Have you ever stopped, looked around and wondered how your home had become so…chaotic? So downright disorderly, even? A few weeks ago I finished my final book for the year. The last deadline was met with a certain feeling of jubilation, but then I had Christmas to contend with, and a much needed family holiday to pack for.
When we got home, refreshed from being elsewhere, the zen soon waned when I realized I had a lot to do to make my house a home once more. In the three years I’d been writing for HQ, meeting one deadline after the next, the house and accoutrements had taken a backseat. So far back, in fact, it was virtually on another planet.
My fingers though itched to start another book, another story, so I could get lost in a world I had yet to imagine. Without being in the middle of a book, without a tight deadline looming all I could see was the fact the clutter had built up here and there and it suddenly wasn’t part of the furniture anymore. I could see it all.
Books stacked precariously on shelves, piles of paperwork gathered dust waiting to be filed. Curtains needed to be washed…and let’s not even mention the washing room. Yes, a washing room, a spare bed heaped with clothes waiting to be folded and put away. We don’t do things by halves in this household. When we make a mess it’s a good one.
Decluttering seemed a daunting task when it would be so much easier, so much more enjoyable to roll my sleeves up and get to know some new characters. To find out what they liked, what they loathed, and most importantly who they loved, and how they were going to achieve their dreams with all the hurdles I’d make them jump over. Sorry fictional people, it has to be done.
But isn’t decluttering good for the soul? Wouldn’t I write better, more efficiently if I sorted my washing, my desk, the kids’ toys, those walls that need a scrub? Already, though, I could envisage the sisters in my next book, their long faces, as they sat impatiently waiting for me to tell their story. Drumming their fingers on the bench. Hurry up!
Gazing around my house it was impossible to overlook the disorderly corners, the streaky windows. Because I knew, if I went to those sisters, if I sat down at the computer, and got to know their quirks, their foibles, I would be lost. It would only take an hour or so before my fingers found the usual rhythm on the keyboard, and everything around me would blur, except the black font in front of me. Once I started their tale I too would have to know what happened next. Even when I switched the computer off for the day, I would still be with them at the little Parisian café where they sipped café au lait, chatting about love and life and everything in between.
So I resisted the urge to write. Knowing that if I did start a story my house would stay the same, possibly for another three years. Selective sight would kick in, and instead of seeing what was right in front of me, I’d see the Eiffel tower. The river Seine. Or my heroine’s little apartment just off the Champs Elysees, where fresh pink flowers perfumed the small space, and everything had its place. She was only one person after all. It was easier wasn’t it, for one person to keep up with their washing, to file their paperwork, to declutter when the yellow flowers budded in Luxembourg gardens denoting spring had arrived?
But really I owed it to her to tell her tale. She was waiting week after week, sitting forlornly at her dining room table waiting for love to find her, and here I was contemplating whether I should repaint walls, and sort out my books by alphabetical order, or by colour. It was almost cruel to think of such domestic things when my American girl in Paris was having such a tough time adjusting to her new life, her family far away. Her sister having left her with but a kiss on the cheek and promises to visit soon…
But what about my life, my real life? Surely I deserved a few weeks to get things in order? I realized that with decluttering my house, my possessions, it felt like a real grind, something to be done but with minimal enjoyment. Whereas when I wrote, when I got lost in a new story, an exotic world, it was like a decluttering for the mind.
It was like losing your way in the most exciting of places, and understanding everything else could wait. Who cared about the vacuuming? I had real things to worry about, like the fact my heroine was one step away from getting on a plane leaving Paris for good, without experiencing everything a twenty-something needs to experience. Without even giving love a chance! It was unthinkable! A travesty! I had to do something, and if that meant we had shop bought pre-packaged salad for dinner that was okay, wasn’t it?
Would it be so bad if I stuffed the paperwork in a drawer? Ignored the higgledy-piggledy piles of paperbacks, and vowed to organize them by colour later, much later, when the book was done. When I knew that my heroine found love, or found the happiness she so deserves?
I contemplated it all. It was only a matter of time before the house was silent. The kid’s soft snores punctuated the night. Husband had disappeared into wherever husbands go. The dog asleep on his back, legs in air. That moment where it was just me, and the voices in my head. And those voices didn’t say, let’s clean up the house, oh no no, they most certainly didn’t.
With a shrug, I switched on the computer and wrote, Chapter One…
Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true love.