My partner, Jan, maintains she has inherited her mother’s sense of direction: very strong, just not very reliable. If faced with a 50/50 decision of the right direction at a “T” intersection, one approach that would yield a better than 50% result would be to ask Jan which way to go...and then turn the other way. I have a line about us driving together: When I drive and Jan navigates, we have one driver and half a navigator. If she drives and I navigate, we have one navigator and one and a half drivers! (I like to use the passenger brake pedal sooner than she uses the driver’s pedal.)
We’ve known about our collective driving deficiencies almost as long as we’ve known each other. However, until just a few years ago, we steadfastly maintained our patterns. If we took Jan’s car somewhere, she drove and I navigated. If we took my car we reversed responsibilities. Because I have the larger car, whenever we take road trips, we take my car.
Jan’s navigation has provided us the opportunity to see parts of the country we otherwise would not have known existed. This has real advantages when we are on a road trip in which exploration is a major objective. However, when it’s nearing dinner time and we still need to find a place for that night’s rest, exploring dirt roads heading in the wrong direction is less satisfying.
We can, and do, laugh at our joint driving deficiencies. Now if we need to get to place A by time B, regardless of which car we are using, Jan drives and I navigate. Mostly—sometimes we revert to “norm.”
I suspect many of us have developed similar ruts in our writing routines. We follow a process because it made sense at one point. Yet if we examine it, we would find it is not as efficient as we would prefer. For example, have you recently reflected on the time of day you write? How about where in your home you write? What distractions do you allow (or encourage!) to interrupt your writing time—phone, email, social networks, research?
Sometimes when we are in a rut we should have the Jan part of us navigate. We might discover new territories that bring insight or renewed vigor to our writing. Sometimes the fun of the unexpected (or, if you will, a lack of discipline) diminishes our ability to get actual words on a page, self-edit our work, do promotion or query agents and editors.
It has been said that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
How do you recognize you are in a rut? What do you do to get out of it?