“Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be
violent and original in your work.”
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by
little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”
Just recently, I read an interview in The Financial Times with heiress, actress, entrepreneur, and artist Gloria Vanderbilt in which she briefly described her view on the value of having a daily routine: “It’s the only way you ever get anything done.” This led me to rummage through my kit bag of quotes for words of wisdom about this.
Wow! Views on consistency are well, just so inconsistent! On the one had, we have Gustave Flaubert (a favorite author of mine) and Aristotle singing its praises, and on the other, we have Oscar Wilde (another favorite of mine) and Ralph Waldo Emerson warning us against being ensnared by it. What to do, what to do?
Why not turn to another discipline for help? My good friend and mentor Coach Mike Tully (totalgameplan.com) has pointed out that the best athletes in sports like baseball talk consistently about consistency. Their goal is to achieve a degree of constancy in their hitting. If they can achieve a steady cadence in the way they swing their bats, they’re more likely to connect with a pitch — and, over time, more likely to have a chance to swing for the stands. I think the key phrase here is “over time.” If we’re in for the long haul as writers, I think consistency can be our friend.
Of course, consistency can quickly fall into the deadening kind of routine that I think Emerson warns against and it can be a last refuge as my boy Oscar observes. But it can also give us the foundation we need to dig deep inside ourselves. What do you think? Is consistency a friend or foe? Either way, write on!