Cleaning out the cobwebs

By Sally Carpenter

One of my at-home projects for long holiday weekends is to sweep and mop the floors. This may not sound like much, but to me it’s an ordeal. It involves chasing the cats outside and then picking everything off the floor and stacking them on either the bed or sofa, leaving me no place to sit down until the floors dry.

Of course the day after the mopping, rain came and my cats trod over the clean floor with little wet paws. All the work for nothing!

But this attitude toward mopping doesn’t mean I’m a slob. I’m actually a neatnick. Every object has its place and must be put there. My writing space is not strewn with papers or books. Papers are filed away and books are in neat piles or on shelves. When I need something, I know exactly where to find it.

 The down side is that I get cranky if things are misplaced. I love Christmas decorations, but I’m not happy until every item is hung or put out and the packing bins are put away.

My desk at the office is the same way; clear save for some framed cat photos and mementos. Papers are in the hanging folders in the drawer. Even the items on my bulletin board are hung in a methodical fashion.

What has this to do with writing? Some say house cleaning is a procrastination to keep from writing, but for me, I can’t concentrate when my house—or life—is a mess. Sometimes I’ll even stop working just to take care of the stack of dirty dishes in the sink.

I need a clear space so I can think clearly. If I’m distracted by financial or personal issues, I can’t be creative.

Two years I cut down on my writing obligations because I was getting distracted. My mind was in a jumble, hopping from one thing to do to the next and as a result accomplishing little—certainly not as far as writing the next book.

 Also, my mysteries are crafted in an orderly manner. The structure is solid and builds to a logical conclusion. My tidy house reflects my state of mind.

If I’m facing writer’s block or can’t get motivated to write, it’s often a sign that I need to slow down, rest and get focused. I need to put aside the other “to dos,” stop playing computer solitaire (the writer’s bane), sit down with my pen and clipboard, and start writing. That’s how this post was written.

And hanging up the colorful Christmas decorations helps as well.

What do you do to clear out the mental cobwebs?


12 thoughts on “Cleaning out the cobwebs

  1. But Sally–mopping the floors is a traditional Pagan/magickal practice for clearing the decks, cleaning out the cobwebs and negative energy, and so forth! They even sell special magickal wash for those who practice such things. I know a lady who swears by it whenever she feels tainted or that someone is draining her energy or whatever. So you are following in a long grand tradition! I know people have different ways of clearing the decks and getting re-started. I wish I were more of a cleaner-upper. I get good ideas while taking a shower or driving in traffic. That’s frustrating, because I lent my voice recorder to Hubby for meetings and can’t get it back, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe I need some of this magical wash to plot out my next book! The end of the year is always a good restart for me because I clear out my paper files from the past year, have a vacation from the day job, and have time to focus on writing.


  2. I like to walk or ride my horse to clear the cobwebs in my head. But I do get my best ideas while doing mindless things like painting the house, driving hay equipment, or mopping the floor.

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    1. Riding a horse sounds so cool! I think the “mindless” things give our subconscious mind a chance to work and let ideas bubble up. I’ve thought of things during the morning commute as well.


  3. I don’t think of the mess as a mess. I think of it as informal filing. It may not look like a system to anyone else, but I know in which heap are the notes I scribbled about a work in progress, and in which heap are my reference materials. I clear my brain with running, yoga, any kind of movement. Even getting up and walking from one room to the next will loosen my creative flow. Just writing even when I think I’m stuck can lead to breakthroughs, too.

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    1. Hi Amber. Every person has his/her own system of organizing. I think my system is very methodical but someone else might not think so. I think getting the conscious mind off the problem helps; that’s why ideas come in the shower or at the sink washing dishes.


  4. Relaxation techniques are great to unclutter the brain. One thing that works for me is “cat breaks,” stopping to pet the cats, especially when Boots jumps on the desk beside the computer!


  5. Sally, I understand completely: I am the same way and discovered a long time ago that mult-tasking did more harm than good. I try to live in the moment, now, and how I hate clichés, but it’s true. I also do deep breathing, yoga and my own form of pilates/calisthentics to help me along.

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    1. One of the editors at the office has a messy desk. I don’t know how he finds things, but he gets the paper out each week. Some people thrive on the beauty of a “uniquely arranged” desk.


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