In one of my all-time favorite books on writing, Bird by Bird, author Anne Lamott says,
“Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground—you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.”
Even though she’s speaking metaphorically, I’ve thought about it’s possible literal meaning when I ask myself the question, “Should I write or clean the bathroom/ clean the kitchen/ mop the floors/ slice that fruit?” God willing, I’ll have time for both but which comes first?
I often choose the cleaning, when I know I’ll have time for both because, well, I like a clean apartment. I feel more at ease. Maybe I just need to loosen up. But this morning because I’m not sure I’ll have time for both, I chose writing. And although I feel pretty good about it, I also feel somewhat anxious and distractable.
Many of my writing friends say they’ve learned to live in a house that Martha Stewart might scoff at so they have sufficent time to write. When push comes to shove, they felt called by God to write but not to dust the chandelier daily. Pretty liberating, huh?
I understand why a lot of writer’s leave the house to work. Since being in my messy apartment makes me more anxious and therefore less creative and efficient; I’ll probably leave home when I have lots of writing work that needs done and a less than tidy apartment. But for the most part I enjoy the ability to switch mental gears between writing and homemaking. I’ve also found that while rinsing plates or sweeping, my subconscious mind untangles knots that tripped me up at my desk.
I also feel more comfortable in my own space, I can listen to music, eat for free and talk to myself as needed. And when it’s relatively tidy, I think my thoughts can move around without bumping into anything.
What about you? How do you balance your professional life and housework? Do you a little mess comforting or annoying?
I’m off to slice the fruit.