Why Writer’s Should Do Their Chores

Are they dirty dishes, a sink full of inspiration or an opportunity to observe nature?

Multi-tasking is considered a highly desirable skill set these days. Over the years, I’ve lost track of the number of job listings I’ve seen which mention it as a requirement. I have to confess; I’m not always convinced it’s appropriate at all times. It depends on the task one is completing. Jobs which use heavy machinery, or equipment which can remove body parts, should probably not expect multi-tasking. To be honest, many who work in creative fields usually don’t like it either; because it interferes with the thought process which takes a project from the inception phase to final product. But if anyone is guilty of introducing multi-tasking into the human experience, it is probably creative people.

Why would we invent something so mentally exhausting? I have one word for you, and it is the least favorite in the creative’s person’s vocabulary. Chores. While this post is directed more at writers, as a creative with multiple interests, I can personally attest any project I wish to start or which is already underway, occupies at least 50 percent of my brain capacity throughout the day. Those with a strong creative impulse are just born that way. Chores take away some of that precious time to actually create, so thinking about a project while we’re doing something else tides us over until we can return to our true love.

I have a meme on my Pinterest board which states writers always have their best ideas when they’re doing chores. I can personally attest it is in fact true. I’ve mentioned returning to novel writing was inspired by cleaning rabbit cages. I do a lot of problem solving while cleaning cages; plotting, conflict, character development… (Though I’m now down to three bunnies. Mr. Harry Buns died on Valentine’s Day.) It doesn’t stop with cage cleaning. Doing dishes and laundry are prime opportunities to “write” at the same time. I was doing dishes this past weekend when I thought my antagonist for The Pearl Diver’s Song clicked into place. Not quite. She’s becoming a redeemable character instead, but the real villain is connected to her.

Like Little Caesar’s Pizza, I must take a moment to pick on sliced bread. Yes, it is up there in the pantheon of important human inventions. However, there is one which tops all of them. It’s one of the oldest, writing, followed not too long afterward by paper. We simply would not have one, without the other. Yes, these days I do most of my writing on my computer. However, I own a few notebooks. One is always nearby, including next to my computer. Especially, while writing early drafts, I often make notes of changes which need to be made when I go back through everything. Paper and writing utensils are the multi-tasking creative’s best friend. That goes for other disciplines besides writing.

Are there times it’s not appropriate to multi-task? Yeah, it might not be such a good idea while you’re mowing the lawn, or if you’re still operating a corded vacuum cleaner. And for those of you who are wondering if my mind wandered when I started the fire in the backyard (This is My Brand), NO! In fact, my buddy the torch, and I have recently been clearing the disaster which is my rose bed, part of the preparation for converting it to a butterfly garden. In fact, a recent purchase I planted in my bed late this afternoon, had a visitor the other day. You can see the photo on my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Getting that bed cleared out and making it pretty again, will give me something nice, not to mention interesting, to look at while doing dishes.

Kristen Lamb recently did a post about the importance of taking time away from constant electronic stimulation and busy-ness in general. I have to back her up on this one. I know from experience how important it is. (In fact, my phone is rarely on my person, either at home or when I’m running errands.) Sometimes, a project stalls and overworking the brain will not improve your chances of identifying or fixing the issue. Let’s not forget brain fatigue is a real condition. Just like the remainder of our organs, it needs a rest too. Before it starts experiencing some perplexing problems. If you feel an over-whelming need to take a nap, for the love of all that’s good, don’t fight it or waste time feeling guilty afterward. Take the darn nap! (Unless you’re at work.)

If you’re fortunate like I am and have a window over your kitchen sink, that might be a good time to observe what’s going on in your small part of the world, instead of multi-tasking. You never know, you might witness something special if you’re paying attention. I love the pollinators, especially butterflies and hummingbirds. Texas is great for both because we’re on migration routes. My flower bed can be seen from that window.

I used to have a purple passion flower vine which attracted butterflies and bees in droves. It is because of the passion flower I saw my first Giant Swallowtail Butterflies while doing dishes (Autumn 2014). There were two of them mirroring each other as they flew around our yard. I have never seen that again. Being a vine, the passion flower eventually became a bit too unruly. I finally had to kill it to keep it from taking over everything. The new garden will be filled with a variety of wildflowers and perennials which attract pollinators. They are the kind of organisms which prefer to be planted densely. I’m hoping they will choke out the weeds. It goes without saying I hate weeding, not to mention it gets too hot here from late spring to early fall to do a lot outside work. Heat doesn’t stop weeds. In fact, nothing stops weeds except really cold weather and severe drought.

Hubby and I may not be considered old yet (tell that to my joints), but we’re not getting younger either. Especially as a caregiver, I have to work smarter not harder; not to mention planning well ahead to minimize the care of anything for which I may become solely responsible down the road. I won’t deny this philosophy will also give me more time to finally pursue a dream I set aside more than twenty-years ago. It’s a long-term goal, one very much a work in progress at the moment. To be honest, I don’t mind doing work around my house that much. It actually presents its own sense of accomplishment, not to mention taking care of one’s obligations minimizes the guilt when you’re finally indulging your creative pursuits.