I am a creature of habit. I prefer to go about my routine and when I don’t follow the routine I am out-of-sorts all day – whether it was because I hit the snooze button or because the cats decided to proudly show me how sharp and shiny they managed to make their claws overnight.
There are many benefits to being this way. For one, I always make the coffee the same way – never too weak, never too strong. For another, I’m always able to get up on time after a late night REO Speedwagon concert or Firefly marathon—because my body is trained to just get up. And I always remember to feed the cats… though I suppose that could be more about the cats than it is about me.
While there is certainly something to be said for consistency, being a creature of habit has its downsides too. Sometimes I have a hard time dealing with change because, simply, it challenges the routine. I have trouble relaxing when I go on vacation because the bed is different, the water is different (which makes the coffee different) and for some inexplicable reason, I actually miss cleaning up after the cats.
But the biggest downside of being a creature of habit may very well be the fact that it makes it easy for me to miss sources of inspiration around me every day. I think this is likely an issue to one degree or another for everybody. You go about your day, drive to and from work, walk back and forth to the coffee pot, wander outside to do yard work—all the while not really seeing where you are. Even though our specific activities might change, we get into a routine and our perspective doesn’t change.
What brought this idea to light for me was probably something you wouldn’t expect: it was a picture of the underside of the hot water heater in my basement. I don’t have that picture available to me to share, but it certainly gave me a view of things I would not normally see. The colors and patterns of the rust, the appearance of three-dimensional “halos” and structure on it – it all looked like a strangely alien landscape with amazing architecture and a history of its own. Yes, in reality it was just a rusty metal barrel which needed to be replaced, but looking at it in a way I hadn’t looked at it in 17 years of walking past it every day provided me with inspiration and a different perspective.
I’ve been trying to look at things differently now at other times of my generally-scripted day. I walk the dog like I do every day, but now I look up at the sky.
Inspiration for stories and poems is all around us and, I’m finding, especially in the things we routinely ignore. How different do things seem if we take time to look at them the way someone else might look at them? How different would the world be if we could all take a few minutes each day to really see what is surrounding us on the periphery of our conciousness? What new stories might this new perspective bring to the world?