Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Whatever Helps . . . To Get the Writing Done


Beverly Cleary, 95, author of the Ramona books and many others, writes:

"When I am writing a book I also enjoy ironing, an idiosyncrasy that probably makes me sound more domestic than I really am. Working with my hands frees my imagination."

After three delete all sessions and staring at the blinking cursor, I got out the old metal ironing board, pushed it open, and locked it into place. My writing companion cats skidded for shelter, puffed and shedding. Not a good sign.

I will take a short break, I told myself, and iron a blouse.

Okay, done. No aha moments. No breakthroughs. Sigh.

Hmm. Suddenly, I remember a rumpled shirt of my husband's. Opening his closet I am struck by the center-stage placement of the two suits he wears only to weddings and funerals--his everyday clothes jammed in the corner. No wonder he's a sartorial mess.

Fast Forward: His closet looks like the OCD fairy waved her wand: short-sleeved shirts stand at attention--like marching soldiers--all facing the same direction, neatly pressed, top button buttoned. Open my closet: more of same.

But the chapter I was writing?

Blinking cursor.

Fast Forward Again: I have put the ironing board away, especially since it quickly became home to piles of manilla files, bills, and magazines.

At last, I have found a spark, an image. Yes. Back to the computer and the project, cats by my side.

My mother and Ironing:

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this reference to ironing. It made me remember how much I like to iron. It din't get me writing, but I am looking a little sharper in my well pressed clothes!

Bil Henderson said...

Carol, I have to think this is a brilliant idea--especially since those are my shirts! Some writers prime the pump by grooming their cats, vacuuming the house, pruning the garden, etc. In your particular case, I'm partial to the iron-hubby's-shirts variation, and I'd say go with it indefinitely, as long as it's working for you.

Michele said...

My ironing board looks a bit like yours -- but its mainly laden with things to be ironed that have been there for several weeks.

I prefer cooking to free up my mind!

Katryna said...

I WISH I could be more constructive in my avoidance techniques! Though I rarely do it, ironing is a very satisfying process, very repetitive, easy to daydream, and you truly transform something.

I love the sense of time passing and the OCD fairy....

Kristen said...

Brilliant idea, this ironing thing! I'm parial to sweeping when I'm stuck. The same rotten sentence staring at me from my monitor will remind me that I need to grab the broom and get to work in the kitchen. If that doesn't work, I pull out the Swiffer and head to the bathrooms. Hadn't considered ironing - thanks for the tip!

Nancy Tilly said...

Did Beverly mean "sleeveless" shirts or short-sleeved? I don't known any men who wear sleeveless shirts (unless they're wife-beaters).
And can Beverly have meant "Alas" in the last paragraph, when she feels the spark of an idea? "At last" seems closer.
But at 95, Beverly's a natural force--long may she wave--
--Nancy Tilly

Garden Girl said...

I prefer almost any activity over ironing. To spark my creative writing I like to work in the garden or take long walks in the woods, or go on a solo car trip somewhere new.

Carol Henderson said...

Nancy: Sometimes I wish my hubby had all sleeveless shirts, but that might make him a wife beater. And, alas, why didn't I have you proof this before I posted?
The good news? Fixed. Thanks.

Olivia said...

Love this! Thanks, Carol!