Stuck? Can’t get past a prickly plot point? Or maybe your hero has gotten everything she wants and it’s only chapter four? Do you have writer’s block?
Pick up a broom. Dust some shelves. Good chance they’re your books, anyway. Such not-quite-mindless activity is perfect for letting your brain immerse itself in the problem. It gets your hands moving and your eyes watching without really seeing while that pesky plot point problem percolates away inside your head. And the next thing you know, the house is a little cleaner and you’ve come up with a brilliant solution to your dilemma.
Sweeping and dusting are good writer’s block fighting tasks for two non-writing reasons, as well. First, they’re never ending. They always need doing. Around my house we get about a five minute window of hairlessness when the place actually looks clean and shiny (two dogs and a long haired cat). So, no matter how many times you get stuck in a revision, chances are there’s some dusty corner somewhere in your house that you can go after. And, even if it doesn’t really need cleaning, you’re not hurting anything.
Which leads me to the second reason: sweeping and dusting are good because they promote domestic bliss. Instead of bouncing a ball (or your head) against a wall, or simply wandering through the house muttering angry nonsense at your feet – both of which activities can be a bit annoying to the people you live with – incorporating a broom or dust cloth into your writing struggle allows you to be a contributing member of the household, even as you solve your manuscript’s problem. That is satisfying both for you and for that person in your life who loves you and supports but probably entertains regular, secret doubts about having chosen to live with a writer. You know what I mean. I don’t care if you’ve got a roommate or a spouse or something in between, he or she will find you easier to live with as you wade through your seventh revision if he/she sees you carrying a little extra weight around the house. It lends you a noble air: as far as your significant other can tell you’re digging down deep and forcing yourself to help the team, even in the midst of your darkest writerly despair.
Doesn’t that sound good? Doesn’t it sound just like the person you want to be? I know it sounds like who I want to be. And any day now I’m confident that I actually will become that selfless, broom wielding writer. I know I will. Someday soon, instead of munching on candy and staring out the window, I’ll drag myself out of from in front of my computer and pick up that broom, and I’ll sweep all that pet hair right into the same trashcan as my writer’s block. It’ll be glorious and satisfying. And it’ll happen soon. I can feel it stirring inside of me.
But, if you happen to do it first, let me know how it goes.