A Moment With | Madeleine Dore
Freelance writer Madeleine Dore is fascinated by the way creatives spend their days - how they get through their to-do lists and carve out time for creativity, no matter how seemingly mundane. For Madeleine, the ordinary lives of people and what they get up to on a typical day, is pretty extraordinary, and her blog, Extraordinary Routines, celebrates this concept with great passion. We caught up with Madeleine to find out about her journey to where she is today and for a little insight into her own daily routine.
Hi Madeleine, tell us a little about the journey to where you are today? I started my interview Extraordinary Routines in 2014 as a fresh graduate as a way to build my portfolio as a writer and interviewer – and take a peep behind the highlight reel for myself!
At the time I was unemployed and felt pretty dismal having just come back from an exciting year studying abroad in Denmark. While I was overseas I was working for a local English newspaper and creative agency – but back in Australia I was unable to find work while friends around me were making leaps and bounds in their newly formed careers.
So I chipped away at launching my side project Extraordinary Routines, and after a few months of job searching and working on the project, I landed a job as the deputy editor of ArtsHub. I worked there for two years – before coming full circle and quitting in 2016 to go freelance and travel with Extraordinary Routines.
The project has since grown into live interviews, articles, art projects, and I regularly experiment with my own habits and routines – from a blind dating experiment, to a 30-day habit challenge. I’ve also spoken at writers’ festivals, delivered talks, hosted panels, written a monthly column for The Design Files and Kill Your Darlings, and contributed articles exploring the subject of life, creativity and imperfection to various editorial publications.
Even after a year and a half of freelance writing, I often claim I’m the worst freelancer – still wrestling with how to reconfigure the nine-to-five model of ‘productivity’ to the freedom and flexibility that comes with freelancing.
My days consist of a mix of writing for print magazines and online magazines, writing for small business and brands on custom content, and working on my regular newsletter for Extraordinary Routines – a mix of interviews, musings and life experiments.
What first inspired you to start Extraordinary Routines? Do you remember when the idea first struck? I’d long be fascinated by how other people spend their days (perhaps due to a penchant for comparing myself to others!) and often found myself skipping to the question about daily routines in magazine features. So when I set out to start my own project, I thought why not zoom in on that question and uncover the daily realities of being a creative? So often we are only privy to a curated version of someone’s work or life, but I’ve found the interview format to be a great way to illuminate diversity of creative experiences – the lack of routine, the burnout, the challenges, the floundering, the emotional, mental and financial strains – and I have a lot of respect for the subjects who have shared these internal struggles candidly with me over the years.
What do you find so alluring about illuminating the lives of creatives? There’s a quote by Miranda July from It Chooses You that I find summarises this curiosity really well: “All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.” I think we can have a picture of how someone else may live their lives based on their Instagram or Wikipedia page, but what’s been so illuminating about the project is discovering that everyone has their own imperfections and daily challenges.
For you, what is about a person’s ordinary day to day routine which you find so extraordinary? The imperfections – the to-do lists that don’t get crossed off at the end of day, the Netflix binges, the scrolling through Instagram before bed, the sleep ins, the ordering take-away five nights out of seven! The ordinary things that aren’t highlighted or celebrate, but actually make us human and help us relate to each other. I find it’s the imperfections that teach people that you – the flawed you – can set out to do whatever creative pursuit it is you want to, just as you are. You don’t need to be perfect to start.
They us a little about your own daily routine - what does a typical day involve for you? My daily routine is still very much a work in progress! As a freelancer, each day is different and at the whim of my idleness. I’ve gone through bursts of waking up early, making coffee and sitting at my desk to write for a few hours. Other days, I’ll do what can only be described as dilly-dallying all morning, hopping around cafes or libraries, or working till at a tight to meet a deadline I procrastinated on during the day! My current experiment is commencing my day with commencement speeches by inspiring people such as Tim Minchin, Barack Obama, Patti Smith, and more – that’s been a lovely way to start the day!
What are you most passionate about? Gaining a diversity of perspectives on what it means to live well. Often self-help or wellness advice can be very prescriptive – “you MUST do X to be happy and successful” – but in reality, there are so many nuances within the concepts of happiness and success. There are so many variations of individual lives and experiences across the world and in our communities, and so many ways to experiment with our life, work and even what we are passionate about. I think it’s important to hear those variations so that it’s not just being filtered from one perspective, or one socio-economic group.
Your most inspiring interview on Extraordinary Routines so far? Similar to this idea that there is no one way to live, there is no one perspective or interview that is the most inspiring – it’s inspiring to me as a collective as it shows how we are all different, yet share similar challenges and flaws.
From your interviews, what’s one thing that surprises you the most about peoples everyday routines? Something that caught me by surprise was hearing people say, “I can work so hard, because I don’t have a social life,” again and again. It was interesting because it tends to speak to this idea that striving for an elusive ‘work-life’ balance is unrealistic – certain boundaries or sacrifices are made in order to ensure work priorities are met. After studying my own social calendar, I decided to do an experiment and purposefully switched off my social life for one month and uncovered some surprising lessons from that.
What are you looking forward to in 2018? As well as continuing with my own side project Extraordinary Routines, I’m working on launching a new event series Side Project Sessions to help others create theirs – it will be like peer-pressured-productivity for your labour of love!
I usually wake up at: Anywhere between 7 and 9am.
My perfect day would involve: Something that surprised me – falling in love, perhaps!
I am inspired by: The work or work practice of creative people
Best advice I’ve ever received: Trust yourself.
I couldn’t live without: Solitude.
My favourite daily ritual: Currently, switching my phone on flight mode and leaving it in the living room at night.
I recently discovered: Turning your phone to grayscale to ease phone addiction (see above to combine habits!)
On my wish-list: An ergonomic chair!
I’m currently reading: The Three Marriages by David Whyte and The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
And listening to: Bosa Nova music, as inspired by an upcoming interview with illustrator Mari Andrew where she talks about starting her morning with a dance!
My guilty pleasure: I won’t pretend there is a singular guilty pleasure – but too much prosecco and binging on Netflix rank high on the list!
My mantra is: Often changing depending on what I stumble upon (I also have a spreadsheet to collect quotes!) – but perhaps Mary Oliver puts it best: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?