COMING CLEAN

by Rosemary Lord

 

Office clutter 1

Okay – so I’m all clean. That is, I have a very, very clean home now. I have newly washed the blinds, cleaned window screens and window sills, I have a scrubbed floor, laundry is done and my stove and microwave positively gleam.

Can you tell that I have started writing my next book?

Yes, I know – I am still working on getting the first Lottie Topaz novel published. But this next volume is bursting out of my head just now. So….

Why do we writers have these odd work habits? For me I think it is part avoidance and part ‘my special writing method.’

You see, I recently wrote the key outline of this next book, ‘Seven for a Secret,’ the working title. Then I wrote parts of the first 5 chapters – by hand on legal pads. I typed up a few pages here and there. I know where they’re going and roughly what needs to be said. Next, I have to think it through before I sit down and solidly write from Page One to The End. That daunting – or exhilarating – task takes months.

Broom 1  That’s where the cleaning comes in. I find that as I scrub and clean and polish I run through all the scenes in my mind and have much more clarity away from the computer as I do ‘mindless things’ like cleaning. I get out of my own mental way. Yes, there is a bit of avoiding that commitment to sit down and write for the next however many months it takes to complete a first draft. What if it’s rubbish? What if it’s no good? At least, if I don’t start the typing part I can’t get scolded for writing rubbish or being boring. Well, that’s one of my little avoidance gremlin’s voice at work.

 

Broom 3 During the Covid 19 enforced solitary confinement, my writing methods have changed somewhat. Partly because, after all the Woman’s Club administrative work, I found time to declutter my office, move things around and re-arrange my filing system. (Possibly another unconscious avoidance technique?) Then I re-edited the first Lottie novel with fresh eyes on it, enabling me to take out over 20,000 words. I knew it was far too long and was able to keep most of the edited-out scenes to use in later books.

Computer filesSo now, sitting in my newly arranged office space, with smartly labeled files and clearly focused folders – I can’t find anything. I do a lot of research and have copious folders of notes, print-outs and clippings; now all neatly categorized. Normally, when I sit at my desk in my very small ‘office’ (in reality, a corner of the living room) I can reach my arm out and grab the stack of papers I need. Or reach the other arm out and grab the specific notebook. Everything’s at arms length and very convenient. Except now I have to stop and think “which arm?” “Is it to the left or to the right or behind me? My color-coded files are in upheaval because I have re-arranged them methodically. But my creative mind doesn’t work that way. Now I have to rethink my steps as to why I re-filed things and where my logic was going with the new system.

Or maybe it’s just another avoidance on my part?

My next step is to start my Story Board: a large notice board on which I stick post-its with the outline of each chapter and perhaps characters or incidents that need to fit in somewhere.  But with all my smart de-cluttering, where did I put my board? It’s a bit like shaking your head a lot and then waiting for all the bits of your brain to settle down again so you can see where things are.

Over these last locked-in months I worked really hard on trying to streamline my whole writing system. It’s just my brain hasn’t settled down enough yet to remember the new system. I know it will work much quicker than my old scatter logical system that was emotionally driven.

Readers  I resolved to be super organized, efficient and be a real smarty pants – so I could become a prolific novel writer, like many of my fellow writers.

But my mind hasn’t yet caught up. This is where the cleaning helps. I can see the fruits of my labor as I wash the Canyon grime off my white wood shutters. Yes: they’re white again. I accomplished something. Better than sitting in front of the computer typing and erasing the same sentence again and again as I await the muse to visit once more. But, as I mentioned, it’s often when I am distracted with the dusting, soaping, scrubbing and rinsing that words, sentences, scenes and whole conversations are visited upon me.

I hurriedly grab my writing pad and scribble down the dictated words – often forgetting to first dry my hands. My notepads tend to have water and soap-suds stains all over. Some tear-stains of frustration, too.

I know this is a change for the better. In my decluttering marathons I rediscovered several half-finished books and stories. And I was able to take time to re-evaluate my time and get out of old work-habits that didn’t serve me.

This year we all had the opportunity to re-think what we were doing and how we were doing it. Or to simply do something totally different. So, overall, as we slowly open up our lives again to regular business practices, social visiting, travel and family gatherings it will be a case of “So what did you do during your 2020 Shut-down?”

Me?  I got clean.  What did you do?

Typewriter and desk

Author: gbpool

A former private detective and once a reporter for a small weekly newspaper, Gayle Bartos-Pool (writing as G.B. Pool) writes two detective series: the Gin Caulfield P.I. series (Media Justice, Hedge Bet & Damning Evidence) and The Johnny Casino Casebook Series. She also penned a series of spy novels, The SPYGAME Trilogy: The Odd Man, Dry Bones, and Star Power. She has a collection of short stories in From Light To DARK, as well as novels: Eddie Buick’s Last Case, Enchanted: The Ring, The Rose, and The Rapier, The Santa Claus Singer, and three delightful holiday storied, Bearnard’s Christmas, The Santa Claus Machine, and Every Castle Needs a Dragon. Also published: CAVERNS and Second Chance. She is the former Speakers Bureau Director for Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and also a member of Mystery Writers of America and The Woman’s Club of Hollywood. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” (The Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook is available.) “How To Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line” in sunny Southern California. Website: www.gbpool.com.

19 thoughts on “COMING CLEAN”

    1. Very funny, Paul! Have broom, will travel… And a lot of the initial decluttering was forced by GUILT – that I hadn’t finished editing the first Lottie novel. Another avoidance…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Rosemary, you have also cleaned your mind of previous clutter and allowed it, through the activity of cleaning, to let it wander and bring in those scenes. Wonderful! We all have different methods of writing, some subconscious, and often a new one presents itself, perhaps it was there all along and just needed an incident – the virus situation – to be allowed in. In any event, enjoy the process!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Jill. I envy your amazing discipline with your writing day. So for me, yes – a fresh approach, which really energized the writer-me. And I love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We all need to organize those things around us, some that block our space, but also those things that clutter our creativity. I try to do both several times a year. But I did recently hire a team to remove the old attic insulation and put in new. It not only makes the upstairs cooler, but that’s where my office is and I can do more writing up there. So de-cluttering really works.

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    1. After all the ‘how-to’ books we clutter our lives with, actual physical decluttering often triggers a whole heap of other benefits. Well done with the attic insulation! Thanks, Gayle.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, I admire you, Rosemary. The last thing I do–and the first I should do, besides writing–is to de-clutter and clean my house! Congrats, and thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But Linda – you don’t need to think of decluttering: you are one of the prolific writers that I envy. You sit at your computer and complete book after book. You have over a MILLION books in print! Mission accomplished!

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  4. I think it’s really cool you can mentally write and house clean at the same time, Rosie. I think it’s what Jill says about de-cluttering. As I said, cool! The only think I can do while doing cleaning is moan–and to answer your last line question, “Nothing much. Eating, watching TV, eating, napping, eating, vegging on couch, eating–and taking care of dogs. Fortunately hubby is also a couch potato and we’ve got it almost down to an art! Loverly post, inspired me to go dust something, maybe…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you should sit back down on that couch and think awhile on that idea about dusting….
      And you, too, somehow manage to keep writing your wonderful books: perhaps when you go outside walking your dogs in your Route 66 surroundings, that inspires your beautiful Route 66 and desert settings. You just didn’t realize it….

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    2. Yes, I actually do get ideas while walking! And lots of inspiration from the desert surroundings. Although right now have one younger dog who keeps my occupYied with handling his energy level, so not as much thinking time as in the past.

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  5. I congratulate you, Rosemary. After 3.5 months of “meaning to do it” I have uncluttered only my two large bookshelves and the cabinet under my bathroom sink. UGH! I really do need to do the pantry in the kitchen and all the drawers and cupboards. (I WAS teaching a class via writing lessons and video teachings till the end of June, as well as being a “game changer” shuffling games Lynn made to the kids of the class each week.) But now, that’s done….. uncluttering!
    As for writing, you are WAY ahead of me there. Other than the class curriculum and some book reviews, and blog posts, I’ve not done any! Way to go, girl!!

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    1. Some of this is your fault, Jackie. Because you have frequently send me such very encouraging messages – then I feel guilty if I don’t write more after your enthusiastic words. So I had to do something! Thank you, Jackie!

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  6. I so enjoyed your post, Rosemary, though it instilled a touch of guilt in me. I have neither begun tackling the clutter nor finished writing my fourth novel – yet. You’ve inspired me to ‘unleash the beast’. Progress will be made!

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    1. Glad to help! I have felt enough guilt at not getting Lottie finished and published, it was really getting to me. And you have beaten me there with your published Petal In the Wind books. So you’re ahead of me there. Here’s to progress!

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  7. Besides my physical clutter, there’s my computer. I cringe at the mere thought of tackling that task! Unlike years ago, we now have so much space on our computers and can run amok with our clutter. And no one can see it!

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