Thursday, December 9, 2010

Writing vs. Housework vs. Disembowelment

By Ellen Meister


Like most writers, I have so much to do it's hard to carve out the time I need to sit in front of my keyboard and bang out a few paragraphs. Even when the kids aren't home and the phone isn't ringing, I have to the fight the silent battle between the blank page and the household chores. Do I work on my novel, or vacuum the living room? Do I work on my novel, or finish the dishes? Do I work on my novel, or attack the mounting pile of laundry?

Finally, I decided to attack the dilemma with a systematic, scientific approach. So I created the Novelist Worksheet, which allows me to compare and contrast housework and novel writing. Like a true scientist, I figured I needed a third task as a control—something that was clearly less appealing than either. Naturally, I picked self-disembowelment.

Here, submitted for your analysis, are the results:

(click image for larger view)


Kidding aside, what about you? Do pesky things like making a living, doing housework and taking care of kids get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you find the time and discipline to get those words written? Leave a comment below and you'll be automatically entered in a drawing for this very cool t-shirt.


Ellen Meister's new novel, THE OTHER LIFE, comes out this February from Putnam. She hopes you'll click here to read more about it, perhaps even pre-order. In any case, please sign up for her mailing list (there may be big news coming down the pike soon). Ellen can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

21 comments:

  1. Judging by the state of my kitchen, I really don't let housework get in the way of writing. Living alone of course, I get to chose what level of mess I can tolerate, so housework is vaguely optional. Earning a living however, is not. What I do then is I take my novel to work where I can write and edit on the bus or during breaks. I find that if I take it with me, I have to justify having it with me, and so I'm that much more likely to work on it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are hilarious ~ and I love that self-disembowelment doesn't fair too poorly in the comparison.

    Skip the housework and save the disemboweling for someone who DOESN'T have a book contract...in other words, keep doing what you're doing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ha! I love it! And yes, I have teetering piles of laundry that never seem to get under control, but darn it I'm writing!!!! :D I think you might have forgotten to make an "Enjoyment" column.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Here's the thing about housework. It's like shoveling while it's still snowing... there's no point. Or maybe it's more like closet cleaning. Every six months you have to stop looking the other way.

    Ahhhh. But novel writing??? That is for true procrastinators. I used to not be able to write a single word unless I'd read Page 6 of the NY Post, emptied wastebaskets, called my mother and given myself a long pedicure.

    I guess we need both housework and novel writing so that we can bounce from one challenge to the next. Like having a cookie in each hand...

    Love this post Ellen! It's an instant classic and I'll never forget it... For an update you might make a column about having sex. Can't wait to see what you fill in the blanks there, lol.

    Thanks for a great convo starter!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very funny! I always find household responsibilities get in the way of writing. I try to smash them all into one day, and then tip-toe around the messes the rest of the week. Now, my four kids are a whole 'nother kind of mess I must deal with -- one which doesn't fit into 24 hours...;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. LOL, Ellen!!
    I find that all household-related tasks (dishes, laundry, cooking, dusting...), if I were to actually DO them, would take up a lot of writing time. But, see, my big secret is that I became a writer so I'd have a ready excuse NOT to clean floors or vacuum or, heaven forbid, iron anything. (I burned myself ironing once in 1983 and vowed I'd never do it again. I keep my promises. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  7. My friend, you are one of the most cynically hilarious people I know! The part about your parents being proud that you're a writer really got me...too bad I can't pass for a twelve-year old! :)

    I know I'm still new to this game in relation to everyone else, but I have started a system that seems to work pretty well for my family and me. The secret? Just do the least amount of household duties to get by. Which usually means drying off after a shower with a t-shirt (NEVER one for THE OTHER LIFE, of course), rinsing out cups taken from the dirty dishwasher and wearing the same pair of jeans at least twice a week. Do we look like the Cleavers? Hardly, but everyone seems happier when Momma Jill is, so I'd say it's working. Though...I've never considered self-disembowelment...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Really funny post, Ellen. A few years ago I pointed out the same negatives regarding housework to my husband. While earning any money from writing was a long shot, I definitely wasn't going to make a dime scrubbing our toilets. We agreed to a housecleaner who sucks up my vacuuming, etc... I probably still won't make any money writing, but I refuse to take hope away from him (:

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well, I once wrote a blog, my first, actually, called Sheila's Guide to Half-Assed Cleaning. I try to adhere to 'Seat of the pants to the seat of the chair' in the mornings. Problem is that when I get up to get more coffee, brush my teeth, pee, etc. I find myself detoured making the bed, wiping down the stairs with the paper towel I used to wipe the coffee I spilled on my self, and so forth. There are magic moments when moving around is exactly what I needed to solve a plot or dialogue problem I couldn't seem to manage while I was sitting. BTW, you are one funny woman. I love the T-shirt and will definitely order the book! Huzzah!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Self disembowelment vs. writing vs. housework. I'm going to have to show my husband this one! Ellen, you're too funny! I'm still deciding whether or not to eliminate the inch of dust that accumulated while I was on deadline. Let's see, I could either do that, go Christmas shopping, or start on revisions. Hmmm! You know how I loved THE OTHER LIFE, so I'll be bragging on it whenever I open my mouth. Wishing you a very Happy Holidays!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love it, might actually have to use it soon, complete w/disembowelment. ;) My evil children (and the laundry they create) are ALWAYS getting in the way of my words. :P

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ellen, this is just too hilarious. I agree with Saralee-- I'd like to see the chart you create once you put sex as one of the columns!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ellen, thanks for the laugh! The T-shirt is brilliant:P)

    ReplyDelete
  14. When you're a writer, so long as nothing's actually crawling, the house is clean enough.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Let's see..... definitely prefer reading Ellen Meister (& Brenda!) over disembowelment or **shudder** housework! So, hope I win!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh, this post was hilarious. But for me housework never gets in the way. When I was single I lived like a monk. A solitary mattress. Two plates, two bowls, the two products it took to maintain my dreads, no makeup.

    My ability to "not see" the housework that needs to be done has amazed past roommates, upset my live-in MIL, and been accepted by my husband. We have a housekeeper that comes in every other week and we split up the rest of the chores accordingly between the three of us, so that no one gets overburdened.

    I'm more tempted to clean up my inbox as opposed to writing -- hmm, m/b that's what I'll write about next week.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Social media and the Internet. So fun, so interesting...so distracting!!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I can (and have) stepped around laundry and a bleeding husband for weeks. But kids?! No matter what kind of ear plugs I purchase I just can't seem to ignore them.

    Please know this is a joke. No children were harmed in the creation of this comment. The laundry is complete and the children are clean and well fed. The husband? Now where did he go...

    ReplyDelete
  19. LOVE this!!!!!!! I see the "obvious" housework (laundry--especially when I have nothing left to wear, dishes, anything that can breed rodents), and I do it, but yeah, generally school time is my time. :) My teenage son is autistic...so I REALLY need the time!

    Ellen, I adore you!! Thanks for all the laughs, the encouragement, and most of all, the friendship (and whether you call me "Hope" or "Liz" is up to you ;) ).

    xxoo, LIZ (who REALLY needs a kick to get my query out!!)

    ReplyDelete
  20. I suggest writing way for check your reading subject mistakes in practical thanks for share it professional paraphrasing services .

    ReplyDelete