You have a minute. Maybe only a minute. Maybe the kids are all asleep or your shift is finally over or the babies are finally napping or your inbox notification is finally silent.
You can write. But then you can’t. Because even when you have the perfect environment around your desk or room, you might sit down to work or write or even just scribble some ideas down..and there’s something calling you away.
Is it the dishes?
The clutter on the counter?
The laundry is usually my mountain that I feel like I need to climb- both figuratively and mentally- before I can allow myself the freedom to write.
But I’m wrong, and so are you, for three reasons.
Reason 1: No one should have to earn the right to create something.
Think about how silly it would sound if your spouse or parent or friend came in the room, saw you scribbling words on paper or hashing out some dialogue on your laptop, and told you to stop and do laundry. After your initial reaction of shock, you’d probably lash back out at them from the defensive stance, stating all the reasons why what you’re doing is more important than a temporary mess that you can deal with later.
Yet when you remind yourself you should go clean, text someone, or send that email…you listen.
You don’t have to fight for the right to create art.
Even more to the point, imagine yourself scolding a friend for writing instead of doing their laundry. If you would never do that to a friend, don’t do it to yourself.
Be as kind to yourself as you would to someone else who was writing down words.
Reason 2: The mess is an excuse to lose my nerve.
If you’re like many writers, sometimes you can be uncertain that you even want to spend your time writing.
Maybe nothing has come of it: no blog yet, no novel, no self-published manuscript, no good reviews, no stars on Amazon.
Don’t lose your nerve. You’ve probably heard it more than once by now, but we live in a culture of instant gratification, and writing starts messy and slow with little reinforcement.
So find a way to make sure you can ignore the rotating reasons to not write. Maybe if you benefit from accountability, share what you’re feeling…and then write anyway.
Be authentic about your passion: it helps fuel it.
If you post on Instagram that you are writing and ignoring the laundry pile in your closet, you will get the feedback (and even accountability) to see yourself clearer. You can distinguish the stages of your journey, including the ones that don’t bring rewards, but help shape your writing in the future.
If you need something else to keep you from losing your nerve, find it. Maybe it’s a song or a movie scene or a blog you can read. Set a timer, psych yourself out to not find any excuses, and then start.
Don’t blame the laundry from keeping you from writing: it already has a pretty bad rep.
Reason 3: You’ve believed a lie that no one ever told you.
As researchers discover more about how our brain processes what we see on social media, they have discovered something interesting about how we compare our lives to others.
“Others” have become one massive idea of perfection that we have created for ourselves.
Think about it: there’s a summer day, you post what you did with your kids, and then you scroll. One family went to the beach, one posted a picture in their perfect house, another friend got a new car, and another friend had a baby.
And then there’s the writers post where the pictures, maybe even from this site, make you sick.
The truth is that at any given moment, you could most likely go somewhere in your home and take a picture of something beautiful and it would be perfect. But it’s not perfect all at once.
But that’s the lie that no one is telling you…but we all believe it: we need it perfect all at once. As we scroll, we think of how much we long for each persons post until we’re longing for it or wanting it all at once.
If you think through the logic of that, though, it would mean that you would buy a new car, drive to the beach and take perfect photos, go home and clean your house…and then go to the hospital and have a baby?
My one dear friend said it best: life is ephemeral. If you’re like me and had to google that to seem smart enough to know what that meant, it means we have stages to our lives that we simply have to accept and be at peace about, instead of whining about not being able to be an amazing mother, throw pinterest-worthy parties, throw everything out in your house that doesn’t spark joy, learn a new language, move to a newer bigger house…and write.
This isn’t about fighting perfectionism: it’s about fighting idolatry.
There might be things you need to be perfect to write, which is why reason #3 doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks. If you’re like most writers, you’ve already envisioned and imagined what everything looks like when you sit down to write.
So grab some coldbrew in a mason jar and light a candle or play that favorite playlist, if it’ll help make you feel more the part of the writer. But make a list of the three things- and that’s your limit. It will not mean the whole house has to be perfect- because no writer has every piece of laundry done, an empty inbox, a clean car, a perfect goal-weight reached, AND just came back from a vacation in the Caribbean.
If you are reading this, and you meet that criteria, congratulations about finding that unicorn yesterday.
So what many writers say, but potential writers miss, is that “perfect” is a cheap gimmick to make sure you consume and don’t create. This is the perfect time to write- right now.
Because that’s how ideas start- on napkins, on text messages to yourself because you’re afraid you’ll forget, on scraps of paper, and maybe even written in crayon because you can’t find a pen anymore.
This is the stage of your story as a writer where you ignore the laundry.
And you write anyway.