Killing The Fear Of Routine

Rose Trellis
image: bbcamericangirl

A big fear many of us have as artists is that if we develop creative routines and practices, we’re likely to get stuck in a rut.

We worry that by following predictable patterns of creating day after day, month after month, year after year, it will mean our inspiration and sense of exploration become deadened, and we’ll just churn out the same tired artwork over and over again, unable to change, unable to create anything different.

This fear is perfectly understandable, and whoever you are, and whatever you create, there is a natural need to maintain your own artistic evolution.

We each need to keep ourselves stimulated and inspired by trying new techniques, materials, subject matter and projects.

What often happens though, is we confuse the supporting framework that enables us to be consistently creative, with the work itself.

The two are completely different.

Having a solid, reliable framework is essential. We need to find the ways of working that fit best for each of us.

Once we have found what works, it doesn’t mean we’ll never have a new idea again, or never want to try anything in a new style or medium.

In fact having the confidence of that tried and tested framework to hang our work upon, makes us more likely to be more inventive and creative. It enables us to wander further off the beaten track and take a few risks, without that precious creative consistency collapsing in on itself.

To illustrate this more clearly, here’s an example.

Say you have a fence at the bottom of your garden that’s looking a bit bare and dull, and you’re tired of looking out of your kitchen and seeing plain old wood. So you decide you’d like to grow something against it to make it more interesting and colourful.

Whatever you choose to grow – whatever way you choose to decorate the vista from your kitchen window – you’ll need some essentials in place.

The plants will need soil to grow in and some kind of supportive framework on the fence to grow up. They’ll also need regular sunlight and water. These are the absolutely basics required to grow anything on your new blank canvas of a fence.

Beyond that though, you can use your imagination.

Maybe you want to grow climbing roses. So you pick three different types this season, plant them, nurture them, and watch them grow. A few months later, beautiful blooms.

But maybe there are still some gaps in your fence where you’d like to grow some clematis. So next season, you might move one or two of the roses and bring in a few clematis plants.

Maybe next year you’ll swap a clematis for a honeysuckle.

Maybe another season you’ll move all the flowering plants and choose to grow peas and beans against your fence, along with some raspberries.

Roses, clematis, and honeysuckle are all very different flowers, all wonderful in their own way.

Beans and peas and raspberries aren’t so much there for the decoration or scent but the crop you reap will bring different kinds of rewards.

The point is, with this basic support structure against your fence – plus the soil the plants are planted in, and the sunlight and water they’re given – you can grow all kinds of plants and enjoy them all for their different qualities.

The fence doesn’t change. The soil doesn’t change. The framework against the fence doesn’t change. The need for sunlight and water doesn’t change.

But what you grow is up to you, and can vary greatly, depending on you desires.

If we switch back to creating, exactly the same is true.

Just because you’ve found that by committing to an hour of creating each morning before anyone else is up works very well for you, it doesn’t mean you have to re-write that poem about your childhood growing up by the sea every single day.

Some days you could write poems about the sea, other days about the city in winter, or the great lost love of your life. Other days you could write the next part of your novel. Other days you might decide to try painting again for the first time in a decade.

That creative habit you’ve built and nurtured will support any of these different creative projects in the same reliable way. And a million others.

So, what kind of support structures do you have in place for your creativity?

Are they the equivalent of good soil, a strong supportive fence, abundant sunshine and water?

Or is the soil too hard to grow anything, the fence rotting and run down, the sunshine rarely showing its face, and the water long dried up?

Start small, find your own daily, creative support structures and you can create anything your heart desires.

There’s no need to fear they’ll kill your creativity, they’ll do quite the opposite – revive it like never before.

And after all, that’s what we’re aiming for here. That’s what we need.


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9 thoughts on “Killing The Fear Of Routine”

    1. Hi Dan, I think the terminology comes from a pantser writes “by the seat of their pants”, whereas a plotter plans it all out first and then writes. Alternatively known as people who write “by discovery” vs planners. And assorted other labels.

      I’m very much the “discovery” kind of writer, but I agree with you that routine can provide a good framework in which to be spontaneous! The garden analogy is nice. Thanks for the post.


  1. Oh, this is so true! I notice that different seasons of the year I cling to certain creative tasks and in knowing this I am able to embrace those passions and fully allow myself to unleash the creativity…it is the routine that allows for the flexibility to create rather than diminish our creativity. If we had to reinvent the wheel everyday we’d never get anything done.


  2. Yes, though many highly creative people don’t embrace a fixed routine of writing or doing art for a particular amount of time at a particular time each day, many people do create that way very successfully. So no one should fear trying a routine to see how well it works for him!


    1. Yes, and in practice what works for many, myself included, is a combination of that regular daily practice PLUS spontaneous creative sessions in between.


  3. It’s something that used to trouble me when I began with GTD, but I feel there are two moments of creation, the first being the intuitive, the imaginative, the spark of genius and the second the hard work and the technique that can bring that spark into life. For the first we need to let ourselves be wild, play and let be; for the second we need organization and focus.


    1. I’ve found this too Miguel, and by batching together similar thought- and creative- processes, we can get more done.

      For example, I write far more when I dedicate a set chunk of time purely for writing, then edit later in another chunk, rather than write a piece, edit, write another piece, edit and so on.

      Thanks for your comments.


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