Okay, so nobody wants to write an email to Hallmark Channel. Let's move on:
In the past 15 minutes (before writing this, not before you read it--how would I know?), I:
- Emptied the dishwasher
- Tied up newspapers for recycling
- Changed the garbage bag
- Taken out garbage
- Taken the recycling to the curb
- Put out a treat for the dog, who is on his walk
- Made some pasta to use later for dinner
- Mixed the pasta with sauce from the fridge to make cold sesame noodles
- Put chicken legs in the oven
My wife returned from walking the dog, looked around the kitchen and said, "Oh. You've been writing."
She was right. I've often made the observation that writers are among the greatest procrastinators on the planet, and I'm not backing away from that statement. Procrastination is something we do when we're supposed to be writing and get the cold wet feeling in our stomachs about doing that. It is sometimes referred to incorrectly as "Writer's Block," which is a whole other kind of procrastination dealing with the fear of writing something lousy. Neither is a real ailment.
But in this case, the activity was another thing entirely. I was doing my best to work through a snag in the story I'm concocting, which is scheduled for your eyes early in 2018, I believe. So by then the whole world may be changed, particularly if something truly terrifying happens in November.
The myriad activities in the kitchen and other areas of our house were not representative of attempts to avoid writing, nor are they any sign that I especially care if our house is tidy. They were part of a plan to figure out how to write the next part of the book. In that way, I was not procrastinating at all--I was working. My wife, who has been living with me for almost 30 years, recognizes the signs. She had me pegged.
When women are in the last stages of pregnancy there is talk of "nesting," the urge to straighten and prepare everything in the house for the arrival of the newborn. When writers do it, we're either trying to find something--anything--to do other than writing, or we're devoting our minds to the problem at hand by performing tasks we don't have to think about very hard.
Not every author does the kitchen things. I had unconsciously stockpiled things that needed doing anyway (it was recycling night and the garbage was full because the two feet of snow on the ground that day had made getting to the outside trash cans a little problematical) and simply went through the list after having put them off all day.
Some writers will go out and drive to the mall to walk around (and probably buy unnecessary supplies). Others read someone else's book, an activity I'd never dream of trying because I'd get that voice stuck in my head and be unable to write my own for hours, thus defeating the whole purpose. There are those who spend all day on social media or emails. It's hard to tell the difference between those trying to put off writing and those trying to solve the problem, but the more mindless the task, the more likely you have a writer who's thinking about something else, most likely the work in progress.
Sometimes I pick up the guitar that's within five feet of my grasp at all times I'm in the office and play random chords, not thinking about a specific tune. My hands need something to do while my brain is wrestling with whatever corner I've written myself into today. Sometimes I cook, badly. If the dog wants to go out and there is less than two feet of snow on the ground, that's a good way to handle it. I've written in the shower, on the treadmill and mostly lying in bed not sleeping. (TMI?)
The point is: If I'm doing something I don't especially have to think about, I'm probably writing. And if I'm doing it for a long time, that means the writing is not going easily.
So if you ever come to my house and see everything in place, no items littering the floor or randomly thrown around, no drips in the faucets and no uncooked foods in the kitchen, pity me.
It's been a hard day.
P.S. Pitchers and catchers report in 10 days.