But My Apartment Is Messy…

It’s been one heck of a week.

There are several things I should do tomorrow, when I have a day off from work.  I should read the book I got from the library, especially considering that I’ve barely made it past the prologue.  I should relax, recuperate, and let my body recover from the last seven days.  I should get groceries and cook up some of the veggies I have left from my CSA.

The problem is that this week has also left my apartment somewhat worse for wear.

It’s very hard for me to relax when my apartment is messy.  There is something in my brain that just can’t sit still or power down when there is clutter on my bathroom counter or dishes that need to go in the dishwasher.

I also have trouble writing when my space is disorganized.  Since NaNo is quickly approaching, it is very likely that I will be cleaning tomorrow instead of reading or relaxing.  That way I can give myself the mental lift that comes from a clean house, and I can prepare my world for the writing storm to come.

It seems off that cleaning can be preparation for NaNo, but if that’s the kind of thing that distracts you, it’s a good idea to have it on the list of pre-November tasks!

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Cleaning

I spent most of today cleaning my apartment. (Since that’s what I worked on, that’s what I’m writing about.  If you don’t want to hear about it, you may want to skip today’s post. :))  I have company coming tomorrow (Mom and Dad!) and I wanted to make the space presentable.

Okay, maybe I was going for more than presentable.  I did have a couple of moments were I thought, “Wow, I’m going for Grandma Clean here!”

Perhaps that statement needs some clarification.

When I was a kid, we had two standards of clean in our house.  We had the everyday clean, which included clutter being put away and surfaces being wiped down, to make the house look and smell nice for those of us who lived there.  My sister and I may not have been very good at this, so I suspect the place was messier than Mom would have liked most of the time.  We did, however, manage to get it to this state on a fairly regular basis, at least that I remember.

Then there was Grandma Clean. This was the standard when Grandma was coming for a visit, and it was a much higher standard than everyday clean.  Wiping surfaces didn’t cut it here.  No, this meant scrubbing corners in the bathroom, dusting every shelf in my room (and I had a lot of shelves, with a lot of knickknacks), and even cleaning the shower!  (My sister and I were usually responsible for cleaning the hallway bathroom, so most of these memories are laced with bathroom cleaner scent.)  Of course, this is the clean that we should have had all the time, but in a busy life with messy kids, a few times a year for Grandma’s visits was probably about what we could manage.

Today I did the details – using the vacuum attachments to get into edges, moving furniture to get to the carpet, dusting, and yes, cleaning the shower.  As it was when I was a kid, this kind of deep clean isn’t something I can manage on a weekly or monthly basis, but it is nice to get it Grandma Clean from time to time.

Where to Start?

My parents are coming to visit soon, so I need to clean my apartment.  It isn’t actually dirty (for the most part), just really cluttered – particularly my second bedroom, which is where they are planning to sleep.

Here’s the problem: every time I decide to get started, I’m not sure where to begin.  I get a bit overwhelmed because there are a lot of things to do.  This means that I haven’t actually started cleaning at all.

This is also a problem that many people (myself included) have with writing.  There’s too much to do, too many tasks to start, so we don’t even begin.

The trick is to just start.  It doesn’t matter what you start with, just start.  Even if it’s a scene you really want to write that doesn’t come next, or washing the dishes you just used, get started!

And if you really need incentive, do what I’m doing tonight: set a timer and give yourself a bribe if you work until it goes off.  🙂

Getting Ready to Revise

For a multitude of reasons, I am not getting to truly “go away” for my writer’s retreat, which was supposed to be this weekend.  Instead, I am going to use the next two days to focus on my writing, in particular, revising Dragon.  This may require leaving my apartment for a while during the day (there is a Japanese garden not far away and a few state parks within reasonable driving distance) but I will be sleeping in my own bed and living in my own house.

This presents a new challenge that I don’t normally face with this kind of intensive writing work: distractions.  When my apartment is messy or cluttered, or there are tasks to do like laundry, I am more likely to focus on those and not the writing.  In  order to minimize this challenge, I spent today preparing.  My kitchen is clean (enough), my clutter is put away, and my laundry will be done before I go to bed.

It means that I used one of my three days for something other than writing, but I am hoping that it will make my revising efforts over the next two days more effective.

I’ll let you know how it works out.  🙂

Under the Couch

I moved my couch to vacuum today.  It was part of a larger cleaning spree which was started by my regularly scheduled dismantling and cleaning of the bird’s cage.

When is the last time you moved your couch?  Mine is large and heavy, with a recliner on each end, and as it is in the only logical place for a sofa in my apartment, it stays put most of the time.  Needless to say there were some interesting things under it.

On the end closest to the kitchen there is a side table that collects mail and receipts.  It was no surprise to find a piece of junk mail and a couple of old receipts under that end of the couch.  There were two hair rubber bands that I use for ponytails – not sure how they ended up under there – and a business card (mine).  I expected to find the couple of pieces of lightweight paper trash, but there weren’t any random coins or other objects that can slide through.  Those could still be trapped inside the couch, I guess.

Why am I telling you about moving my couch?  It doesn’t seem writing related at all.  Have you ever sat on your couch in a new spot in the room?  Have you tilted your couch to look at it from underneath?  Moved the couch and looked at the collection of things underneath?  These are all great ways to change your perspective.

If you are stuck in your writing, or you want to try a different approach, or you are just getting bored with a character or story, try something to change your perspective.  It can be a real thing, like moving your couch and sitting in a new place to think.  It can be a variation to your writing routine, like moving outside or switching sides of the cafe booth where you always sit.  It can even be an exercise, like writing the same scene from the eyes of a different character or changing from third person to first person.

This doesn’t have to be reserved for times when you are stuck.  I enjoy taking my writing outside on occasion, just for a change of scenery.  It usually reinvigorates me and the creative juices flow a little faster.  Try changing your perspective to see what happens.

Or just move your couch to see what’s underneath.  🙂

Sweeping Barefoot

I was cleaning a little tonight in preparation for a trip, and I realized something about myself.  I prefer to sweep barefoot.

This is not something that I had really recognized before, probably because I spend most of my time at home barefoot.  It wouldn’t occur to me to notice my lack of footwear while cleaning if it is the trend for the day.  However, it’s a bit chilly here, so I had socks on this evening.  When I started sweeping the bathroom I felt the sudden inexplicable urge to take off my socks, as if they were an impediment to my completion of the task.

It’s weird, but true.  I’m telling you this, not to increase your opinion that I am strange, but to point out something related to writing.

People have odd quirks.  (Pets do too, sometimes.)  If you paid a little attention, you’d probably notice that you have some quirks, too.  Or ask your friends and loved ones; they know. Because most of our characters are people or people-like, they should have quirks.

Depth of character doesn’t just mean that your protagonist has a back story and emotions.  It means that she behaves like a person you might really know.  Characters should seem like people to your reader, full of strange little traits and unconscious behaviors.  Take a minute and think about your main characters.  Do they have odd quirks?  Would your readers be able to tell you the odd quirks of your characters?

Maybe your next main character should have an inexplicably need to take off her socks to sweep.  🙂

Writing Is Like Cleaning…

It never fails.  I spend half my weekend cleaning my apartment, and by the time my weekend rolls around again, the apartment needs major cleaning again.

I know that if I just took a few minutes every day to clean up the little messes, my kitchen and the rest of my home would be much neater by the end of the week.  All I’d need to do then would be run the vacuum and maybe tidy a bit, and it would be done.  Of course, knowing and doing are two very different things.

Writing is the same way.  If you’re trying to reach a goal (finish a novel, write a certain number of words per day, complete NaNo, etc.) writing a little bit every day makes the task so much easier than trying to cram in several days’ worth of words in your weekend.

Not to mention that your writing quality will probably suffer if you’re forcing it a few times instead of letting it flow easily.

So, for 2012 I will try to be better about cleaning up a little bit every day.  If writing more in 2012 is your goal, hopefully this technique will help you, too!

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