I’ve been thinking a lot lately about systems. How they can work for you or against you.
Take, for example, making breakfast for the kids in the morning. They say it’s the most important meal of the day, and so we make sure that the kids have breakfast before school. In fact, they often get two breakfasts because they’ll eat one at home and then go in to have the breakfast at school.
So I’ve worked out a number of shortcuts, systems, that help with breakfast. I make sure I get up early enough. I try to serve a bread, a protein, a fruit, and some milk. I precook sausage so that I can just microwave them. Cheese is quick and good. So is yogurt. Lots of eggs and toasted things like bagels with cream cheese or toast with butter and jelly. Sometimes some hot cereal or milk toast. A parfait, which is nothing more than fruit, yogurt, sometimes cereal, and chocolate chips in a cup. Sweet rolls sometimes. Every week or two they have cold cereal, or they’ll go on kick where they request it every day. If I’m feeling froggy I’ll do egg-in-a-hole or pancakes or waffles or French toast. And some hot chocolate or hot tea with cream and sugar to go along with it. You get the idea.
The point is: I have a system worked out. I try to vary enough to keep them interested. Balance the bad-for-you with the good. I get up while my husband is in the shower, go downstairs, let the dog out, start making tea for me and my husband, and then lay out what they’re having. Often I’ll have decided the night before.
Life is like that. You need a system for it all to work smoothly. And if you don’t have a system, it makes it a lot harder than it should be. If you don’t have a system for keeping the house organized ~ a place for everything and everything in its place ~ you’re hosed. If you don’t have a system for getting the kids to their practices and school and yourself to work, it’s a scramble.
And even what system you have makes a huge difference. This is definitely related to habit. It’s much harder to be on a diet when you are in the habit of eating lots of unhealthy foods and you eat out a lot and you’re on the road and you don’t cook. You have to build your life around making it easier for you to make good choices. If you don’t, if you try to white-knuckle it, you’re setting yourself up for failure ~ because as the psychologists say you only can stay strong through so many resistances and decisions per day.
And this brings me to writing. One of my problems on getting the writing done is that I don’t have a system that makes it easier for me. I often have to white-knuckle it. This, I think, is what people mean when they say write every day. It’s not a matter of forcing yourself ~ it’s a matter of having the space there that you just slide into. It’s making it easy for yourself because that’s what you expect and what everyone around you expects. You don’t have to carve that creative space out of solid rock. Rather, it’s been hollowed out for you, and all you have to do is walk through the door.
Must carve a cave!!