Rooting for Routine

Things have been a bit chaotic in my life this past month.

In 2021 we learned the folly of waiting until spring to line up people to do things around the house that we can’t do ourselves. Covid-related materials shortages and overbooked contractors meant we waited until late summer for a new patio door and early fall for a replacement fence.

This year, we began active planning in January. Our list included some pandemic-delayed indoor projects, including painting the downstairs and installing new flooring in the living room. April would be a good time to get the work done, we figured, and it would be most efficient to schedule jobs back-to-back. This turned out to be true, but boy, was it ever discombobulating.

Every time the painting action moved from one room to the next, we had to shift furniture, strip the windows of their curtains and do other preparatory work that left our house looking like we were either moving out or moving in.

But the painting was a picnic compared to the flooring, which required us to relocate all of the living room furniture into the den for several days. This made for a lot of seating, but to watch TV you had to vault over the back of the couch, which was jammed up against the loveseat. Once ensconced, you were pretty much stuck for the evening.

I worked from home for a few days while this was going on, juggling phone calls and trying to draft documents with a power saw and a hammer for background accompaniment. Not easy for a woman who likes to work in near silence. Not easy at all.

By the beginning of this week I was starved for normalcy. All I wanted was to go to work at my office and come home to a house that looked like our house, eat a typical dinner at the normal time and do a bit of writing before winding down in front of the TV.

I didn’t want to move furniture around. I didn’t want to rehang artwork. And I most assuredly didn’t want to try to watch the Red Sox game from my favorite chair, which was marooned in the kitchen with a bad sightline for the clicker.

My spouse observed that I always have a hard time when my routine is disrupted.  I was so crabby I almost debated the point until I realized the truth in her words. I think of myself as both easygoing and resilient, but the fact is, when my world gets turned upside down—even temporarily—I’m like a child who hasn’t had her nap.

I take comfort in predictability. I get up at the same time each morning, drive a favored route to work, eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch each weekday, return home more or less at the same hour in the evening and settle in after dinner to write.

Boring? Maybe, but it works for me, which is why disruption of my nest threw me for such a loop.

But the other truth I had to face Monday evening when I was feeling out of sorts is that amid all of this tumult, I haven’t been able to maintain my writing routine in the past month.

I like to write every day. I don’t always achieve it, but I’m happiest when I’m in that rhythm. For the past month I’ve not had the time or energy to maintain it, and that’s why this is probably the grumbliest post I’ve ever put up on MCW.

Rest assured that next month I’ll be back in my usual groove, observing all my daily rituals, banging out some words every day, and writing a more cheerful post.  Unless another major something needs to be done around here, in which case all bets are off.

READERS:  Are you creatures of habit or happiest when life is unpredictable? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments.

 Brenda Buchanan brings years of experience as a journalist and a lawyer to her crime fiction. She has published three books featuring Joe Gale, a newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. She is now hard at work on new projects. FMI, go to









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13 Responses to Rooting for Routine

  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh yes. This week I told my husband I am happier when I embrace my grumpiness. Sounds wrong, maybe, but feels right.


  2. kaitcarson says:

    Hang in there, Brenda! it does all come to an end and the result is worth it.

    I love and embrace change. I always learn something new about myself and others when things are most chaotic. It can affect my writing life though, and productivity often falls off. Then again, it’s always possible to get great story fodder from the events!

    • Brenda Buchanan says:

      Ha! You may be right about the inspiration potential of all of this uproar, Kait. I can see how mayhem might follow a month like this past one . . .

  3. Alice says:

    Brenda, your headline is on target. For the past 2 years, nothing has been routine & now even less so. Our master bath is torn apart by a water leak & nothing is where it “should” be. Change does not get easier as we grow older. I empathize.

    • Brenda Buchanan says:

      Thank you for commiserating, Alice. It’s so unnerving when things aren’t where they’re supposed to be, and every action requires a work-around. I hope your water leak is resolved soon and you have your master bath back!

  4. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    I used to have my ducks in a row, and now I’m not sure where they are. My writing routine is completely obliterated, but I do try to write every day whatever the time happens to be.

    Renovations are always a challenge. We’ve been in our “new” house for almost three years and we still have the original list of what needs to be done. Maybe it will get finished before we’re dead and the kids have to sell the place, LOL.

    • Brenda Buchanan says:

      I love your attitude, Maggie. We’re through most of the disruption, and I’m relieved by that, as well as a bit chagrined by my spleeny response to it.

  5. Pingback: Rooting for Routine | Maine Crime Writers – Maine Reportings

  6. John Clark says:

    Yup. We had a similar adventure with our almost, we hope, kitchen renovation. Nothing like discovering your new overpriced kitchen cabinets arrived with cracks everywhere. Even one replacement door arrived broken. We had to wash dished in the bathtub for three weeks, plus I caught the mother of all colds and had to try sleeping sitting up for a week. Still can’t muster sufficient energy to write yet. Ah, this too, shall pass.

    • Brenda Buchanan says:

      I know you have been in the throes of a kitchen re-do from FB, where Beth mentioned the dishes-in-the-tub experience. That is waaaaay worse than what we faced. I would have torn my hair out by the roots!

      Thanks for your reassurance on the normalcy of a writing drought in times of chaos – I appreciate that more than you know.

  7. Peter Murray says:

    I can’t find the words to say how much I identified with this post right down to your pigeon characters. It has been 19 months since the fire and the last piece of construction was completed yesterday. That and the closing of our business was too much. Not to mention pandemic restrictions, and I have dabbled far more than written. It is posts like this one that give me the incentive to keep trying

    • Oh, please do keep writing, Peter, A word at a time, then a sentence,, then a paragraph, then a page. You have been through so much since the fire. (Comparatively, I have no cause to grumble.) I look forward to reading your next story.

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