I have always found starting a big writing project to be easier if I have given my house a thorough cleaning. Somehow, the idea of my house being dusty and cluttered makes my brain’s machinery turn more slowly or even creak to a halt.
So whenever I embark on a new project, I literally clean house. I scrub the washrooms, the kitchen and the entrance. I vacuum my carpets and dust my piano. If I really have to do a huge project, I will actually organise my closets and my various drawers.
The days of cleaning end with me bringing two or three or five garbage bags of stuff to be picked up and at least that many bags of shredded paper: old envelopes, ads that I never threw away, junk mail that I put away to be examined later! It all goes.
The cleaning process is often a trip down memory lane! I examine papers from my Church where I am a lector during mass, I read old pieces of mail and scan bills that I paid a long time ago but never quite got around to filing. I finger through programs from the operas, gala parties, political and nonprofit fundraisers, art openings, and McMaster functions; remembering fondly those events and how much I enjoyed each of them and the people I met, the friends I made each time.
I think about purchases I made, and the place I was in when I made them – mentally and physically. I consider all of my purchases carefully, so I can usually situate where I was and what I was thinking for each. Most of them are tied to a moment of enthusiasm on my part.
I pack old clothes that I am finished with into bags that I will leave for the diabetes or arthritis societies. It always feels good to send quality apparel that is still in good shape on to another person. To think that they will be worn and enjoyed by someone else, perhaps as a pleasant surprise.
After the house is clean – it usually takes me a week – I walk around and enjoy the fruits of my labour: the order, the fresh scent of cleaning products, the open floor and shelf space that was once cluttered.
As I survey the house, I feel the logjam in my mind loosening and breaking up – and I feel creativity and motivation flood into my imagination in rushing, plunging torrents.
I know this means I will be doing something creative and purposeful. It’s a good feeling.