Friday, August 3, 2012


Once upon a time I gave to a friend a plaque that said, “A clean house is the sign of a dull woman.” This friend struggled to keep her home clean, and really how important is it to be tidy, so long as no one’s health is endangered?

But me, I’m tidy. Not because I’m dull; because I’m a writer. (Which, okay, some might consider dull.) ANYHOW. One of the ways I work out story problems and get to know my characters and discover the very best word for a hole in a poem is by wiping down the countertops and running the vacuum and sliding the duster over (and under) the picture frames. There’s something about the repetitive motion that allows my mind to whirr and hum and very often, experience one of those oh-so-satisfying “yes” moments.

And yes, this can also be achieved by yard work, but y’all, I live in Alabama, where for half the year the heat and humidity make it just about unbearable to be outdoors doing anything beyond sipping ice-cold tea from the comfort of a swayback hammock.

So. Housework. When you’re struggling with a work-in-progress, give it a whirl. Worst case scenario: your mother-in-law will be very impressed.


  1. Yes! :) I love Agatha Christie's quote about how the best time to think about writing is while doing dishes. A lot of people ask me how I manage to be a writer and a mother, but the truth is those "mindless" repetitive activities like sweeping and folding laundry provide excellent moments to think and plot and create.

  2. I also deal with housework by trying to appreciate the physical exercise aspects.

  3. I find that my neatness is tied in with where I'm at with my WIP...If I'm in the midst of writing a first draft, I'm a complete slob. Once I start tidying up a manuscript, though, I want to tidy EVERYTHING. I ALPHABETIZE. Seriously.

  4. It's hard finding a task that engages just enough of your mind that you can think about something else--tidying up is one of my favorites too. Knitting is another one.