I have this conceit that I must enter some (semi-mystical) mental space in order to write my stories. I must have the means, motive, and opportunity just right or I can’t spend any productive time with whatever piece(s) of fiction I’m working on. Generally this means rising at an absurd hour when the house and the world are quiet (and having a pitcher of iced tea — unsweetened, of course — beside me) and cracking open the latest effort, easing into the universe, the tone, the theme, that narrator’s mind, and all that stuff so that the words will flow (or stagger) properly. In other words, I can’t just sit at my computer after dinner (though who eats dinner anymore?) and start hammering out some words. That’s what I tell myself.

I’m pretty sure it’s bogus. I’m pretty sure that if I have uninterrupted, quiet time I can continue work on a story simply by a) reading what I’ve written so far, and b) putting in actual effort.

Regardless, I’ve been thinking lately that I should put my after-dinner time to more productive writing uses. If I can’t actually write (right!), I could do other things. I could edit (which might lead to writing) or I could do more mundane things like submitting stories to likely publications, or making much-needed back ups of my files, or house cleaning my folders and version drafts, or even researching possible venues. (I also tell myself that whatever novel I’m reading — and even nonfiction — is “work” since it can inform my own fiction. See how he rationalizes!)

Even if I can’t “create” something new, I could/should work with what I have already created. I looked in my files the other day and determined that I currently have five finished stories that I think are ready for submission. (Also, two novels, but that’s a different kind of flagellation of the soul.) And since the publishing world generally looks tolerantly on simultaneous submissions, these five pieces could easily become a dozen or more submissions pending out in the wild. (Looking in Duotrope’s Digest, where I track my submissions, I saw that I have a half dozen of them out there, including one I made yesterday.)

I decided that I should devote Monday evenings to this. Mondays are an onslaught on the mind anyway since they generally mean a resumption of selling my labor to those who own the means of production, so this kind of tangential entry into the higher calling of creative work can be a kind of consolation (or escape). Maybe two hours of devoted effort to whatever housekeeping I find needed or beneficial would be satisfactory.

So today is Monday. I should haul myself to the warm room upstairs where all of my creative ferment swirls and put in my two hours. Maybe I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do you do anything like this?

Explore posts in the same categories: Process

2 Comments on “housekeeping”

  1. I think it’s an excellent idea. I do most of that sort of thing while avoiding writing or work or some combination of the above.

  2. While I always prefer writing early in the morning, when the world is quiet, there are times when certain things get in the way of that, and I have to write on lunch breaks or at night, after dinner and before the evening walk.

    Granted, most times I write during lunch, it’s something I know very well, or something like a short story vs. progress on the novel. Or…breaking things with the novel down better so I’m prepared to sit in silence and write at night when I’m on that schedule.

    But I love the idea of one evening a week, taking a couple hours for the things that are easy to skip when you’re lost in writing. I don’t do much in the way of promotion, or even planning…so the thought of weekly time dedicated to those kinds of things sounds like a perfect idea!

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