A Few Thoughts About Scheduling Your Creativity

I have a question for you:

Does having a routine kill your creativity?

Bristish novelist Scarlett Thomas thinks it does, or at least she says so in one of her books, Popco. I saw the quote while looking up creativity quotes and it made me stop and think.

Three posts ago, I wrote a poem using random words from people on my Facebook friends list. At the time I remember looking at the words and immediately feeling confined. How was I going to write a poem using the words they’d given me? What form was I supposed to use? How could I make all of these different words relate and flow with each other?

Now, me being me, I don’t mentally like being restricted. Yet, I did this to myself. I sent out the request to my friends. I was the one holding the leash that I had willingly attached to my own body. (Figuratively, of course.) And there I was gnashing at the walls of the box trying to find a way out of it. It’s human nature not to like to be confined, isn’t it? We don’t enjoy being told what not to do, that we must do things, and most of us try to fight being so restricted. But as any parent of more than one child will tell you, restrictions are necessary. So, I kept myself in my chair instead of getting up to investigate whatever shiny distraction I could find. Eventually, a pretty decent poem wrote itself out of my pen and brain.

If you pull up the Google home page and type in “writers on creativity and routines”, you will pull up a long list of articles on how routines are necessary for exercising your creative mind. Setting a schedule (and following it) for writing every day isn’t just a suggestion but a rule. At least according to almost every writer ever.

Still, one of the most prominent comments I get from many people is that I shouldn’t force myself to write but wait for inspiration. Well, I can tell you, this doesn’t actually always work well. Not for me. I don’t really have a set time every day that I write but I still try to write every day. I don’t always produce anything substantial. Sometimes all I get might be a grocery list. But I still write it down. What I’ve discovered is that when I do set myself a schedule and make it a routine, ideas come faster, easier. When I get off this schedule, I lose ideas and focus, and my creativity suffers because of it.Β Which is why I forced myself to use those random words to write a poem.

12693c9280ec31816f9718c1a68cb325Your physical body requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy. Your brain needs to be fit as well. That means using writing prompts and challenges to exercise your creative spark. You also need to be doing it every day or at least a set time every week.

What do you think? Does your creativity flow better with a routine, or are you best at waiting for inspiration?

xo Jesi


Jesi Scott is an aspiring writer of novels, a poet, and blogger. She has guest-blogged over at The Well-Tempered Bards, and has a post featured at For Love Of…. Jesi has two poems published in Memories of Mist, a literary anthology, and one published story in a newsletter. She is currently working on releasing her first poetry collection as well as writing her first novel. When not writing, Jesi can be found getting lost in bookstores, singing and dancing around the house, experiencing culture with friends, and generally having fun with her four sons when they aren’t driving her weeping into her closet, which she calls her Padded Cell. She loves to rescue stray bookmarks, as well as books, and has opened her heart to any and all stories needing a home. Archery is her current favorite thing ever but you might want to stand back a little as she still has a tendency to drop the bow occasionally.


  • Al Lane

    I think for poets it’s just fine to only write when you feel inspired… for writers (novelists), more discipline is required. Sucks to be them πŸ™‚

    I find prompts empowering though. Some restrictions free creativity, rather than stifling it – it’s the White Stripes model (there’s only two of us in the band, we’re only wearing three colours… let’s see how far we can push it). If you sit a poet down and say “write, monkey” that’s a tough gig – all that white paper… but if you say “what can you write about a tree, or about unrequited love, or the worst moment of your life”… well, that paper isn’t going to stay blank for long πŸ™‚

    • Jesi

      I completely agree. Telling me to simply sit down and write a poetry really doesn’t help but let me write about something in particular and that’s a horse of a different color. And, yes, a novelist must sit down and write often. However, for me, I know that if I sit down every day and let my brain relax I can write anything. It comes easily when it’s not forced. But I still have to do it every day. I’m a conundrum in a human body.

  • bobcabkings

    Since I have never been able to keep a writing schedule for very long (if at all), I still don’t know. I suspect it tends to be individual training and/or personality dependent.

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