Today is February 13 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you reflect upon your daily routine?” Navigating the chaos requires an understanding of what author John C. Maxwell once noted: “You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
Fellow author Robert Brown Parker had a routine that allowed him to retire from teaching and become a full-time writer. Brown was an American writer of fiction, primarily of the mystery/detective genre. His most famous works were the 40 novels written about the fictional private detective Spenser.
Parker never suffered from writer’s block. Fellow writer Elmore Leonard once told him “Writer’s block is just another word for lazy.” Parker was far from lazy as he had a daily routine of writing no fewer than five pages and no more than ten each day.
Contrary to what is often taught in college writing classes, he would make each story up as he went along and would often get 50 pages into a book and wonder where he was going to take the story. In an undated interview published on The Strand Magazine website Parker discussed his daily routine and the dynamics involved with it.
“I’ve always been able to write my quota for the day. I do no fewer than five and no more than ten pages, five days a week, unless there is some event in the family that prohibits that. And frequently after I finish my, let’s say 10 pages for the day, I don’t know where I’m going. So, the next time I sit down, I find that I do not know what to write. But I just think about it until I do. And I always love Hemingway’s idea that when things are going well, that’s the time to stop—it’ll be easy to start the next day! And I think that makes some sense. But you just push through it. Sometimes it comes easy. I’m at the moment working on a Jesse Stone novel, and that’s sort of flowing. But I remember when I finished All Our Yesterdays some years ago, I was in the last chapter and Joan [my wife] said, “Do you know how it’s going to end?” And I said, “No. No, I don’t!” We had to wrestle with that one. When I’m stuck, she and I talk. And she’s very good with ideas. But, by and large, writer’s block doesn’t happen to me.”
Parker published his first, The Godwulf Manuscript, which introduced readers to his tough, anti-establishment private investigator, Spenser. From 1974 until he died in 2010, Parker published over 50 books he propelled the private-eye genre into the 21st century, making it relevant to the changing times. He moved the genre away from the west coast settings, the wealthy families and Hollywood starlets of Chandler and Macdonald to the east coast, namely Boston. Parker was 77 when he died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts on January 18, 2010; discovered at his desk by his wife Joan.
He had been engaged in his daily routine of working on a novel. He died what he loved doing for decades. Parker received three nominations and two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. He received the first award, the "Best Novel Award" in 1977, for the fourth novel in the Spenser series, Promised Land. In 2002 he received the Grand Master Award Edgar for his collective oeuvre. Parker received the 2002 Joseph E. Connor Memorial Award from the Phi Alpha Tau Fraternity at Emerson College. He was inducted into the fraternity as an honorary brother in Spring 2003. In 2008 he was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award.
It is important to remind yourself during today’s reflection daily routines are rather personal. That is, what works for one person will not work for another. Your routine should work for you. To that end, Parker discussed the time he was invited to speak to a writing class at Harvard University. Since his daily routine consisted of writing without a plan where “chapter one gives rise to chapter two, and so we go.” His approach to writing, where he discovered the story along the way was the exact opposite of what the professor had told her class.
As Parker recalled “As I held forth on what I did as a writer—the professor was burying her head! Everything she told them not to do was what I did! But that’s how it is: I go where the book takes me.” This is such an important observation for those who are creating something. The important thing to do is to do a little each day, and over time, the finished product will appear. If you wait to have it fully formed, it may never happen. Leverage your daily routine to propel yourself forward like Scot Adams.
Scott Adams, cartoonist, and entrepreneur, says one of the most important tricks for maximizing productivity is matching your mental state to the task. “When I first wake up, my brain is relaxed and creative. The thought of writing a comic is fun, and it’s relatively easy because my brain is in exactly the right mode for that task. But I also know from experience that trying to be creative in the midafternoon is a waste of time. At six in the morning, I’m a creator, and by two in the afternoon, I’m a copier.”
Routines change over time as one’s life situation evolves due to family, personal, or professional obligations. The key is to have a routine that you can rely on to help you navigate the chaos.
How often do you reflect upon your daily routine?
How often do you work on improving your habits and routines?
How comfortable are you ending one routine to begin a new one?
When is the last time you updated your daily routine?