to evaluate. Now it includes “fun” books to read as often as it does work that needs doing.
Sometimes I don’t even need my Cache with me to redeem the time. Sometimes I find myself waiting without my Cache. Standing in a check out line, for example. After years spent using my Redeem the Time Cache, my automatic reaction is to mentally search for something to do. I might run through my list of errands. Other times, I’ll brainstorm names for a new character I’m creating or try to unknot a plot problem. Or, if I need a vacation from reality, I’ll read the headlines of all those pseudo-news magazines. With my Redeem the Time Cache, I can redeem those otherwise unproductive, wasted minutes. And that brings order back into the chaos even during the most hectic transition times.