As I’ve done now for a few days out of the last week, I’m writing today to share an exercise I’ve completed in conjunction with one of my creative writing courses that I’ve been working through on Coursera.org this month.
As I did last week with a point-of-view exercise, an insider-outsider-eavesdropper exercise, a superhero therapy dialogue exercise, and today’s bit about observing a slow-motion motorcycle wreck, tonight I’m sharing another writing exercise.
This assignment tasked me with writing a 500-750 word flash-draft of a character who has a routine. The task must be completed in the second person. The writing here is largely autobiographical, but it qualifies as flash fiction, I think. Do you want to try the challenge with me? Feel free to share your work!
A routine in the second person. 650 words.
You think about her when you lay out your clothes each night at 9:30PM.
You arrange them as you do because you’ve decided that this is the first step in the most efficient procedure of getting dressed in the dark for your workday. From the dresser, you cross the room to the custom cabinets you and your wife chose together, the one you took out a loan to cover costs for, back in the spring of the year after you bought the house together. You use the hanger to post the shirt on the brass handle affixed to the cabinet. It’ll be impossible to miss in the morning.
You cross back across the tile to the cabinet with shelves – of which you’ve been allotted the bottom two of six – and select your pants. You can choose from Carhartt, Columbia, Prana, and Outdoor Research. Grab the ones you don’t think you’ve worn in a few days, or default to your favorite if you’re at the start of a new week. A few steps to the right take you back to the centrally located dresser, where you select underwear and socks after folding the pants in half and placing them on top of the dresser. Usually at this point you remember that you’ll need a belt, and you find whatever belt is still in the pants you wore yesterday and loop it neatly next to where you’re setting out everything else. You need to know where it is when you can’t see what you’re doing.
The socks and underwear, including an undershirt, are to be placed in the order in which you’ll need them atop the pants. Be sure that the stack has what you need and that the simple shirt you’ve chosen seems to work alright with the pants. They all do (you chose simple shirts for this reason).
Last things last. You double-check that your wallet and keys are in their spot in the top, right-hand-side drawer in that distressed-wood dresser that the two of you chose together in that short month of living together before getting married back in 2018. Are your car keys in their home location? Be sure. Keys to the office? Are your shoes on top of the shelving at the north end of the room? You need to be able to find them in the dark, lace them in the dark.
At first approach to setting your SOP [Standard Operating Procedure], you thought about a few things in combination. Your first concern was for her, of course, and your second concern was for what would work best. “Best” here was a determination met by calculating your sub-optimal options given the constraints presented by (1) caring about another person’s comfort and (2) living as a human with limited cognitive abilities.
It goes without saying that you don’t want to wake her when you’re getting up for work two hours before she will need to get up. You know you would hate for her to turn on the lights when you’re sleeping – or trying to sleep – and so that’s rule number one.
Rule number two is that it’s hard to make choices in the dark, so it’s best to make up your mind before bed. It’s even tougher to make choices in the dark when you’re only operating at half-capacity, and you know well enough that your processing speed at 6:30 AM is approximately half of where it will be by mid-morning. That’s before the mid-day slowdown, of course…
Committed as you are to setting a plan and sticking with it, you established a routine. Now you keep to it. You’ve thought about changing it now and again, but any benefit from changing the routine will be outweighed by the cost of triggering memory lapses and producing early morning foul-ups. Better just to stay with something that works than to seek perfection – a wasted effort.