I was looking at an old journal of mine, from 1992 or so, and found this bit of wisdom: "The secret to happiness: write every day and keep the house clean."
Well, it's something I keep forgetting and relearning. But for me, it's truer than ever. Writing and housekeeping are deeply connected somehow. I'm not the only woman I know whose domestic obligations are constantly getting tangled up with writing, either: we do a load of laundry before we sit down at the desk, or we write until we have to stop and buy groceries or cook dinner. I live in a household where the guy, also a writer, does half the housework, but -- and he'll correct me if I'm wrong -- I don't think he feels the same way about it. I know he likes a clean house, but it's not half the secret to his happiness.
Oh, my god. I sound like I'm in a ladies' magazine. I wish it weren't true, though. I wish my identity as a writer were stronger than my identity as mother, wife, or "The Chicken Lady."* Part of it is that I haven't published lately, but part of it is just that I find domestic life thoroughly absorbing.
And I can't even express what a surprise this is to me. At the time I wrote the note about a clean house, I thought I'd never get married. Then I thought I wouldn't have kids, or if I did, I'd be pretty indifferent at it. Turns out I love it and find it fascinating, more fascinating, usually, than writing.
Of course, kids grow up, stop asking you to read to them, join bands, grow beards, and move out. I suspect I'll return to my old ways eventually. And it's not like domesticity is incompatible with writing. It's just somewhat harder to get motivated.
Anyway, writing every day and keeping the house clean is good advice for all writers, don't you think? Not too clean, like Martha clean. But clean enough.
* No, I don't have a part-time job as a college football mascot. But I have a bunch of free ranging chickens, and lately when I tell someone where I live and which house, they say, "Oh, you're the Chicken Lady!"