Breaking Away

Snowy Waterfall
Catskills Waterfall

The morning routines of highly successful people, especially writers, are well documented. Hemingway. Stephen King. Koppelman. Holiday. Different writers in different genre’s, but all have a routine.

My morning routine: five-thirty wake-up, glass of lemon and salt water, Five-Minute Journal. Then the heavy work, Cameron’s Morning Pages. Twenty to thirty minutes of Vipassana meditation. Then five hundred words.

In early December, the walls closed in. We hadn’t taken a “real” vacation all year; the last time I rode a plane was over a year ago. A few months earlier, we had gone up to the Catskills and rented a cabin for a few nights, just to break the monotony. On a whim, we made another reservation in Mountain Dale, near Monticello, NY. The family wanted to get away, and I needed to mix up the routine.

During the before-times, I’d take two family trips and two-three adult weekends, sometimes to Florida for spring training, or to a cabin in the Poconos, with friends. I loved these getaways, not only for the fun, the careless eating and wine drinking, but for the little change to the routine. And it puts that all-important event on the calendar to look forward to.

This year amplified the need. Yes, having long mornings to carry out a routine is nice… but it can seem like a job. Reminds me of why I stopped competing in triathlons… the training, the races, the gear seemed more like a “have-to” rather than “want-to”.

The break in the routine worked. Waking up somewhere different, writing in an unfamiliar room, overlooking a wooded, snowy backyard with animal tracks invigorated the writing. Banged out a new short story for a contest and, while walking through the woods with my daughter, came up with the idea for a (longer) short story for New Maps, my second submission.

Path through the snowy woods
Catskills Snowy Path

And when we came back, only four short days later, the routine at home seemed fresher. Not a burden, easy, and the writing came easy for a few days. Routines are great; breaking them consciously and coming back to them is even better.

Postscript: We’ve been back for a month as I write this. Yesterday, the routine felt sour, the writing tough, the enthusiasm low. But even minor changes helped, today. Tried to have fewer distractions in the morning (l love speaking with my family, but any non-creative input in the middle of this routine is death), played music and wrote this post instead of battling through a rough patch in the story. An unexpected snow flurry while having my first sip of coffee helped, too.

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