Here is a wonderful article that rang true, hit home, and other turns of phrases having to do with alarms clanging, whistles blowing, and body getting shocked into attention: Women with Clean Houses Don’t Write Epic Novels by Lynda Williams on the Clarion Writers’ Workshop Blog. Catherynne Valente had a blog entry (no longer up) along these lines as well: regardless of how many novels she’d authored, the house could be filled with piles of books her name embossed on the covers winking in the light, if someone walked into her home and its cleanliness didn’t live up to expectations, that person would think her lazy or not a good woman/wife, though they’d not have blinked an eye at the man of the house. (And yes, I know I’m using the plural pronoun with the singular noun “person,” but there just isn’t a good gender neutral singular to use, so I will be resorting to this method, dear reader. I know my grammar well enough to know I’m breaking the rules, and I’m going to break them.)
One reason, dear reader, that I have not posted lately, is that I have been ill. Another reason is that I had been working furiously to revise a couple short stories and write an essay for the Clarion and Clarion West Writers’ Workshops. And all other work piled up around me: a mess in so many ways.
But even before these events occurred, I realized that I was not going to get as much writing done if I kept cleaning the apartment as much as I felt I needed to. And I was already cleaning it less than I had been brought up to. Which believe me is a significant amount of cleaning – if you know anything about Bavarian housewives, you know they keep a clean, tidy, and beautiful house. I had to get over that ingrained desire/need/social expectation. And yes, that was work – it was work to work less at cleaning. I had to get over the feeling that I was a failure because I didn’t keep a tidy home.
My time investment for household chores is often compounded by my lack of motor vehicle. I sold my truck when I became a laid-off carpenter and never bought another. I bike or walk to most locations. That means it takes more time and more physical energy to accomplish chores such as grocery shopping. There’s an awesome article in “bitch” magazine by Elly Blue: “Gender Rolls: The challenges of sharing the road with boys.” She has info related to the gender gap in cycling on her site takingthelane.com.
This is interesting stuff and certainly related to why I and other women writers who do not live alone do more of the cleaning than our partners. My partner is a wonderful cook, and he loves to create foods for me to eat (and he does other household chores, but no one is as clean as a woman instilled with the tradition of Bavarian housekeeping, certainly not a guy from the U.S.). We both enjoy sitting down together to share our meals. But cooking is the most fun and least icky of household chores. It’s great that men are helping with the cooking, but it isn’t the same as helping with the cleaning. Cleaning is the dirty, boring, tough part of housework. Compare delicious fun and creative cooking to icky not fun and not creative toilet cleaning. See the difference?
When I read the article by Lynda Williams on Clarion’s blog I yawped for joy, for the relief of validation. I want to print it out and tack it to the front door. And yet, I want a clean home too. I really do. I think better in a clean environment, I feel better when I’m not surrounded by clutter and crumbs and dirty dishes. Striking that happy medium is where it must be at. And I need better shelves! If I had more appropriate shelving for my many books and papers it would be so much more orderly in my writing room. I envision a desk without piles of papers threatening to avalanche and drown me.
Of course this photo is of a significantly larger room than I have… ah, the space to store all my books and let my mind unfurl. That’s my dream: an open, light-filled space with good storage for books and papers and art supplies. It wouldn’t take too much to clean 🙂
Where do you like to write, or draw, or create, think? Is it cozy or open and airy, filled with textures and colors or neutral?