Cleaning + Bad Back = Better Writing System

Saturday, September 12, 2015
When Youngest Junior Hall was not quite two, we moved into a bigger house. With a big basement.

Now, I refused to clean the basement since only the kids hung out down there. But even so, cleaning the whole house could take four or five hours, up and down the stairs, hosing down bathrooms, vacuuming all the bedrooms. I’d pump up the music and get ‘er done.

Today, Youngest Junior Hall is 24. Which makes me…well, ever so much older. And just thinking about cleaning this house is daunting. (Honestly, I spend a lot of time daydreaming about one of those Tiny Houses. I could do it, too, if it weren’t for Mister Man’s giant TV.) But I’ve developed a system, one that works and saves my aching back: I break down the cleaning. One day, I’ll clean a bathroom and change all the sheets. The next day, I’ll clean another bathroom and do all the floors. And maybe the third day, I’ll tackle dusting and dog licks on the windows. When I go at the house cleaning little by little, I can still get ‘er done.

So I was scrubbing a toilet today and I thought about writing and how I use a similar system to get ‘er done.

When I sit at my desk to work on a revision, for example, I tackle a couple chapters, working solidly for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Then my back rebels, just like it does when I’m cleaning. So I get up and stretch, do something else for a while. But oh, how I fought this method.

If I didn’t have four or five hours to work on a story, then why bother? What could I accomplish in one lousy hour? Turns out, I can accomplish a lot. In fact, I focus better when I have short bursts of time rather than all the time in the world.

And I found out something more: breaks are good for my writing. I step back from the project, moving on to something else, and suddenly when my mind is free, a solution to a sticking point will come to me.

With my new method, though, came a new mindset. I had to change my thinking, from “An hour is not enough to get anything done,” to “A whole hour! That’s plenty of time to (fill-in-the-blank)!”

By day’s end, I might still work for five or six hours, writing. But I’m way more productive when I break up my tasks. And I’m not sure that I would’ve become proficient with this system if not for my aging back. Not that I’m wishing a bad back on you, but you might find this system helpful, too. Maybe you have a full-time job and can only squeeze in an hour for writing. Or maybe you have folks, young or old, who need your attention and you’re lucky to get any writing done at all. Think positively and look for any little window of opportunity to go at a project. It just takes practice, and before you know it, you’ll be getting ‘er done, too!

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--Your post gave me an idea for a post I could write. Maybe you'll see it on the Muffin or my post sometime soon...

And you're so right. I've gotten a surprising amount of work done in one hour. I'm not confident at the beginning but when I check out the word count at the end of an hour or so, I'm amazed.

Now, go off and scrub that toilet. ;)

Unknown said...

I have a bad back too, and can only sit and write for so long. Same goes for cleaning. I like the idea of you system for both my writing and cleaning. Thanks for sharing!


Margo Dill said...

I'm completely on board with this. And it's how I spend most of my days trying to balance: work, writing, editing, and parenting (okay and a bit of house cleaning or cooking). :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Glad you liked the system, y'all! Though I'm sure that anyone who's had to juggle several jobs at once knows this syetem well! :-)

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