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Writing Thoughts

The joys of the unpublished writer: washing the dishes and other mundane tasks

By December 13, 2012No Comments

Do you know that moment when you’re reading one of the countless books about writing and the author tells you that if you’re writing just to get published, you should just go ahead and stop now? And you roll your eyes and think to yourself, “Easy to say coming from someone who’s already published!” You mumble under your breath that of course, that should be true, but really what you want is to get published and become famous and make lots of money, right? That’s what this series of posts is about.

I started to write just one post about all the rewards I’ve reaped from writing, and found it was too long. I had too much to say, which is a happy problem. So I decided to write a series of posts about the joys of writing from the perspective of someone who hasn’t actually been published.

Joy #1: A new appreciation for doing the dishes and other mundane tasks.

Of course, there as many different writing philosophies as there are writers. Some say chain yourself to the computer no matter what and stick with it. Some say if nothing’s coming, get up and do something else. There’s a place for both, but if you sometimes subscribe to the “get up and walk away” philosophy, it gives you a whole new appreciation for things like doing the dishes.


No one is ever this happy about doing dishes

Doing the dishes is probably my least favorite household chore in the whole entire world. And I want to say right now to my own mother and to all the mothers in the world, thank you for doing the dishes. Thank you, thank you, thank you. There are really not enough thank you’s in the world. Thank you to my husband for doing the dishes (he probably does more than me). Thank you to everyone who has ever done the dishes. It is a Sisyphean task. You make a meal, do the dishes, wake up the next day and do it all again.  Really the only thing worse as far as I’m concerned is mowing the lawn, and at least you get to be outside for that.

But as a break from writing, doing the dishes is a whole other thing; it’s almost pleasant. It’s a relatively short task as chores go. Doing the dishes really never takes quite as long as you think it will when you’re standing there staring at the pile of dishes and thinking to yourself, “I have to do those fucking dishes again.” It’s a physical task, and a sensual one, with the feel of the warm water, the sight of the suds and the smell of the soap bubbles. It’s a mindless break, like being in the shower, and a time for your mind to wander a bit. A time for your mind to be doing something besides staring at a cursor blinking in an accusatory manner.

I’m not going to say that washing dishes is anything like sitting in a luxurious bubble bath, because that’s just crazy talk. And I’m not going to say it’s something I look forward to, either. But when the dishes are there waiting for you when you find that everything you write is coming out like crap, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve read about other writers who like to mix their writing up with gardening, and I’m looking forward to trying that out come the spring and summer. If writing makes weeding a pleasant pastime, too, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Look for more posts soon about the joys of the unpublished writer and be sure to share your own joys of writing.

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