As I got crouched down and scrubbed the bottom of my toilet bowl, I thought about how a lot of people hate to clean stuff. We like having things clean . . . but cleaning them ourselves is altogether different.
Since I don’t currently have (actually, have never had) a housekeeper, all the lovely chores are left to Yours Truly, with mixed results. I’m terrible with clutter (see my post on Where Is My Stuff?), but great about cleaning underneath. So how does cleaning relate to writing? Here are few things I’ve thought of:
1. Some chores you hate; others you don’t mind. A friend of mine despises doing laundry, while I don’t particularly dislike it. But if I could go the rest of my life without ever getting on my knees, leaning over the porcelain, and scrubbing the yellowish ring off the bathtub, I would do her laundry and mine. If someone would dust thoroughly all the flat surfaces and window blinds, I would scoop their litter boxes and mine until our cats cross over to feline heaven.
The same with writing. There are some parts of this process that are enjoyable (like, for instance, the writing), and others that are less palatable – perhaps editing, proofreading, queries, etc. For both housekeeping and writing, you can delegate some things, but not all.
2. You have to use some elbow grease. Like it or not, the best way to have a clean floor is not a mop, a Swiffer, a Shark, or whatever. If you want to know that you know that you know that your floor is clean, get down on your hands and knees and scrub it yourself. When you clean sinks, toilets, or bathtubs, it isn’t sufficient to swish a little soap and water around in there (as I have explained several times to my boys); you have to put a little pressure into it. Get the stains off and the shine on!
So it is with writing. The only way to write a novel is one word at a time. The only way to write one word at a time is to plant your derriere in a chair and start typing. The only way to start typing is to think about what you want to say and then say it. There are no shortcuts to a complete manuscript. It takes work. It is the most fun work I’ve ever done! But it is work. Put mental elbow grease into your writing.
3. When you’re finished, stand back and enjoy the view. My sister has told me that when she gets the house completely clean, she has been known to send the children outside to play for an hour. It’s just one hour, mind you, but she walks around with a grin of satisfaction at her job well done. That is, until she lets the little mess-makers back in and the process starts all over again. But there should be a period of self-congratulation.
When your first draft or your final draft is done, there is an “Aaaah” moment. You stare at the word or page count or the crisp pages in your hand and think, “I wrote that. I am a writer.” You deserve a celebrity-studded party with a champagne-flowing fountain, live music, a dance floor with a disco ball, and you as the guest of honor because a completed manuscript is a big stinkin’ deal! But whether anybody sings Jolly Good Fellow to you or not, take some pleasure in a job well done. Your moment won’t last long because now you have to sell that book or start the next one that keeps poking the back side of your brain and wants to be written.
Okay, my moment of being happy that I could learn some lessons from being without a housekeeper is done. As I reflect more, I think I’ll take the best-selling author career with the multi-book contract, the big house, the sports car, and the cleaning staff. Hey, I’ve already learned these lessons anyway. Maybe I could learn some new ones from unbridled success and fame! I’m willing to give it a shot.