A Clean House is One in Which No Writing is Being Done (Unless You Have A Maid, But That’s Cheating)

I’ve got to admit that I’m often torn between the demands of real life, and the demands of the fake people who live in my head.  Sure, there are certain responsibilities that must be attended to—cats don’t feed themselves, dog vomit doesn’t magically disappear—but is it imperative that my dresser be dusted off?  Who sees it anyway?  Me.  And do I care?

Technically, no.  I don’t.  Most of the dust in my bedroom is comprised of my own dead skin cells anyway, right?  So why do I care if part of me now resides on top of my dresser?  It makes its own kind of sense, really.  But—even practical me gets a dragging sense of inadequacy when I see that layer of dust.  I’ve failed as a housekeeper.

Then the flip side asks me—what if I fail as a writer?  What if the fake people in my head die and I walk around smelling bad because of it?  OK that last bit isn’t going to happen, but cutting off the circulation to my imagination will in fact kill my characters, and nothing cuts off the blood flow to the brain like housework.

And hey fellas—this applies across the board.  I know plenty of awesome dudes and single fathers who work their butts off, so don’t think that this is a female-centric philosophy. 

I was recently reading the excellent book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and came upon this excellent quote:

“I've seen women work long, long hours at jobs they despise in order to buy very expensive items for their houses, mates, or children, and putting their considerable talents on the back burner. I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write... and you know, it's a funny thing about house cleaning... it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow overresponsibility (or overrespectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, rifts, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

Think on that for a bit, the last sentence particularly.  It resonated with me, and I’m betting it will with you, too.