October 17, 2010

Don't break it; reshape the circle of your routine.

Photo by Matthew Fang under Creative Commons License

Go to work. Go home. Pick up the kids. Cook dinner. Shower. Rinse, and repeat. Does this seem like a typical day to you? Well, it’s my day, too, an endless loop, reenacting scenes from Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. At times, I appreciate this predictability; it allows me to schedule meetings with certainty and maintain my almost impeccable punctuality. For the most part, however, it drives me loopy.

It can be difficult to become creatively inspired when driving below the same pushy billboards every morning. It can be challenging to feel original after mouthing the same banal conversations with the same coworkers that are living their own same routines every day. Each one of us is living through our own cycle of behaviour, and until we can recognize this, any hope to change this pattern will only be met with resistance.

Now this raises the question: Should we change it? After all, change is stressful. Change is scary. Change is disruptive.

On the other hand, on any given day, we’d be willing to admit that nothing fun happened to us, nothing particularly stimulating out of our unbroken routine. So, should we just keep on living this comfortably bland existence? Should we keep driving ourselves down the same circles that, through all our sweat and perseverance, invariably lead to exactly where we started?

You bet. We are creatures of habit, and a routine helps to keep our bodies in motion without overwhelming our minds with anxiety. Driving ourselves off the rotary will only lead us into a ditch, and that’s just not healthy at all. Instead, what we want to do is to pan out and discover new routes that lead us to where we need to be. Step off the worn trail for a moment, and let the area rest, let the wildlife burgeon again. Before we can do that, however, we need to recognize the roundabouts on which we drive, and notice all the imprisoning circles that surround us. This week, these circles will be our Moments.

Draw a circle; draw many circles. Colour them in or give them some texture. Let them meet, like a Venn diagram, or keep them apart, like stars in the sky. Make them abstract, like a field of reflected doe eyes in the dark, or make them concrete, like the graphical representation of a sine wave in motion. Draw many circles, or just one.

Write a poem in a cyclical format. Fill your pages with repetitive words in circumlocution. Gird your virtues with your verses and your vices with your stanzas. Shout the boredom of your routine through arousing metaphors. Show, don’t tell (we’ve all heard it before), where you’ve been, time and time again.

Circles are everywhere, if you look.
Photo by Kelly McCarthy, All Rights Reserved
Photograph the circles you see: A dish of doughnuts. Coffee stains on napkins. The sun. The moon. The clocks and the cargo train crossings. Manhole covers and ladies’ room mirrors. Anything you see that mimics the circumference of your eyes. Help yourself to snapshots of the circles that surround us everyday, and realize that you’re not the only one.

Every day this week, drive a new route home. Stop at a restaurant to which you’ve never been. Turn the radio dial to a different channel, to an AM channel, or better yet, turn it to off. Do something different during your day that does not disrupt your routine, but leads you through an unusual sensory environment. Stop at a different coffee shop, and post your Moment on the advertisement board. This Moment does not belong to you, but to the people that surround you, and that travel in their own circles.

Photo by Ben Hirsch under
Creative Commons License
Once we recognize exactly where our circles lie, we can find ways to try something new without upsetting our routines, lives, and peace of mind. By discovering new paths to our destinations, we open up unknown doorways of inspiration that lead us to entire worlds of untapped creativity. Be mindful, however, that the anxiety that we feel by going nowhere may only be amplified by changing our direction dramatically, and that is certainly not what we are after. From circuits of electrical current to the annual revolution of the earth, the universe is saturated with circles and cycles. Know that it is okay for us to be part of it.

Of course to be fair, here's my circle Moment:

Pencil on index card

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