Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Fine Art of Not Housekeeping by Steve Gladwin

There must be something happening in the abba blogisphere. People have been writing a great deal about the way they work, about the highs and lows of social media, about avoiding distraction and even about their state of mind.

I’m about to add to this – mostly - serious thread, and I hope you won’t consider it too frivolous. I thought of the idea almost three weeks ago before anyone had posted any of the above topics. Rather than back away and think of something else, I was determined to go through with it. Posts often have tended towards the serious and I’ve been as responsible for that as anyone. We all need a break into the slight and chucklesome, but there is also a point at the heart of this. So here for your delectation is a blog about how to use writing to avoid housework.

It’s like this. I hate housework, and I love writing. One I find sometimes alarmingly easy (and I realise this may be tempting fate so I’m touching wood as I write), whereas the other I somehow manage to either get out of, set up a whole load of avoidance tactics for, or do a token amount of and that grudgingly. I know I have the excuse of being a bloke, but it’s not really good enough, is it?

I have my reasons of course. I lived with someone for five years who had cleaning and ironing OCD and wasn’t afraid to impose it. I have a bit of a housework phobia in the same way as I have a kettle and washing machine phobia – because they were on all the time and I couldn’t escape them. I am also dyspraxic which means I get easily side-tracked, (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) Now I live with someone who once worked as a chambermaid and hates housework about as much as I do. Yet somehow our house stays clean enough not to disgrace us, and I actually quite enjoy cleaning the kitchen now. OK, I admit it, Rosie does most of it!

But if I do want to steer clear of the housework I have a simple strategy. I write! It’s alarming how easy it is to find inspiration when  the household tasks are piling up, or it’s my turn to do whatever. And you should try it sometime, you writers who want to avoid the housework. Hours and even half days can go by before you need to worry about it again, and in the meantime you might have had a brand new creative idea, or made a deadline earlier than you expected, or created a winning story entry. And where’s the harm if the pots pile up, or the hoover stays in a corner or your clothes are slightly creased?

When can I get back to the writing?

So if anyone’s interested in this strategy, here are my top ten (fairly) fool-proof suggestions.
*Begin writing as early as you can - say after you’ve had breakfast and /or a shower and got dressed. Better still begin when you get up because it’s amazing how many chores you can avoid if you make an early start.

*Play music while you write, either loudly, so you can't hear the sound of undone housework, or better still plug yourself in. Being lost in two worlds at once is a great way of ensuring that the horrible world doesn’t intrude and ruin it.

*Set impossible deadlines for your day that you simply have to complete, and that means there’s just no time for anything else, sorry. And should your deadline/schedule be so impossible for that day you have the perfect excuse for moving the rest to the next day, and the day after that etc.

*Have a list of tasks or target list, (mainly to do with writing – you’re a writer after all!) on a piece of paper. You can include things like a walk, doing yoga, eating biscuits, but the important thing is not to put housework on there, or you’ll suffer a pang of conscience and we can’t have that!

*Try the putting off until tomorrow approach. Most writers try this one on with challenging chapter re-writes or tedious close edits of their MS, or worst of all working through an editor’s pedantic notes, but at least if your housework doesn’t get done because of it, you can feel smug about your writing.

*Encourage long winded phone or skype calls with fellow writers and creative collaborators - especially those who you can guarantee will talk a lot - which take up the valuable time you might have been side-tracked hoovering or ironing. This may have the added bonus of leading to new work or ideas, or even both, and so what if you end up sneezing because of all the unhoovered dust, and looking like a dog's breakfast because of your scrunched up clothes, you’re a writer, right? You're supposed to look bohemian, You probably should live in a garret!

*Pretend you’re some kind of foreigner and scratch your head in amazed confusion when your partner tries to instruct you in the use of the washing machine. Alternatively find the actual instructions, but somehow miss the tiny bits written in English and instead struggle over the Swedish or Russian with a suitable frown. Now exhausted by all that effort, you can return to the snug safety of your writing where foreign instructions will never hurt you.

Confused of Powys

*Boast to all of your writer friends on social media about the huge amount of housework you’re doing. This may be an outright lie but at least it’s writing!

*Better still set up an online writing support group with a few like-minded friends. Make sure you all time your conference calls just when the household tasks are piling up. Feel better about your ignored burden by helping your fellows writers with theirs.

*Take the ‘walking always leads to wonderful creative ideas’ approach, (it always does for me!). Make sure you set out early and come back late with no time for housework in between, and too exhausted to think about it when you get back.

There, I hope this has been useful. And let me know if anyone wants to set up that group! Now I've exhausted myself thinking about it all. Time to lie down. The housework can wait until tomorrow.

Thunderbirds are go! Zzz



Penny Dolan said...

Oh, Steve! A wonderful post riffing on an amusing angle which was fun to read.

However, being "not a bloke", and coming across small ploys like these - for reasons that aren't even necessarily to do with writing! - I felt my teeth grit and my stress level rise. Only my inner feeling that you don't really pursue such total opting-out has made temper my words here. :-)

But, thanks, I'm going to use Sounds & Music more actively to keep the naggling calls of the house demon (figuratively!) at bay.

Joan Lennon said...

It strikes me that ironing is like editing for clothes.

Susan Price said...

I think, Penny, that Steve's partner has been having a word and he took notes.

Steve doesn't address the vitally important subject of using housework to avoid writing. My house is unusually clean and tidy at the moment precisely because I am using housework (and gardening) to avoid writing. No, I haven't yet tackled the difficult ending of the book I'm writing - but look, I've dug up half the lawn! And planted two bushes.

I've only written one line in the past week - but hey, the washing-up is all done to the last shining teaspoon, the stove is clean and the stairs have been swept!

When I do finally get to grips with that book, the house will sink back into its usual tip-like nature. And I shan't give a spit.

Steve Gladwin said...

Tongue very much in cheek, Penny so never fear. Rosie would I'd sure assure you that we have an equal dislike of the 'H' word, but end up sharing it fairly amicably and pretty equally. As we both suffer from dyspraxia we tend to wander inwards when things need doing. But we had a house guest last week and as far as I know she survived!

Joan, I really like the idea. Even clothes have feelings.

Sue, what can I say but you've done sterling work. Perhaps you should do a blog listing the opposite strategies. Thanks all xx

Penny Dolan said...

i know you were only joking, Steve, especially from the way you've written in other posts etc. Take no notice of me. Possibly private frustration and inefficient time management!

Writing needs a certain amount of confidence or conviction, imo, and when that's low, tasks around the house can look like more worthwhile alternatives. And yet, and yet, one can mull over writing worries while peeling spuds, I believe.

Steve Gladwin said...

Don't worry Penny. The tongue in cheek can sometimes come over like the 'foot in mouth.' I'm just lucky its not Sue's way round for me. Peeling spuds while mulling certainly works but for me its walks and talking it through with others.

Penny Dolan said...

I totally appreciate the tongue-in-cheek/ foot-in-mouth effect, Steve, having often been caught by such things myself.

Quick report. Peeled spuds. Was not inspired.)