Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This Is Not Procrastination

With my near-impossible deadline for these next two books now before me, I woke up this morning not at 5, but at 4:30, and set to work straightaway. To work writing? No, indeed. To work rummaging through the rat's nest at the bottom of my writing supplies closet. I thew out some 20 used Jiffy bag mailers that I had kept just in case I needed them (retaining 3 or 4 for that purpose); I recyled the cardboard backs of pads that I had kept just in case I wanted to mail a photo packed between two pieces of cardboard; I sorted through all the different sizes of FedEx envelopes I had accumulated and arranged them in a pleasing progression.

Procrastination? No!

I hear other writers confess the lengths to which they will go to avoid, or at least to postpone, writing: mopping the kitchen floor, scrubbing the toilet, washing windows. But I think these writers are too hard on themselves. This isn't procrastination, according to me. This is a necessary stage in preparing to write.

Would you invite a house guest into a dirty, messy home? If not, how can you invite the Muse into a dirty messy office? I could tell that my Muse has been feeling uneasy for some time about that heap of Jiffy bags on the closet floor. I was feeling a bit uneasy about it myself.

There is an Advent hymn I love by Eleanor Farejon, which begins like this:

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today.
Love, the guest, is on the way.

I think this can be adapted as an invitation to the Muse. This morning I made my little office as fair as I am able. I've trimmed the hearth and set the table. I'm looking east and singing today. My writing Muse is on the way.


  1. I love this so much. Sometimes I just can't think if things get to messy. The act of sorting and tidying somehow frees up my mind.

  2. I feel so much better about the time I cleaned behind the refrigerator when a major paper was due, and the stack of "just in case" cardboard backs of pads I found this morning while preparing for a class presentation.

    I know the Advent hymn you mention and I can hear the tune in my head. It will be so much more pleasant to listen to in the next pre-writing purge than the guilty self-reprimand that usually takes place.

    Thank you!