Braving Storms: Deborah Glenn on Making Smart Rules for Yourself

Now that we’re all defrosting from the 2014 Arctic Vortex, it struck us as fitting to give April the theme of “Braving Storms.” Here are some great stories from people weathering the worst that life can rain down at the worst moments–and how they lived to see the sun come out again.


This myth that creative people always benefit from freedom and fewer constraints on their time or work has been debunked all over the place, and I’m doing it again here. Rules create order from chaos, which offers great mental preparation when things aren’t going as we’d like them to.

checklist-154274_640But there are good rules and bad rules. Good ones focus on making incremental progress, regardless of the perceived quality or merit of the work, and forming routines that build on our strengths. Bad ones raise the bar too high or work against our natural inclinations, setting us up for failure.

I have a rule to never start a new piece of writing in the late afternoon or evening. I’ll take notes, do research and interviews, maybe make an outline, but from years of trial and error I know that I write best in the morning. And because the idea of sitting down to write is about as enjoyable to me as doing my taxes, I tell myself that I can take a break after 10 straight minutes at my laptop. By then I’m almost always in the groove and get a lot more done. If not, I do something else. Usually I’m back at the keyboard shortly afterward for another 10-minute session.

But my rules aren’t yours, nor should they be. Think about your biggest challenges before establishing one or two. And if you have routines that aren’t working anymore, make new ones. Rules qua rules aren’t the point; putting a structure in place that helps you deal with setbacks is.
unnamedA recent transplant from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Deborah Snoonian Glenn is a former senior editor of This Old House and Architectural Record and was the executive editor of the eco-lifestyle magazine Plenty. Her freelance writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Dwell and other publications, and she’s made dozens of guest appearances on The Today Show and other national programs.

Posted in Braving Storms, Good Ideas, Inspiration, Organizing Ideas, Writing, Writing Education and tagged , , , .

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