Writers on writing and the writer’s all life seem to eventually get around to the mundane aspects of keeping house.
I think because it’s the housekeeping that gets most in the way of writing . . .
but I bet Kathleen Norris came up with these great lines when she was doing the chores:
“In dishwashing, I approach the moral realm; there are days when it seems a miracle to be able to make dirty things clean.”
“Both housework and poetry require that I pull disparate things together, sort through the odd pieces of my life, and try to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Deep words for a Monday morning. And it’s about to get deeper . . .
Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life
Sometimes, you read a book at exactly the right time and it makes a pierce-the-soul sort of impression on you. Whatever is in the writing of the story, somehow you feel like it’s yours, too.
That’s how I feel about writers like Madeleine L’Engle and Kathleen Norris. They blend the writer’s life with family, housework, grief, faith, prayer and work.
Kathleen Norris is a Presbyterian who spent some time reviving from a particularly dry, discouraging season in a monastery. She describes the liturgy, prayers, and quiet in ways that express the healing combination of prayer and scripture reading and living in community.
She talks about walking away from the Church and from her faith in God for a season, only to hear Him inviting her back through the kindness and love of a small-town, hymn-singing Protestant church and a bunch of monks:
However true and even beautiful this turning of times and seasons may be,
I tend to resist it as a necessary aspect of the spiritual life. Monastic writers
have always emphasized that maintaining a life of prayer means being willing
to start over, after one has acted in a sinful or destructive way. Both pride and
acedia will assert themselves, and it may appear that we are so far gone we may
as well give up and not embarrass ourselves further by pretending to be
anything but failures. It seems foolish to believe that the door is still open, that
there is always another chance. I may accept this intellectually, but I have come to
appreciate its depths only through experience. Just when I seem to have my life
in balance and imagine I can remain in this happy state forever, I lose sight of
the value of contemplation and prayer, and try to live without it. Soon enough,
once again, I am picking myself up out of the ashes.
–Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life
This is so true and yet I wish it wasn’t. Strange that it’s so difficult to pray when things are going well. And then the crash comes and we realize what we are missing and we pray until things are in balance again and then we try life on our own again. It’s a cycle, like the seasons.
Also . . . don’t you wish you could go live at a monastery for a few months? Or at least every Monday . . .
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14
I just realized there are probably a zillion posts and articles on the internet with that title. Normally, I would check to see and tell you just how many. But it doesn’t really matter because you are reading this one for some reason, and I don’t want to waste your time with facts . . .
This is the second in my series (a book for all seasons) within a series (Live the Season) which is not in any way a blog “inception”because that’s not really what that word means. Unless by “inception” you do not mean “dream within a dream” but rather “the beginning.” (And now I need to go back and watch that movie again to see if the person/people who gave it that title were actually far more brilliant than the ingenious plot . . .)
Anyway . . .
This post is about a book that has been especially inspiring for this season of my life.
Actually, maybe it IS after all an “inception” because it sparked my desire to read all sorts of autobiographies/memoirs about writing by people who write. Which I will write about later . . .
I have no Medici family to fund my dreams. Many great artists of the Renaissance had to paint portraits of spoiled duchesses in order to have the means to paint the images in their souls. None of that analogy is in Quitter and I am no Botticelli . . . it’s just the thought that has worked for me when I begin to dream of doing nothing with my days but writing whatever and whenever I feel like it.
B. No one has time and yet everyone has time.
You have the perfect amount of time each day for the things that matter most. The key is spending time on those things. Few would boldly declare, “Today, watching television for two hours was one of the most important things I need to get done.” Yet that’s where we sometimes spend entire evenings.
The operative word in the phrase “enough time” is not time. It’s enough. And the truth you should accept is that you will probably never have “enough time to pursue your dream. But every day somebody somewhere is making magic with the less-than-enough time he has. So can you, if you stop focusing on the amount of time you have and start focusing on the amount of tasks that really matter. — Jon Acuff, Quitter
And so, instead of wallowing in the fact that I had to use all my creativity on writing for others for pay, I just went ahead and started writing the books in my heart.
Which led to blogging, because writing books was taking too long and the internet was where I went a decade ago to find help when I needed it most. I figured there were people out there like me looking for help, too. I tested out how much I could say about addiction and recovery and life without shrinking back in fear and to put our story together in words and see if it was a story worth telling to more than a roomful of people who knew us.
I also blogged to re-find my voice — because when you are a copywriter, you write in the voices of others, for them, for their purposes and goals.
C.Embrace your day job and learn through it.
Not just copywriting, but mothering and being a wife. All the work I am called to do lends itself to the art of writing if I listen and let it.
The goal of this book is to get you to do what you love, with the life you already have. — Jon Acuff, Quitter
There’s much more, but it’s Saturday and I have a messy room to clean, a grocery list to make and a family to pay attention to. I’ve written more than enough for today. See? Learning.
It’s the weekend! Date with husband, coat shopping with child, football game, two soccer games, a birthday party to go to, a baby shower for a friend, church . . . so much to do!
But I really want to squeeze in a little chat about books. And I’m hoping you’ll join me!
I’m going to write a little post each day this weekend about a book that is really helping me live this season of my life more fully — all of them deeply influential for me right now.
And I would love to hear from you about books that are helping you Live the Season you are in, too.
You’re invited to join in the comments below with:
the name of the book and author
what season you’re living
what you love about the book/why you’d recommend it
*** Bloggers: If you are joining me by writing about your Live the Season book or books on your own blog, be sure to put a link to your post in the comments with a few sentences of preview. I can’t wait to read your posts! And if you don’t mind mentioning my post with a link, that would be nice, too.
I’m starting with an immensely practical book. The sort with lists and stuff like that.
Saturday, I’ll write about a book that inspires me in my work.
And Sunday, I’ll focus on a more spiritual book.
So here goes:
an immensely practical book that is saving my sanity at home:
The House that Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark
I am super envious of people who are both creative and organized.
I have tried every housecleaning system under the sun and have come to the conclusion that the art of housekeeping is definitely personality driven.
And those of us without a sincere love of order, who could care less about piles as long as they’re hidden, who ALWAYS have to shut AT LEAST one door when there are visitors have a considerable amount of trouble learning good housekeeping skills from people who are naturally offended by mess . . . at least I do.
I want a house clean enough that I’m not embarrassed, but lax enough that my family feels comfortable. Also, I hate daily maintenance. SoThe House that Cleans Itself — which was given to me for Christmas by my mother a few years ago — was written just for me.
The author, Mindy Starns Clark, gets me. And my husband will concur that this was the best gift he’s ever received from my mother — next to me that is.
I think she’s so good at helping me fix the mess in my home because she really thinks like I do. She is a writer, and here’s a quote:
Problem: You have a hard time remembering to pause, think, and do when it comes to the actions of daily life. Your brain is usually quite busy working on something unrelated to your body, so many of your physical actions are done without conscious thought. For example, when you’re brushing your teeth, chances are you are also designing a living room, plotting a novel, or planting a garden — in your head at least.
Also, she is a sage . . . and she reads my mind without even knowing me at all:
Problem: You are a perfectionist, or similarly, you are an all-or-nothing cleaner. You’re not going to clean at all unless you can do it right and/or do it completely. The problem is that life doesn’t often allow the luxury of that much uninterrupted time.
Perfectionists and all-or-nothingers can absolutely paralyze themselves, preferring complete inaction to doing something imperfectly or incompletely. Consequently, they miss out on a lot of life because they avoid having people come to their homes except when their places are perfectly clean.
This should be the goal of every perfectionist: to not need to be perfect. This should be the goal of every all-or-nothinger: to not have to finish everything. Ask God to begin to work such a change in you.
And she doesn’t just leave you there, she gives you step by step instructions on how to get your house in order. It’s do-able and maintainable — even for this crazy creative. My whole family loves the system. But in writing this post, I realized we need a refresher.
Who wants to clean when there’s so much writing to be done? Not me.
So what about you, friend? What practical book is helping you Live the Season?