Breaking out of a routine and feeding your notebooks

This week I’ve been thinking about routines and making changes to my daily life.  As it’s the first week of Lent, several people posted on Facebook that they were giving it up (Facebook, that is) for 40 days.  I was tempted to do this myself as, of all places online, it’s Facebook that seems to suck my time and leave me with that unsatisfied feeling of “where did that hour/morning/afternoon/evening go?  However, I do find interesting articles and news via Facebook and I really like being in touch with friends and family I don’t see that often, plus Facebook is a good way of bringing readers to my two blogs, so I’ve decided to try to limit my time there but not give it up altogether.

The other thing that got me thinking about routines were two excellent blogposts – one by Helen Mackinven (in which the title says it all) “Writing + Day Job = Frustration” and another by Emma Lee, “Get in the Habit of Writing.”  I’ve mentioned before that I’m struggling to get into my writing stride this year as I learn to juggle my part-time job with The Reader Organisation alongside the demands of family, writing and blogging, so there was plenty I could relate to in Helen’s blogpost.  But while it seems important to me to re-establish a writing routine, it’s also important, as Emma’s post reminded me, to understand that everything feeds into writing so time alone, exercising, reading, walking, thinking and daydreaming are just as important as sitting at the writing desk.  And doing work other than writing, paid or otherwise, is also valuable if we keep our writers’ eyes and ears about us (and a notebook handy, about which, more later).  I’m trying to think of non-writing time as research or ‘feeding’ time and to not get hung-up on the fact that I’m not writing.

Breaking out of a routine, doing different stuff, is also good for us.  I was struck by an article I read recently about our perceptions of time passing:  remember how never-ending the school summer holidays seemed to be?  That’s because all the experiences we come up against as children are new to us, not mundane, so life feels full and exciting.  If we establish a routine and tend to do the same activities, wear the same clothes, meet the same people, eat the same food, go to the same places for long periods of time, days, months and years will disappear in a flash of colourlessness. (bit grim, eh?)

With this in mind, I’ve tried to ring the changes for me and my family.  We’ve had a few country walks this weekend, a family meal at a pub we’ve never visited before and a visit to a The Athanaeum Theatre in Warminster to see a very good, amateur (in collaboration with the RSC’s Open Stages programme) production of Macbeth (which my daughter is studying for her  English Literature GCSE).  The play was slightly marred in its closing moments by Macduff carrying in what looked like the chopped off head of a shop window dummy (albeit one which had been doused in blood-red paint).  Still, the man who played Macbeth was also bald so we in the audience couldn’t complain about being confused.  And the shop dummy was something new, the production different to any I’ve seen before, so time didn’t pass quickly and the evening seemed colourful!  Result!


I mentioned notebooks earlier.  Two wonderful posts about stationery by Anthony Wilson this week, here and here.  Whatever you’re up to, it pays dividends to carry notebooks around with you and to feed inspiration into them as it strikes, especially if life is busy and writing has to be squeezed into spare moments that crop up at odd times through the day (or night).

Talking of inspiration and thinking again of Lent, this mindful list has been on my fridge door since last Lent when my daughter brought it home from school.  Never mind about giving up cake, I’m inspired to try to give up some of the things on this list instead.

Cake and Lent

Until my next post, I wish you colour, time, inspiration, notebooks and cake.


17 thoughts on “Breaking out of a routine and feeding your notebooks”

  1. Good advice about breaking routines, and ‘feeding’ & enjoyed the Anthony Wilson link about lowering that censor filter and doodling on the first page of a pristine notebook to ‘get it out of the way’. Great idea


  2. Hi Josephine, I’m very flattered and chuffed to be linked with your excellent blog. I’ve always had a notebook in my handbag but recently I’ve neglected using it as often as I should so your advice has prompted me to record more observations etc.I often challenge myself to submit something to the Paragraph Planet (although without much success recently!) and it helps hone my flash fiction skills. I also like to try as many new activities as possible as even negative experiences are valuable. Later today, I’ll be driving up to Aberdeen for work tomorrow and I’m aiming to use the drive as thinking time and as you say, it should help to ‘feed’ my writing.
    And thanks for sharing your ideas for Lent – much more meaningful than giving up chocolate! x


    1. Hi Helen! Yes, I’d forgotten about sites like Paragraph Planet which can help maintain focus and give a little rewarding boost to confidence along the way. Driving can be good thinking time but recently I’ve had a couple of near misses (of white vans, strangely) as I’ve been so deep in thought. Luckily my brakes are in good working order! Have a great week and thanks for the reblog. 🙂


  3. This post resonates with me as this weekend I broke out of my routine to do something different and wished I had remembered to take a notebook in my handbag. The doing something different was taking a pop-up history course, but travelling to London on the train was where I sorely missed my notebook, as I listened to fascinating conversation and wanted to get them down for future use.


    1. Hi Lesley. Your doing something different sounds very interesting and, I agree, train journeys provide wonderful opportunities for observing, contemplating and noting! Hope your memory manages to salvage something for future use 🙂


  4. What a brilliant post, so true and very encouraging! I really struggle with time with two small children and it is often a source of frustration for me. Your idea of seeing the rest of our time as feeding time has really reframed things for me.


  5. Hi Josephine great post (and not just because you linked back to my blog). Yes, thinking, dreaming and observing are all part of writing and it’s too easy sometimes to put pressure on yourself by falling into the trap of thinking that writing’s solely about getting words on paper. If you carry your mobile with you, you’ll always have a notebook – the camera/video functions are useful too. Although I confess one of my poems was written simply because my camera was stuffed at the bottom of my rucksack and I couldn’t be bothered to rummage to get it out so captured the picture I would have taken in a poem instead.


  6. I’ve just read Anthony Wilson’s blog post on noting things down before reading your post. These are ideas I agree with – I used to write a lot more in my notebooks/ sketchbooks, until recently. I’ve misplaced two of my sketchbooks, and must admit I took the lazy way out and just haven’t bothered finding them or using another sketchbook.. I do have my poetry notebook (that’s a new addition. I’m addicted to acquiring notebooks), but that one is for poetry only. Random little lines, or full poems.. Then I have my drawing only notebook (trying to be more organised, you see). I do need to find my sketchbooks, though, as I often have interesting little phrases or thoughts as I go about my day (especially on trains and buses.)
    I also like the idea of not falling into routine to make life more interesting. I sometimes can;t remember last week, probably because it was so boring! And yet people can remember a specific day months or years earlier, because it was so new and special. Great post!


    1. Thanks for commenting, Kerridwen. Yes, I think Anthony’s post unearthed quite a few stationery enthusiasts, me included! I do hope you find your lost books – it’s horrible to lose something precious. No doubt they’ll turn up when you’re looking for something else entirely. It isn’t always easy to break out of a routine, I know, especially if you’re attending school or university or you’re in a work routine but it’s worth attempting to do something different, however insignificant it might seem. Thanks for linking to your blog 🙂


  7. It’s good to be reminded that breaking out of our routines is important to the writing process. I’m a bit of a creature of habit, and once I find a strategy or a way of doing things that works in terms of writing, I tend to do it to death! So, for me, this time of year isn’t about giving things up, but more about adding to the bank of ideas that might work in terms of generating poems. In ‘Steal Like An Artist’, Austin Kleon suggests keeping a file of anything and everything that might inspire us. I’ve put this on my to-do list and will be putting pictures, articles, snippets of text from magazines etc. in mine. Hope other people can make use of this idea.


    1. I like this idea very much, Julie and I’m sure others will find it useful. In fact, files or scrapbooks, as well as notebooks, are another piece of essential kit although perhaps they’re not as beautiful. Thanks for commenting and following and I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog! 🙂


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