Why routine is not the enemy of creativity


I follow the progress of a number of very creative, successful business owners and try to learn from what they do. This is an invaluable tool and I appreciate it when knowledgeable people are willing to share their wisdom. This does not mean that I always agree with what they have to say though. Interacting with things we disagree with can help us to define our own values, which allows us to then apply our values to our lives.

“Routine is the serial killer of creativity” is a quote I saw on the Instagram of someone I very much admire. I found it a bit of a shock. This person is both very creative and highly methodical in his approach, so I was confused about how he could possibly relate to this statement. Given the brevity of Instagram and a lack of further explanation, I was left to consider his statement at its face value.

I can certainly understand how people may perceive of routine in this way. People see routine as stifling, rigid and limiting. The idea is that if you’re in a routine, you are not free to be impulsive or make spontaneous decisions. For free-spirited artists, this can feel restrictive to the creative process. Highly creative people often seem to feel that spontaneity feeds a more raw, primal, ‘genuine’ sort of creative expression. While this is certainly true to an extent, I also know that truly honing ones artistry to a masterful level requires repetition, practice, awareness and discipline. All of these things can be greatly enhanced and coordinated with a little structure, and that is exactly what routine provides.

There’s also a idea that being in a routine means you’re just running on autopilot, your brain isn’t engaged or mindful, and you’re stuck in some type of rut. I would agree that routine without purpose, routine driven by comfortability, fear, or mindlessness, can be exactly that. If you’re just following your pattern of daily movements because it’s what you’re used to or comfortable with, not because it meets some greater purpose or works towards a greater goal, then you’re allowing yourself to stagnate. You’re just going through the motions, and this type of routine does not allow for growth or progression.

Consider routine as a tool which can be used either incorrectly or correctly. Just as you can use a hammer to smash a window, it can also be used to help build a beautiful heirloom. Used with intention, routine is a wonderful tool for those who are transforming their lives from mere directionless survival to vision-driven fulfilment.

Routine is a framework in which creativity can thrive.

As humans we tend to focus on the things that we enjoy to the exclusion of things we don’t. As understandable as this may be, maturity requires us to be able to live up to our responsibilities. In fact, life works much better for us when we do. Routine can provide a sort of roadmap for us to ensure that all of our priorities are being met, so that we are free to create. In a sense routine is an aid for developing our self discipline.

Routine is a machine that allows forward movement and continual progress.  

It pushes you to keep going, even when you may not be feeling it. It is very valuable to have this external source of motivation when your internal source, that energetic feeling of needing to get things done, is ebbing. Much as true love is not defined by that giddy, emotional mess of feelings you have in the ‘honeymoon period’ of a relationship, motivation is not defined by the initial emotional need to act. Once the honeymoon phase of novelty-driven energy for a project wears off, our true motivation must, in fact, be borne of action. An additional push to create from commitment to a supportive routine gets you in action, and is often enough to recharge your internal motivation and your excitement for the work at hand.

Routine is a mediator that allows seemingly contradicting priorities to balance with one another and work together to enhance overall performance and productivity.

If we are to live full lives with all of our various responsibilities working together harmoniously, routine is vital. My life is filled with taking care of my home, taking care of my husband and children, writing, and creating. One of the things I hear so often is “I don’t know how you do it!”. Routine is one absolutely irreplaceable key in my answer to that. For me, routine is used to fit the pieces of my daily life puzzle together. Having a routine shapes my day for optimal productivity, making space for me to create every day. This type of routine is creativity-enhancing, not creativity-killing.

You will need to remain aware of your routines and their functionality to ensure that they are still meeting your needs. If you neglect to do this, you will find that you lose productivity. Routines need to remain dynamic, changeable for your circumstances, able to be developed and built upon, shifted around or broken down and rebuilt as needed. You are the architect of your life, so take the time to ensure that this tool of yours is working the way it should.

Having and working with routines is a discipline. It takes careful thought, planning, putting into practice and ongoing curation. You need to have a clear picture of the things you want to achieve, and a clear vision of the path ahead of you, to ensure that your routines are taking you in the right direction.


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