Sunday, December 19, 2010

Time and Tidiness Wait for No One

I've been thinking a lot about cleaning, lately.  The options are to:
  • leave a mess (who needs to clean?)
  • leave a mess until you do a deep cleaning at the end
  • always keep things clean
  • cycles of let-it-get-dirty followed by clean-ups

Let's just put the leave a mess idea out to pasture.  We're going to show more self-respect than that.

Alternatively, cleaning up after making a long-term mess, after letting the cruft pile up, the stains set and the mold grow, may work but having to do all that cleaning at one fell swoop is difficult.  There's always the chance that you'll claim you're done before it's really as clean as it should be.  Cleaning can be a mind-numbing activity, and numb is not a place from which you're likely to do your best.  But if you enjoy the cleanup process, then this may be a good approach for you.

The opposite of leaving a mess is the other extreme:  never letting anything fall out of place.  Anything that might become dirt or disorder is immediately tackled and dispatched.  Cleanliness rules.  It sounds good (even if in practice it's difficult to do) but I think it's a red herring.  Cleanliness is not the goal -- writing is.  [Of course this is about writing -- did you think I was talking about house cleaning?]  The goal is writing:  clean writing, yes, but writing first, cleaning second.  Another word for clean is sterile, which is not something we want our writing to be.  Disorder can help trigger connectivity and creativity.

As usual, the middle road sounds appealing and sensible.  Interspersing periods of writing with periods of cleaning, clutter-removal and looking for targets to send to the trash or recycling, seems like a good idea.  You can adjust how often you clean based upon your style, energy, schedule and need.  I just don't find it works for me.  How can I know what is discardable before the draft is even finished?

I enjoy the cleaning process best when I can see a big difference between the before and the after.  When I was young, my favorite time to vacuum the floor was when it was filthy enough that I could hear the dirt going through the hose.  For similar reasons, I now prefer to leave my editing till after a draft is finished.

How about you?

1 comment:

  1. I just commented on this on another blog. I just can't seem to force myself to write a rough draft straight through from start to finish. I write one day, revise the next, then start on a new section. The third day I revise both sections and usually the first is close to where I want it. I know everyone says to write the draft from start to finish first. I just can't do it!