Writers clear space. It’s what we do.
Someone made a joke on Twitter about a cleaning service staffed entirely by writers on deadline.
I get the joke, I laughed, I’m just so bone-weary of the existence of this entire category of “haha procrastination, look we’re procrastinating again” humor which, instead of punching outward towards our distorted culture of guilt and self-recrimination, punches inward, reinforcing the internalized cultural shame around Not Doing and Not Done Yet.
Writers clear space. It’s what we do.
This is not procrastinating, it’s clearing the way to be able to write what is coming in-and-through, but not here yet. Clearing space is one way to welcome in what needs saying.
This is what we do.
Here’s what I want to know.
How are we still agreeing to make ourselves feel bad for Not Doing when we could be dismantling this bullshit nonsense culture that says only Doing has value and anything that doesn’t look like the right kind of doing is a reason to feel embarrassed and publicly apologize for being terrible humans, let’s decide we’ve had enough.
When are we going to change our culture and the air we breathe?
What will it take to stop berating ourselves for [things that look like not doing the thing], and begin to celebrate all the ways that [doing this other thing supports doing the thing] even if maybe it doesn’t look like it on the surface but that’s only because we aren’t used to looking with wise and loving eyes…
The cleaning is for the writing!
When are we going to acknowledge, collectively and individually, that choosing cleaning when we think we are supposed to be writing is not in fact cleaning instead of writing or cleaning to avoid writing. It’s for the writing!
What is cleaning anyway?
We can use our wise loving writer-hearts and thoughtful writer-minds to feel into this question, use it as a writing prompt, let it skip like a stone in the waters of consciousness. What is cleaning?
You are welcome to share what arises for you when you give Writer You (or Artist You or Dancer You or Wise Business Owner You) this question, with clarity and compassion.
I will tell you what I know about cleaning…
It is clearing space for what needs to come in. Clearing out to invite in.
Clearing. Space. For whatever needs to come in.
In a symbolic sense? Sure, but symbolic matters. We’re writers after all.
And we are humans. Making a shift in external space always influences our internal landscape, and the same is true the other way round. In fact, sometimes the best thing we can do for writing-mind is clean.
What is cleaning?
Cleaning is TABULA RASA.
Cleaning is NEW BEGINNINGS.
Cleaning is SORTING OUT AND THROUGH.
Cleaning is a physical way to soothe the mental/emotional/energy craving for that sensation of blank space and open horizon which help us access our most creative selves.
Cleaning is a way to access quiet mind, set a new internal rhythm, our breath changes while we wash dishes.
Guess what, based on EVERYTHING WE KNOW about the creative process, all of this is exactly what facilitates insights and idea-sparks aka getting to the point where we can write what is asking to be written.
So why is our process a forever-punchline?
Because of culture, of course.
And I think, often we mock ourselves preemptively to protect ourselves from pain, we make fun of the cleaning before someone else can, because that’s what people will do, because people are shitty, and people are shitty because culture is shitty, and we end up with an entire world of haha I’m on deadline so look doing X instead of Y.
Let’s change that. Let’s set it all on fire.
No, X is not avoiding Y. I’m doing X for Y, I’m doing X because X supports Y, I’m doing X because the experience of X will make Y more magical, and I trust in my creative process as a human being.
Let’s go beyond letting cleaning be an acceptable door into writing.
Let’s celebrate the cleaning, or whatever it is we are doing while Not-Writing.
Let’s celebrate ourselves for cleaning as part of how we approach our writing.
ANYTHING WE DO TO CLEAR SPACE, INTERNALLY OR EXTERNALLY, FACILITATES THE CREATIVE PROCESS, AND SHOULD BE CELEBRATED INSTEAD OF MOCKED, THE END.
Cleaning instead of writing doesn’t need to be mocked by us, and it definitely doesn’t get to be mocked by others.
Writers clear space. It’s what we do.
It’s how we get to clarity. Clarity is important. And it takes as long as it takes.
Everything we do to support clarity is healing. Giving ourselves spaciousness, permission and compassion is healing. Let’s glow these qualities instead of criticizing ourselves for being in process, when process is everything.
Let’s celebrate process, which is complex, alive and legitimately hard a lot of the time!
The process is vital to the writing.
And — this part is important! — whatever that process looks like, it is valuable because it is process.
The less time we spend making ourselves feel bad about being in process, the sooner we will get clear about either what we want to say, or why it is legitimately hard/scary to say it.
Let’s breathe compassion for process.
Let’s breathe compassion because writing is intimate, vulnerable, challenging, real.
Let’s breathe compassion, and practice the radical subversive act of Wild Self-Treasuring in the form of celebrating everything we do when we aren’t writing, including and especially cleaning!
- Let pretty much anything stand in for writing. If writing is not your [thing you have a possibly-passionate, possibly-troubled relationship with], substitute painting, lindy hop, embroidery, clogging, whatever fits for you. Sometimes I pretend I’m not a writer too!
- Let pretty much anything stand in for cleaning. Anything we do that looks like not-doing can be in service of the doing, and anyway, not-doing is valuable in its own right.
- Yes, I know we usually talk about punching up vs down, but I think inward/outward makes more sense here.
- The cultural blame/shame around Not Doing is nonsense, let’s stop agreeing to it in all forms.
- We often appear to be avoiding what we feel most strongly about, this isn’t a bad thing, it just means we care, and caring is intense, give us time.
- Let’s end this story about who is a writer, we are writers and we clear space, and we can give ourselves endless cascading sparklepoints for each dish we clean or whatever it is we are doing to support the creative process in any given moment!
- I originally wrote gleaning instead of cleaning, also an excellent clue!
Cleaning is a writing strategy and should be celebrated as such.
We are choosing towards our projects, wishes and goals through working on them in this secret, awesome, indirect way, which is a brilliant strategy.
We are choosing towards good things through this ongoing practice of the qualities of curiosity, patience, permission, and internally-directed compassion as we learn to trust our own process.
And everyone else in our lives can support this or be quiet about it, the end.
Please share with anyone who needs this reminder or pass this on the next time someone tries to make you feel bad for choosing [cleaning] or anything else instead of [writing] or anything else.
I treasure this incredibly rare thing that we have here in the form of safe online space to play and explore.
We remember that people vary. We meet ourselves and each other with compassion. We are on permanent vacation from advice-giving and care-taking. In other words, this is not like the rest of the internet.
You are welcome/invited to share hearts, sparks sparked for you, anything you want to share on the topic of compassion for our not-writing selves in our periods of not-writing, or about claiming the writer identity with love.
Love, as always, everyone who reads and comments as well as all the Beloved Lurkers and fellow quiet friends, you are all appreciated.