I love traveling for book research and author conferences, but I've discovered that I produce my best creative work when I'm at home in a regular routine with plain food and not a very exciting life!
In today's video (with transcript below), I explain why you need to “be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work,” as described by Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary. Watch the video below or here on YouTube.
Transcription of the video
Hello, Creatives, I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. Today, I've only been thinking about something and I just wanted to do a quick video on it. Now, there's a quote from Gustave Flaubert which says,
“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
I've been thinking about this a lot recently because I've noticed that although I travel a lot for book research, when I'm away on my travels, I never actually sit down and write. I mean, I'll do work, I'll do emails and website stuff, and I'll be taking pictures, I'll be reading books, writing notes that I want to use in my stories. But I'm never actually generating first draft words for my books and I'm not editing either.
So I find that I need really regular and orderly hours in order to pull the stuff that's in my brain out onto the page. I think that's what this quote means: Be regular and orderly in your life.' This is why it's so important to have a creative routine.
I write best in the morning. When I had a day job, I would get up at five and I would write before I went to work. Now, I have a bit more of a lie-in, and I'm at the cafe at 7:00 AM. I write for a few hours, then I have a break, do some exercise, some movement, some yoga, some walking, something like that. But I always get in two hours, two and a half hours, three hours sometimes, but that's about the maximum for my truly creative work.
Of course, I've been writing books for 10 years now, so I've written in lots of different places. I've lived in Australia and London and now in Bath, and I'm sure I'll move again. So I've written in lots of different places but for each book, there has been a place where I've gone.
Here in Bath, I go around to a cafe, I sit at the same table, I drink the same black Americano. I'll have one coffee an hour, and I'll put my noise-cancelling headphones on, and I'll listen to rain and thunderstorms. I've literally been listening to the same album of rain and thunderstorms for 10 years. Basically, I have the regular and orderly routine for creating that first draft whether it's fiction or non-fiction.
Then, obviously when it says you may be “violent and original in your work,” it doesn't necessarily mean you have to be actually violent, in that you can still write your cozy mysteries or your romance or whatever you're writing.
But the point is that you have your originality and your passion and your drama – that's what goes on to the page.
Don't use your energy in deciding what to have for breakfast or what to wear or what table to sit at.
So that would be my tip for you today. Sort out what is regular and orderly for you in terms of your creative process. How can you make it more regular and more orderly?
I think that's important. It's saying to yourself, “Okay, I'm doing my work now and the extraneous stuff doesn't really matter. I just need everything to be as orderly as possible, and then I can concentrate in this interior world.”
So, I hope that helps. I'll read that quote one more time. “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work,” by Gustave Flaubert who wrote Madame Bovary which if you haven't read is an excellent book.
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Esbe van Heerden says
This is so important, Joanna. The point that really hits home for me: “Don’t use your energy in deciding what to have for breakfast or what to wear or what table to sit at.”
Decision fatigue is real, and using my brain power on deciding small things about my routine stifles my creativity. If I already know what time I’m waking, my morning routine, where/what I’m eating, when I’m working and when I’m writing, then I don’t have to waste energy thinking about all those things. I don’t have to pull myself out of my groove, decide on those tiny things, and have to re-enter the state of flow.
I now even have a “work uniform”, 4 pairs of the exact same outfit that I put on every morning after the gym to a) reduce time and energy spent on deciding what to wear and b) it acts as a trigger to get in the creative groove.
Thanks for always giving us great content!
Athena Bocock says
Love the quote! I have a wall of quotes that I put on index cards and this one is the latest one I’ve put on the wall 🙂 I strongly agree that keeping life organized and having a creative routine really helps creative works continue to progress and improve.
Regina Clarke says
Lovely and so timely for me. I have been exploring planning with the people in Orna Ross’ Creativist Club and feel it is vital to get back to the regular schedule I used to follow two years ago. Things sidetracked me but these reminders are so very helpful–especially in the synchronicity of hearing it from two sources in as many days!
Thank you, Joanna.