Ruts Vs. Routines and the “Smarts” to know the Difference

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A Beechnut seed brought home from Arizona three years ago. I still have it! Nature refreshes and inspires me. Connecting weekly with the great outdoors  is important to me.

I love routines. I always have and I always will. Routines give me security. Routine makes me feel safe and helps me develop habits that keep me on track. Staying on task helps me accomplish what I set out to do.

Routines are delightful because you do them without thinking. They become automatic. I know that at a certain hour of the day, I will paint. I will write. I will carry out my dreams come “hell or high water!”

My husband knows never to interrupt me when I’m painting. He knows I never answer phone calls when my hands and elbows are dripping in acrylic paint. If friends call, they go into voice mail. The world literally goes on hold when I’m at canvas working with fast-drying acrylics.

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“Florida Panther” made from a Palm frond; wall hanging.

If my husband chooses to converse with me, he may get a growl in return. If my agenda changes either by crook or necessity, I’m not a happy camper. I may even have a temper tantrum of disproportionate proportions. My day becomes lopsided. The monster within comes out. I feel betrayed, cheated, and forlorn; oh, woe is me and a pox on everyone’s house.

If you’ve stayed with me to the end of this tirade, you now know the difference between routines and ruts. Routines are good “if” they help you stick to your goals and enable you to get your work done. Routines become “ruts” when they hold you prisoner and don’t allow you to be flexible. Without flexibility you can kiss creativity and family goodbye.

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The Martins came in March. Their babies will soon be big enough to fly and they will be gone for another year.

Ruts can entrap you, hold you , and make your life miserable.

The first time I went cross-country skiing it was late in the season. Hard, icy tracks were molded on the pathways.  As long as you stayed within their boundaries, it was smooth sailing. Get out of the grooves and you went sailing into the trees. That is exactly what I did when I came to my first turn. The ruts were so deep that you had to literally jump and twist to make the turn. Not something a novice like me could do.

Ruts stifle creativity. Spontaneity is also a critical component. Awareness and objectivity need to be in control 24/7. Creative thinkers must be good observers. They must be willing to adjust when opportunity knocks. Inspiration is a product not of time or mind, but of heart and soul. The door must always be open. The spirit must always be prepared to receive.

Go ahead and plan your schedules and routines. Set your goals and work toward them; but leave yourself an opening for the unexpected, the priceless moments with loved ones and family, and the sudden impulses that may flutter suddenly on your window sill or whisper in your ear in a moment of reverie.

Here are a few tips:

  • Routines guide your way.
  • Ruts holdy our feet to the fire.
  • Routines allow movement and growth.
  • Ruts exhaust you  and make you feel like a slave.
  • Routines involve familiar tasks and a safe place to explore ideas.
  • Ruts become rigid trails that lead you nowhere.
  • Routines let you experiment without criticism.
  • Ruts are monotonous black holes that go nowhere.
  • Routines ground you while your mind soars.
  • Ruts create anxiety and worry.

Figure out when you’re happiest and keep those routines. Eliminate the ruts that stifle growth and you’ll feel a whole lot better.

Enlarge your Vision; Sweep out the Cobwebs, Make Way for Tomorrow



Many people are good at “compartmentalizing.” They focus on one crisis at a time, and they don’t try to multi-task. They are persistent and dogged until the job is complete; full steam ahead. But they are so caught up in the task at hand that they miss out on the simple and sometimes important things that are happening all around them.

Take the University Professor who almost never flushed. He assumed toilets were supposed to work that way. Was he concerned about water waste? Was he being overly frugal? Or did he simply lack common sense? No matter how smart we are (or how smart we think we are); when we laser-beam on minutia the bigger picture gets away.

Naturally, we all have our own work and play styles. As we age, we squirm around until we’ve found that “sweet spot” that gives rhythm to our work and enjoyment to our play. Our pace of life compliments our personalities, and we say we are happy – settled.

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“Sea Nymph” 24×18 acrylic on canvas; for sale

This is the exact time to measure your existence with your dreams, and your goals against reality. Are you content in this predictable routine you’ve built for yourself or have you only settled into familiar ruts?

Your own answer will determine if it’s time to shake things up. Life demands it!  Every now and then we must give our lives and our minds a good spring cleaning. Sweep out the cob webs, pull the dust from the rafters, and scrub out the build up and grime caused by last winter’s dose of cabin fever.

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Have you forgotten it already—how stifling and smothering it felt? I find it difficult to be creative when I’m surrounded by clutter and the walls start to close in. Once I’ve put those nagging pieces of humanity away, it frees my creative brain for bigger things. When my environment is organized and ready, then so am I.

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Those who work in a studio are blessed with a space that is always ready. Some of us must organize a space each and every day, along with all the other conflicts of interest; but this daily battle actually gets the creative juices flowing.

Not only must you and I file projects and appointments in our minds, but we need exterior compartments to organize them. I once was an organized person, but since I moved into a smaller space, I’m limited. I need to work smarter, in order to work at all. I’m rethinking new ways and places to put files so I can get to them when I need them.

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I have a book case full of old books that I’m going to send to Goodwill and open up space for square baskets and boxes to store those files that I depend upon.

How about you? Have you opened up your windows and let the fresh air of tomorrow clean out last winter’s traces? Are you preparing for a more productive year full of positives instead of negatives?

Now is the time to re-evaluate. Don’t put it off any longer. Stir the pot that’s swirling inside of you; choose your direction and go!