I admit it. For years I hesitated to invite anyone into my home, cringing even when my parents crossed the threshold. If there is a way to keep a house clean while sharing it with a husband, two children, three dogs and a Maine Coon cat, I haven’t found it. Dust happens. Fur happens. Clutter happens.
My kitchen was the stuff of nightmares. The forty-year-old popcorn ceiling literally came apart at the seams, raining bits of plaster on me while I attempted to cook. My husband unsuccessfully tried to pry up the once-white kitchen sink years ago, leaving behind a buckled and rusty patch on the lip. The counters didn’t quite match the back-splash, which no longer matched the cabinets because the chipping paint had become dingy. “This summer,” I told my husband, “we will tame this eyesore.”
In our family, there is not actually a ‘we’ in household projects involving cosmetic improvement. If you want to build the largest computer network in the world, my husband is your guy. He can scatter neutrons and is a whiz at calculus. Coordinating colors, though? Evenly painting a cabinet door? Um…not so much.
Determined not to lose all writing momentum during the remodel, I promised myself I’d do that first each day. Write a scene in my manuscript and then I could scrape the ceiling! Finish the chapter and then I could paint the inside of the pantry! What did I do on day one? Facebook. What did I do on day two? Errands. Word count: 0. Work done on kitchen: 0.
It took me weeks of floundering to realize the flaw in my plan. You see, I didn’t really want to scrape that ceiling. In fact, cleaning a public restroom with a toothbrush sounded more appealing than standing high on a ladder under a deluge of falling plaster bits. No writing = no dust in my hair.
Nearly every writing advice book or column I’ve read emphasizes putting the writing first, but it turns out that this strategy doesn’t work for me and, in fact, may have been working against me for years.The next morning I forbid myself from opening my manuscript until the ceiling was down and the mess cleaned up. Work done on kitchen: Goal met within two hours. Word count: 1200. The next day I painted the ceiling and still wrote 700 words.
Psychologically this makes sense if you look at the situation as a five-year-old might. Pretend your writing is an ice cream sundae and a dreaded chore is a heaping bowl of lima beans. [Read more…]