Finding the Time When Your System Fails

I just moved halfway across the country. Needless to say, I’ve been dealing with a lot of new stuff lately. Exciting stuff. Drawn-out, time-consuming, energy-draining stuff.

It is wreaking havoc on my trusty routine–my lifeline to my creative time.

I count on my routine completely. I like to think that as a creative, I’m a go-with-the-flow easy breezy type, but when it comes down to making time for the things most important to me, I go all Type A. So feeling that hour slip away each day has me going a little nutty.

It’s not even just the time. It’s the space, too. I had my corners in my old apartment where the noise levels were low and my tools were all there and everything was ready when I was.

But right now, everything is in flux. We’re staying with some family until we can move into our new place. So there’s a lot of hustle and bustle all around me, and no space of my own (at least none where my computer cord will reach the plug–yeah, my battery’s dead too). And 90 percent of my stuff is in storage and completely inaccessible.

So how do I hold on to that creative time when my system falls apart? This is the question I’ve been wrestling with lately. Because the truth is, let a habit slip, and it’s as hard to get back to it as if it never was. The truth is, old habits die.

I refuse to give in, because I can’t afford to lose my momentum. So I’m experimenting.

I’ve tried out several different nooks and corners at my temporary home, but somehow I can never manage my under-the-radar status long enough to do anything meaningful. I even tried using my 90 minute commute, but it’s too hard to write with all the jerky stop-and-go. And honestly, I’m afraid I’ll get lost in my head and miss my stop.

But I got it figured out. The answer? Coffee shops.

The bus schedule forces me to miss the hour I used to have before heading out the door in the morning, but it also means I get downtown by my office about 45 minutes early. And lo and behold, there’s a coffee shop directly across the street. I lug my story notebook with me everywhere and pull it out once I get my joe.

And today, Saturday, I set my alarm for my weekday time, 5:30, so I could get to the coffee shop down the street for a little quiet time in before the rest of the house woke up. I didn’t actually get out of bed for another hour and ten minutes, but it still worked out.

The keys to reaching this happy place?

Try everything. From the bus ride to hiding in random corners to seriously considering locking myself in a bathroom with my laptop, it takes trying a lot of different things to find the right thing.

Don’t give up. My inner overdramatic artiste can get pretty whiny, and it was tempting to just give in and believe her when she insisted that if she couldn’t get an hour first thing in the morning, she simply couldn’t write at all. Don’t listen. If I had, I’d have completely lost three whole weeks.

Be flexible. It’s hard to be rigid about blocking out writing time when the people who won’t stop talking to you are letting you crash for free, and are simply really excited you’re there. Sometimes I just give in to the love.

How do you cope when your routine gets thrown off?


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