Dani Shapiro
June 26, 2009

On Routine

First of all, to my loyal blog readers I know I have been slacking off. I can explain this–and promise to try to do better. When I finished Devotion last month, my delicate little routine went out the window. The fact that finishing my book dovetailed with the end of Jacob’s school year, with its attendant field day/concert/awards ceremony/class party/commencement compounded matters. By the time I came out of every mom’s haze of end-of-year school events, I had lost the thread. My manuscript was at my publisher, already beginning to head down the conveyor belt toward publication. My kid was out of school and camp didn’t start for another few weeks. My precious routine–getting him off to school first thing, sitting quietly at my desk, practicing yoga, working, thinking, reading, writing–all suddenly felt so far away. And blogging fell down that rabbit hole too. Because blogging was part of the routine.

How could it happen so fast?
In the same way as a few weeks without yoga and my body feels like it’s falling apart, so too does the creative process–that daily beast–need to be fed. I tell this to my students all the time. Habit, I tell them. Even if it’s an hour in the morning. Even if it’s twenty minutes. Sit down with your work every day. Stay connected to it.

I need to practice what I preach, of course. Ideas float through my head like bits of ash off a bonfire. Should I write that short story that has been tapping me on the shoulder for a few years? Should I adapt Picturing the Wreck as a screenplay — also something I’ve been thinking of doing for years? Should I start a new book (I actually have an idea)? Meanwhile, these bits of ash go nowhere right now. The windows of time are too small, between dropping Jacob off at tennis camp (I have three hours by the time I get home and before he gets picked up) and the UPS heading up the driveway with busy work, delivering the copy-edited manuscript. More small changes to be made on Devotion. Changes that feel, in the words of Grace Paley, enormous, at the last minute.

Does it sound like I’m complaining? I’m not–I swear I’m not. I’m more like an archaeologist of my own life. Digging. Trying to sort out what matters and what doesn’t. How to prioritize. How to once again create a routine. And most of all, what next.