I hate housework. I’m using the word hate here, as in loathe, detest and despise. I’ve advocated avoiding it in favor of writing. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, when you take time for yourself instead of cleaning the living room, the guilt monkeys attack and concentration is impossible. The result: I end up putzing around on Facebook or looking up music videos on YouTube before giving up and turning on the TV. So I get no writing done and the house remains a mess. Meanwhile, the guilt monkeys stand on my shoulders and make me feel terrible about myself.
(BTW, to me, guilt monkeys look like those creepy flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz)
So what’s the answer? With great reluctance (I’m a slacker who hates housework, remember) I must say that the solution is to do both. Get some chores done, have that sense of accomplishment, then sit down to write guilt free. Here’s how I do it:
Make a list and cross items off as you complete them. Do not underestimate the satisfaction of crossing things off. It’s a wonderful feeling and a huge motivator. Here’s what my list for this past Sunday looked like:
Finish writing critiques
Take out trash
Clean Bird cage
Clean litter pans
Vacuum living room
Kitten proof basement
Clean out car
About that list:
1.) Be reasonable. Don’t decide to clean the whole house in one morning. It’s not going to happen. Pick a number of small and large chores and decide the order as you go along. On my list, I left the bird cage and vacuuming the living room until last. There were a few reasons for this. First, these were my least favorite jobs. Second, the dust makes me sneeze like a loon. The best remedy for sneezing like that is to go take a hot shower and clear my sinuses. I could do that when I was done. If I tried these two jobs early on, I’d be sneezing a lot which would tempt me to take a Benadryl and then a nap.
2.) Break big yucky jobs into small, manageable parts. I didn’t have “clean the bathroom” on my list (even though it needs to be done). If I did, I would write: clean the toilet, scrub the tub, scrub the sink, wipe down the walls, mop the floor etc. Maybe I would do this all at once, or maybe I would do one item on the list then go find something easy to do before tackling another. This way you have the pleasure of crossing out several items instead of one. Also, it makes the dreaded task less daunting.
3.) Plan breaks. If you’re the type who can’t stop lest you not be able to start again, just schedule a lunch or a snack time. If you’re like me, breaks are a reward and motivator to continue. I do things like give myself 15 minutes to flip through a magazine or catalog. That has another benefit because once I’m done reading, the item can go in the recycling pile, eliminating one more piece of clutter from the coffee table.
4.) Declare a quitting time. And keep it reasonable. Don’t spend your whole weekend doing chores instead of relaxing. It’s the weekend after all! I chose 3:00 as my quitting time on Sunday. That would leave me two hours or more to write before dinner (depending on how long I spent in the shower.)
5.) If you do have to push something off to the next day, don’t feel guilty! That just means you put too much on your list. You’ll know better for the next time. Finish at the allotted time (or close to it) and go relax.
This worked exceptionally well for me. I loved drawing lines through each item and reveled in having more things crossed out than not. I was motivated enough to get the small chores done before lunch so only the bird cage and vacuuming remained. Then I all but did a victory lap with the vacuum, I was so pleased to be finished. The clock read 3:05 and I could relax for the rest of the day. The guilt monkeys had been vanquished.
Disclaimer: I am a total Stephen King fan girl. Not to the point where I believe he can do no wrong, but I have read (and enjoyed) most of his work. If a new Stephen King book comes out, I’m going to buy it. I’ll read it and enjoy it and be inspired to get to work on my own writing. Mr. King has inspired me since the first time I read one of his author’s notes.
Spoiler alert!!! I don’t say anything here that wasn’t spelled out in any review or interview, but if you really want to take this ride with no idea of what’s ahead, don’t read this post.
11/22/63 is King’s latest work, about a man, Jake, who finds a time portal which takes him back to 1958. He goes, with a list of things to change, most importantly, the Kennedy assassination. On the way, he visits a town in Maine familiar to any Stephen King fan. There are bumps in the road, lots of them, bullies who (as usual in the Kingiverse) get what they justly deserve, and good people who find pain and trouble, because that’s the way life is. A lot can, and does happen between 1958 and 1963. It would be hard not to make a life in that time, to develop relationships. Just supporting oneself can be a challenge, especially with no work history before say, 1980.
In order for this story to work, you have to agree with the lone gunman theory. I don’t. But in the interest of reading pleasure, I suspended my disbelief for a while.
Mr. King paints Oswald as a sneaky, disillusioned loser who killed President Kennedy so that he would finally be recognized as… what? Someone important? Then the plan was to immigrate to Cuba. We sympathize with Marina Oswald, brought to America to live in squalid conditions. King shows us the people from that time, the good, the bad and definitely the ugly. It’s quite a ride. He knows we’ll follow because he knows what we expect. It’s a common belief that if John Kennedy had lived, the Viet Nam war would’ve never happened. Bobby Kennedy would’ve lived, and probably Martin Luther King Jr. as well. What a different world it would be! We imagine the best.
Stephen King, being who he is, imagines the worst. Our hero Jake returns to the present, but it’s a nightmare. Everything that could possibly go wrong, did. And this is where my literary hero loses me. I can buy the world not achieving the utopia we imagine. I can believe the space time continuum if you will, would start to crumble under all those drastic changes. It is a supernatural story after all. There will be supernatural consequences. However, I can’t believe that humanity would rip itself apart the way King says it did in the alternate time line. He goes too far.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I was emotionally invested in all of the players and stayed up late several nights just to read what happened next. King waxes poetic on occasion, sounding a bit like one of my other literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut. Here’s my favorite bit:
“For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamclock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.” — Stephen King
4 stars out of 5