Sunday, November 16, 2014

a routine check

I love reading about people's daily routines. Maybe all self-employed people have this feeling. It's almost a fetish, for me, and I assume its power comes at least in part from the fun fact that when you've imagined yourself doing something, your brain is pretty well convinced you did it. So reading about other people's routines can give you the satisfaction of having established a routine of your own without having to actually, you know, stick to a routine. Because that's hard.

Or maybe not. But for whatever reason, the day-in-the-life thing is catnip to me. I once subscribed to Harper's Bazaar strictly because of those hilarious, fantastical hour-by-hour reckonings they did with famous people. ("At 10am my assistant brings me a green smoothie from Balthazar for 2pm I nap with my pug, Narciso, before we each get an organic diamond-powder facial and a toe rub, then it's off to another branding meeting....")

But mostly I like to hear about what other writers do. (Joe Hill wrote a good one recently - and he seems to get an awful lot of work done. I'm just saying.) (Also somewhere not long ago I read a quote from David Mitchell saying the trick for him is to rush to the writing, first thing in the morning.)

When I hear authors and normal people say things like "On Tuesdays I do this," or "Every Saturday we go here," or "Thursdays we have pea soup with ham and pancakes," what I feel is almost indistinguishable from romantic longing. Ohhhhh. Pea soup, every Thursday. *sigh*

What's behind this, I wonder? Maybe it's a grass-is-greener scenario; when everything is scripted, you want spontaneity, and as ever the reverse is equally true. It's very satisfying as a freelancer to be working on something and not have that usually-constant nagging feeling that you should really be working on something else. Also, order itself is pleasing. Expectations met.

But most days what I feel like instead is a bankrupt or amnesiac painter facing a blank white canvas.

It's so freeing! You can put anything on there.

ANYTHING. Wherever.

Take your time.

Oh that line, between freeing and paralyzing. It's such a faint little line.

Last month I was in Colorado, and for about two weeks I was in charge of my parents' little homestead, and as you might imagine, the caretaking of the homestead dictates a certain daily routine. (They wrote it down for me.)

I woke up early, wrote nonsense until it got light out, then bundled up and went outside.

Let the squawky chickens out, check for eggs, throw last night's scraps at them and fill their feeder.

(One of the little thrills every day was that the stupid chickens were just so damn happy to get out of their hutch in the morning, exactly as happy as they were to go back into it at night.)

Then you walk over to the barn and turn on the water pump for the horses' water tank. (There's a series of hoses already puzzled together.) Open the barn doors, feed the wild kitties (who are at least as ecstatic to see me as the chickens were), check their water. Throw some hay to the fat furry ponies (ditto).

Call the horses in from the field and put hay cubes into their feeders, six cubes per horse plus one extra helping because they fight and play musical chairs. Pet them just because, and peek at their legs to make sure the clumsy ones haven't walked through any barbed-wire fencing or anything.

Go back up and turn off the water pump before their tank overflows. (Except for that one time.) Open the door to the greenhouse, dodge the wasps and pick whatever tomatoes are ready. Feed the dogs, then take them for a walk out back.

In the evening, close up all the open doors and feed everybody again.

It's soothing, right? Knowing just what to do and when and what's at stake. I like it and long for it on some weird primal level. It's why I like being on deadline. Partly because it's easier: the massive relief of not having to figure out what you ought to be doing every damn minute of every day. So nice to have that already decided and laid out for you. Following instructions can be quite relaxing.

I think I'm starting to repeat myself. So anyway, here's the part where I should say, OK folks (hi Karl!), with that in mind, I will now be updating this glob every Sunday and Wednesday forever, like clockwork.

But that will probably not come true, because as much as I love the idea of order and routine, in fact the charm of a rigorous schedule for me is mainly abstract. Like ten percent of my day is predictable almost all of the time. And I am super dedicated! to that ten percent. The rest is ?

But hey maybe! Check back on Wednesday. :)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Hard to believe we resented that routine as kids ... and hard to believe that we can go visit any time we want, crack open a beer(s), and watch Mom do all those things all day ...