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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Writer's Guide to Cleaning

For those of you who have noticed that my blog posts have slowed to a trickle since I moved, I can tell you the word count on my latest book hasn’t gone much faster. This tends to happen whenever I cast aside my carefully devised writing schedule, and one of the reasons for this ill-advised desertion is that I can’t seem to get writing done when the house is too messy or too clean.

Many writers get how a cluttered writing space is not conducive to creative flow. But is there such a thing as too clean? I say a resounding yes. Putting out effort to keep a place spit-polished can gobble up precious writing time and sap creativity. I also find cleaning a lot like redecorating—when you get one area finished, it makes other areas stand out all the more, demanding attention.

To strike a happy balance on days we’re supposed to be plopping words on paper, consider trying what I call a Writer’s Clean. This is a routine I scrabbled together from a variety of books, articles, and websites over the years, and it takes only ten minutes, less on days I’m supercharged and the house is already in decent shape.

The Writer’s Clean Routine

1.      Start in the bathroom (typically an easy feat, since most of us head there first thing in the morning anyway). Spray no-scrub foaming cleanser into the toilet and sink and let sit while you’re showering. Rinse/flush while drying off. After getting dressed, grab an empty basket (I dump out a laundry basket) and take it with you.
2.     If you have a secondary bathroom you use while writing, make a quick detour on your way to the kitchen and spray the sink/toilet with cleaner. Let it sit and move on to the kitchen. If you pass by the room you write in, drop the empty basket at the door.

3.     Head to the kitchen and start a pot of coffee or heat water for tea, whichever you prefer. While you’re waiting, fill the sink with hot, sudsy water and add any dirty dishes. Snap up a rag and give the counters and faucet a quick swipe.

4.     Whether or not your brew is finished, grab the kitchen timer and head for your writing space. Set the timer for five minutes and go around the room clockwise, starting from the door, and put everything that doesn’t belong into the basket. Straighten pillows, stacks of books/papers, and knickknacks as you go along. If you’re finished before the timer, pat yourself on the back. If the timer is running out, hustle to get the worst offenders into the basket before the bell rings. When it does, STOP regardless of how far you got. It'll get quicker/easier each time you do this.

5.     Your coffee/tea should be ready now if it wasn’t before. Take the basket with you to grab a cup and drop it off in a nearby spare room, closet, or other location where you can deal with it later, after your word count is done. Stop off at the secondary bathroom and flush the toilet/rinse the sink. Grab your hot beverage and start writing!

6.     Later, make sure to take care of that basket. Take it room to room as necessary to unload contents to their proper places, put junk mail in the trash, etc. before returning the empty basket to the bedroom/laundry/wherever.

Variation: If the basket you grab is full of laundry, you can opt to dump it out OR stop by the laundry room to throw in a load before heading to the secondary bath/kitchen. Then forget about it until the writing session is over, or else you’ll have to keep interrupting your muse to toss stuff in the dryer and then fold and hang before clothes wrinkle. Besides, there’s no rush—your basket will have other stuff in it until you’re finished writing and have time to empty it anyway.
You can alter this little regimen to best fit your particular pre-writing routine, but you get the drift.

Now, if you’re one of the many writers who write every single day, you’re probably noticing the Writer’s Clean regimen overlooks entire rooms as well as necessary chores like dusting, mopping, and vacuuming. What about those? A Writer’s Clean is meant only to get the rooms you use most often—and while writing—into presentable shape. The rest can wait until the daily word count is finished, especially if you have a large house. If your place is small enough that the above pretty much covers most of your rooms, you can add ONE chore to the regimen daily—either dusting, mopping, or vacuuming. You’ll get around to each one twice a week this way, with Sundays off. If your place doesn’t require that much vacuuming,etc., do one of the extras only every other day, such as Monday-dust, Wedneday-vacuum, Friday-mop.

Either way, I recommend scheduling other household chores and errands so you don’t spend writing time thinking about other stuff that needs doing.

There is one added advantage to the Writer’s Clean—having a set routine before sitting down to write primes the pump for creative flow. Your brain will become conditioned to the fact that it’s time to produce ideas after you do your regimen, and you’ll be sitting in a relatively uncluttered space for them to flow from with your favorite beverage in hand. Happy cleaning!

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On Mondays I gab about, well, pretty much whatever I want!

I'm J. Rose Allister, wife, working mom, and the author of over twenty-five books. Somewhere in between one and the next, I love hanging out here on my blog and over on Twitter. Give me a comment or follow-I love chatting with people! And if you enjoyed this post, consider sharing with friends and subscribing for updates.

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