The work of writing is much like the work of hand washing dishes.
It is much easier to do your dishes in a dishwasher because you can go watch television or paint your fingernails while your dishes are magically sterilized, just like it is much easier to watch television or paint your fingernails than to sit down and write.
But when you distance yourself from the process of hand washing dishes there are two things you miss. The first is, you miss those magnificently smelly soft Dawn hands that they publicize in magazines and on commercials.
The second thing you miss is the magic of soap bubbles.
I don’t mean one soap bubble, or even the suds on your hands that sometimes pass for soap bubbles. I mean dozens of tiny little irridescent orbs floating and flirting above your head when you are really going after a dish. A dish that has something stubborn like scrambled eggs or melted cheddar caked onto it.
And then you look up and see them dancing overhead- all pinks and blues and yellows- soft and floating and glorious. There are no soap bubbles from dishwashers because they have concentrated gel packs and do all the dirty work where it is tucked away and invisible to you. Convenient. Sterile.
This is like writing. When you are toiling away in the crusty tedium of the hard work of writing, every now and again you get to look up and see that something beautiful and ethereal has happened while you were toiling and that you, inadvertently, were responsible for it. That is why I hand wash dishes and that is why I write.
I also hand wash dishes because we don’t have a dishwasher.
Right, not the point.
This applies to everything that requires consistent, intentional work- song writing, painting, raising a family, woodworking, dental hygiene. There is an incredible pay off for all of these things if you immerse yourself in them, giving your best creative efforts to whatever you’re doing. If you don’t let someone else raise your kids for you, if you don’t succumb to using rhyme.com when the lyrics don’t come, if you hand sand that pesky board, even if you floss your own teeth routinely- gotta celebrate the small things too, y'all- you may find that all that time you have been building yourself a lovable, purposeful life.
And remember, when it gets hard, to keep your head up for the soap bubbles.
That said, and in honor of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) (Which I am ironically not participating in)(oops)
Write. Maybe start here.
1. What was one of the happiest moments of this year? One of the hardest? How do you see that they've strengthened your character? Are they related at all?
2. Take a few minutes to make a list of the things you're most thankful for. After you've made your list, pull one or two and write about them in more detail. What time of year was it at this experience, what were the smells around you, who was there, why was it special?
3. There is an old man, a woman with a baby, a blind teenager, a businesswoman and a barista at a coffee shop in the afternoon. And there's a tornado coming. What happens? What's the dialogue? (cred. goes to my creative writing teacher, Charlotte on this one.)