What’s Not Getting Done When the Creative Work Is

“Do you mind even a little that you are still addicted to people-pleasing, and are still putting everyone else’s needs and laundry and career ahead of your creative, spiritual life? Giving all your life force away, to ‘help’ and impress.” —Anne Lamott

I have written more in the past year than at any other time in my life. I’ve published book reviews. I’ve entered writing contests. I’ve offered feedback to friends on their writing. And I have written a 50,000+ word manuscript. Sure, it’s messy, and it needs some deep revision, but I wrote those 50,000+ words and I’m proud of it.

This writing has been squeezed in around parenting a three year-old, maintaining our family’s schedule, dealing with quite a bit of change in my original family, and working a full-time job. I know what you’re thinking. I’m Superwoman, right? You’re thinking, like the book turned movie title, “I don’t know how she does it.”

Here are some things I’ve let go in order to write in the past year. I am not proud, but when people want to know how I get it all done, this is the real answer.

  1. Exercise: Soon to be added back to the schedule because the body does carry the brain around, after all.
  2. Moving an actual piece of furniture that is obstructing a hallway in my home. People just squeezed around it for a week.
  3. Cooking dinner. That sign at the drive-thru that says “See you tomorrow”—it’s for me. Hey, it’s a local drive thru chain and they serve a delicious veggie burger on a whole-wheat bun so we’re fine.
  4. Writing thank you notes. I know I’m from Texas where these things are sacred, but I really hope an actual spoken thank you or gratitude delivered via text message suffices.
  5. Washing dishes. I was raised to “put my kitchen to bed,” but sometimes my kitchen pulls an all-nighter and I put it to bed at 6:00 a.m. the next day.
  6. Mopping. Can we talk about all the ways people get around the job of actually mopping? Spray cleaner on the floor and wipe it with a paper towel? Done it. Spray cleaner on the end of a Swiffer. Done that too.
  7. Shredding old paperwork. I know where things are in those piles on my home office floor.
  8. Going out. I may do little dance every time a friend or family member cancels plans.
  9. My phone. When I leave it in another room for hours—that is pure freedom.
  10. Changing the bed sheets. The good news is I change them more often than a single man (which is quarterly, according to Time magazine).
  11. Spending a Saturday afternoon with my son. I have actually hired a babysitter on the weekend when my husband was working so that I could go to a coffee shop and get some writing done. You read that right: I paid to do work that doesn’t always pay.

The women who write for this blog were all inspired in some way by Renegade Mothering blogger Janelle Hanchett. We took her Write Anyway course and then later met in her Renegade Writers group. One thing Janelle repeats over and over to any woman wanting to find time for creative work is that you need to “lower your fucking standards.” You can read more about that here.

Last week, Carrie wrote about stealing time back, essentially saying no to more of what is demanded of women in order to find time for writing.

That’s what it really comes down to. Society expects us to write the thank you notes and put the kitchen to bed. And there are plenty of wonderful men who happily take on those jobs too. I’m living with one. But no amount of “leaning in together” is going to give you time to write that novel, that poetry chapbook, that screenplay. Sometimes you have to leave those socks where God (or more likely, your children) flung them, and get on with the writing. That’s what I do.

photo of Jen's entryway blocked by a couch

4 thoughts on “What’s Not Getting Done When the Creative Work Is”

  1. Fuckin’ yaaaay, I needed to read this today. My writing is way behind & low on the totem pole of priorities & I am beyond pissed. Thank you for these great reminders to re-prioritize!! (this counts as a Thank you note, correct?) Keep the suggestions & encouragement coming.

    1. Ha, Norita! That definitely counts as a thank you note. And thank you for your comment–now go push a mess to the side and write us something.

  2. Yep, my standards are dropping faster than the dead flies I don’t have time to vacuum.. thanks for the validation 😀

    PS – in Catherine Deveny’s book ‘Use Your Words’ she advocates ‘earning’ the time to do chores, shower, run, whatever it is that you think you need to get done. First you write, then you get to do those things!

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