Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Writing versus cleaning: My eternal struggle

It’s another one of those weeks when the housework has gone largely undone.

And I try not to let that bother me. I remind myself that housework goes undone when I have interesting writing projects under way. When nothing much is on the docket workwise, I have plenty of time for vacuuming and dusting. An unswept kitchen floor shouldn’t signify lack of sanitation to me; it should signify creative endeavors taking place.

But I have trouble being that sanguine about it. It preoccupies me, knowing that I’ve let my usual weekly housekeeping tasks slide.

But slide they have, because this week I have four different writing projects at four different stages of completion, each one as engaging as the next, and I just can’t seem to step away from my computer long enough to pick up a broom.

I know that this shouldn’t get under my skin the way it does. I remind myself that in the grand scheme of things – what the corporate folks I worked with years ago called the fifty thousand foot view – I won’t want to be remembered for the cleanliness of my kitchen floors but rather for the fine writing I produced.

But really, I want people to associate me with both. A clean house and a creative mind. And I don’t think the two need to be mutually exclusive.

Except that this week they are, because I’m just too busy to scrub. Yesterday I managed to clean some of the bathrooms, but not all of the bathrooms. That’s a small improvement, but since I didn’t get to all of them, I can’t cross “Clean the bathrooms” off my To Do list, so it feels as worthless as not cleaning any of them.

Perspective, I try to tell myself. No one would walk into this house and say “Ugh, dust on the bookshelf.” And even if they did, isn’t it more important to have books on the bookshelf than dust not on the bookshelf? Better still, books that I wrote?

Yes, true, all true. And I should mention that the reason all of these conversations happen inside my head is that no one else in my family cares a whit whether and when I clean. To them, the only outcome of my having cleaned the bathrooms is that they have to search in drawers for all the toiletries that were previously littering the countertop and therefore effortlessly accessible.

Soon, these four current projects will all be at press, I reassure myself. And then I can go on a cleaning blitz. A siege. A binge of cleaning.

Or I can hope for more projects. Because ultimately, I really would rather be a good writer than a good housekeeper. Although being both is still my ideal.

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