Housework and the Creative Woman

“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about house cleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman….Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Housework. It’s a wholesome, responsible activity. Certain aspects of it have to be done in order to have meals, clean clothes, and a sense of order. But to what extent is it necessary when considering the life-span of art and the fulfillment of the creative self?

Consider how many works of art by women have been subsumed and lost to hours spent dusting, cooking, vacuuming. What would happen if women did less housework and made more art? Many of us have set conditions like the ones set by Cinderella’s stepmother: “If you do the floors, and if you finish the dishes, and if you fold the clothes, and if you reorganize the kids’ bedrooms, then you can spend an hour on your art.”

The arbitrary housework rules that you make up, that I make up, might only be a way of procrastinating. To paraphrase, the housework you will have always with you. Your creative drive and the ability to make art is finite.

Here are three ideas to put into practice to increase creative productivity and diminish the neverending pull of housework in your life.

Art first.

Draw first. Write first. Paint first. Pick up your instrument first. Do not “just do the dishes real quick.” That leads to a distracted spiral. The housework will bother you, it will make your mind itch. Leave it anyway. For half an hour, let your art take precedence. You will get to the dishes afterward, or you will assign it to a family member, or the chore will be there in the morning. Whatever the case, your creative self will take notice that you put it first this time. Make it a habit to let the housework wait in order to show yourself and your art that it has priority.

Lower your standards.

This practice applies to housework and art. Let the carpets and floors go for as long as you can. Accept that the way your children or your spouse does the dishes is not your way, and let them do it anyway. Buy extra underwear and socks so laundry can sit longer. No one does it all, and J. K. Rowling openly speaks of her experience: “People very often say to me, ‘How did you do it, how did you raise a baby and write a book?’ And the answer is–I didn’t do housework for four years. I am not superwoman. And, um, living in squalor, that was the answer.”

In your creative endeavors, it may not be reasonable to hold out for a two-hour block of time before you can focus. Accept that 30 minutes for writing, drawing, etc. is good enough to get something started. Focus your efforts on producing something without judging the quality. Art is made in several half-hour blocks. It helps me to remember that dollars are made up of pennies, and hours are made up of minutes. The time you spend on your art is not wasted; it accumulates.

Go somewhere else.

If you work from home even part of the time, you are probably aware of the ways that your home life intrudes on your work life. In between meetings and emails, you might unload the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, feel compelled to wipe down the kitchen counters when you get a cup of coffee. These chores do not interrupt you at the office, because you’re…at the office.

If you want to spend time on your art without the distractions of minor housework, get out of the house. Cafes and libraries provide relatively quiet spaces devoid of chores and menial interruptions. And keep finding new spaces so that the environment doesn’t become stale to you. The creative mind is just as distractible by ruts and routines as it is by noticing that the recycling needs to be taken out.

 

What you choose to invest in now will manifest results over the weeks, months, and years. Do you want to have a book, an online comic, a piece of music, an album, a sculpture, a painting to show for it? Or a really, really clean house?

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