Cleaning House

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My husband and I are moving. Today. In fact, as you read this queued post, we are probably beginning to unload furniture from the truck and into our new place.

I’m excited. There’s a spare bedroom that’s going to become my office so I finally have a place of my own to work in private. The birds will get more space and sunshine and we gain lots of closets and my husband’s commute to work will be easier. Lots of perks to be had!

But the old apartment. Ah, the old place. How it haunts. Looms. Menaces. It is full of boxes and suitcases and dust and more than a few recently-discovered spiders in long-ignored storage areas. Eugh. As exciting as the new place is, we know we must deal with the state of the old one.  As we’ve been packing and organizing and throwing things out, my husband and I have both suffered from the Urge to Clean.

I want so badly to vacuum every corner. sweep up every dust bunny, mop every inch of flooring – but I’ve stopped myself. It sounds like a pretty stupid idea, not cleaning when the urge strikes, but it’s going to make sense in a moment, I promise.

Now, when I went to culinary school (I bet you didn’t know I’m a trained pastry chef, did you?), I was taught by my favorite Chef Instructor, “Clean as you go – that’s my motto” and in many aspects of life (cooking, especially), it has served me well. But I’ve discovered two places that this cheerful little rhyme is actually hurtful: writing and moving house.

When writing a first draft (we’ll talk about Shitty First Drafts in a blog post soon, don’t worry), the urge to edit and change and tweak and perfect as you go affects most of us. We dawdle over a passage or spend an hour re-working a bit of dialogue. Well, don’t. Just write. Get the damn thing over with and in the meantime – leave it alone!

In the same way that it will better serve my husband and I to first get everything out of the apartment and then come through and clean it, so too does it make more sense to finish an entire rough first draft of a story or novel and then come back through and edit it. Don’t make more work for yourself – write now, edit later. Trust me, those edits will still be there when you come back to them later.

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Why Do We Make Things?

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Our hands itch to be used. They cry out for a task to fulfill. If you give it to them, they will thank you or perhaps they will hate you for it. It does not matter either way for they were given to us to do things with.

Type. Clap. Write. Hold. Throw. Squeeze. Punch. Crush. Paint. Wash. Peel. Grip. Mold.

Do.

What Birds Have Taught Me

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In addition to being a writer (and a hopeless coffee addict) I am a bird lady. Two parrots live with my husband and I and we also act as a foster home as needed. Meeting such a wide range of companion birds through a local rescue and rehoming organization has given me a new perspective on animals, people, trust, and relationships.

The parrots found in most homes are wild animals, most no more than two generations removed from their free-flying tropical brethren. They are also prey animals, unlike the cats and dogs to which so many of us accustomed, and so they react to us and to the world around them very differently from the way that predators do. When a bird gives you its trust, that is an incredible little gift.

Bringing an animal into your home is a commitment. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to learn from one another. I’ve learned some lessons from the birds that have shared my home:

Enjoy food. Love food. Throw food around if you have to – and if you are a bird, you have to – to make sure it brings you joy. Eat your greens and your fruit and your health food and steal the good stuff from the plates of people you love. They’ll forgive you.

Snuggle up with the important people in your life. Get warm and close and comfortable with the ones you love. Kiss them and touch them and take care of them. Never stray too far for too long from your flock.

Choose your friends wisely. Almost everyone can be a good friend but only a few people can be your special someone. If you give your love and trust to someone, be sure they are worthy. Stay loyal to them for the rest of your life.

Forgiving can be scary. If someone shouts at you or hurts you by accident or frightens you, it isn’t always easy to give them another chance. If you can find the courage, though, try to believe that they didn’t mean it and that they will work hard not to do it again. Forgiveness is hard but but second chances are powerful opportunities for everyone. Try to believe that people will be good.

Take good care of yourself. Make sure your body is in good shape and, if you want to, go ahead and make sure you are pretty! Put aside time every day for self-care and preen if you want to. Preen until you are the prettiest bird around.

Sing and dance and shout with joy when you are happy. Celebrate when life is being good to you. Don’t get so caught up in the difficulties of life that you can’t just let loose once in a while.