I was pondering (I do a lot of pondering, as you may have noticed) on the difference between ruts and routines, and how the line between them is sometimes blurred. The first thing to do is to define the two: to me a routine is some act one does with specific regularity, but which provides a degree of comfort. A rut is some act one does routinely, with specific regularity, not because it provides comfort but simply because…well, because you’ve always done it that way.
As I said, the line between the two is often blurred, but for me one sure sign is: do I pass up doing something I’d like to do because I’m used to doing something else at that particular time? Like turning down the chance to go out late in the afternoon because I always don’t want to miss watching the news at 5:30. That teeters pretty precariously on the verge of being a rut.
Every morning, I swing my legs out of bed directly into my slippers. I get up, turn on the computer on my way to the bathroom, turn the news on at 7 a.m., and put on the coffee. Why coffee? I really am not all that wild about it and can’t remember the last time I drank a full cup. So why do I do it every single morning? Routine, or rut?
And while the coffee is being made, I pour 2/3 of a cup (the same cup I used for the water to fill the coffee maker, and the same cup from which I’ll drink the coffee) of V-8 juice. Why do I never have orange juice? I have no idea: I just don’t. I just do what I always do, and never give it a thought except on very rare occasions such as now.
With my coffee, I have a chocolate covered donut. Every day. And I watch the box very carefully so that when I am down to two donuts, I hurry to the store for another box of the same thing.
In the donuts instance, I have to admit that I do like them, and I always have chocolate covered donuts because they are the highest in calories, and I consciously try to eat only high-calorie food, since I don’t eat more during the day than an anorexic mouse. But do I occasionally substitute toast and high-calorie peanut butter, or pancakes or waffles with lots of butter and high-calorie syrup? Newp. Never. Why not? Here again I think it is rut raising its ugly head.
After “breakfast” I get on with my day, as much of it as I can manage devoted to writing, and on those days that for some reason I do not write I feel as though I have cheated myself in some way, and invariably feel truly guilty. The fact that I truly enjoy writing, I tell myself, shifts the time I spend on it strongly into the “routine” column.
As a matter of fact, I do try not to go out in the late afternoon…and especially not to drive anywhere after 2 p.m.…for both the practicality of not wanting to lose my parking place in the building’s lot, which always fills up after 3, and for the fact that I don't want to risk missing the news at 5:30. Rut or routine? A mixed bag, there.
If I've been lucky enough to have devoted as much time as possible during the day to writing, I still stop writing around 5:30 p.m., both because I want to watch the news and because...well, because I just don’t write after 5:30 p.m. I watch TV from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. (I think I consider this 4 ½ hour period as a sort of “security blanket” time, when I can just stop thinking about things and let my eyes and ears do my thinking for me. Routine, not rut, I choose to think: I do it because I enjoy doing it.
And writing top-of-the-head blogs three times a week? Usually mostly routine, since I enjoy it, but occasionally rut when I suddenly realize I don’t have a blog ready when I need it, and my sense of obligation tells me I’ve got to do it. And now I've done it. Time for the news.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 ).