The house is never as clean as when I have a paper due. I sit down to write and I notice that there is a speck of dust lingering at the corner of my desk. This must be dealt with immediately. Next thing I know, the floors get mopped, the windows are washed, cabinets are rearranged and the bathroom is scoured. This is saying something because I HATE to clean the bathroom.
I have noticed this pattern over the years and have berated myself at the level of procrastination and the endless techniques I employ to avoid simply sitting down and writing. The thing is, when I do actually get to the writing task I become so immersed in it that I do not want to stop. One masterful sentence leads to another and I am suddenly transported to my brilliant 'Charles Dickens' like state, at least that's how it feels at the time. So, the question remains...Why does it take me so long to arrive at that point?
I have pondered this issue with several friends of mine. One is my BFF Joy. She has written a novel, a memoir, a screenplay, numerous short stories and has had her poetry published. Words flow out of her in a seemingly effortless fashion. She has written one of my favorite short stories ever, by anyone. It's called The Old Woman in the Woods. A moving story of loss and missed opportunities.
The other is a brilliant lyricist/composer and a dear friend, Winston. Winston's writing runs the gamut from bitingly sarcastic and witty to heartbreakingly touching. A great talent. He actually makes his living doing this so his deadlines must be met.
What we have come up with is that the dusting, mopping, washing, rearranging and scouring all serve a purpose. They are part of the writing process. Win points out that doing those things are just as important as actually sitting down in front of the computer or piano. As we dust, we are composing. As we mop, we are formulating ideas. As we wash, we are playing with language. As we scour, we are editing and revising. All of this together makes the 'writing' blossom. It is why we are able to get lost in the act of writing because by the time we sit down to do it we are pulling from all of these other areas. It's a messy business this writing process.
Joy, Winston and myself are all adults. But, children and young folk go through the same process I am sure. So, Parents and caregivers take note. When your child is seemingly avoiding doing their homework they just may be processing it. Allow them time to work their magic. Creativity can not be forced. I give this advice to settle your minds. However, if they are avoiding math homework all bets are off. I have nothing to say on that topic, there is a reason I teach first grade.