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My Furniture

Dining Rm Table w/ Back of Morris Chair

No, not my home office furniture. That would keep me from writing, but my dear friend Ava just gave me her husband’s ergonomic office chair.

It was a conversation with Ava that made me aware that, although I’m not a “neat freak” by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, housecleaning takes up a lot of my (writing) time. It was just before Christmas when we spoke, and I was deep into the kind of cleaning you only undertake before company’s coming and you think everyone will be judging you. It wasn’t the once or twice a week type of cleaning you do just to prevent a gradual slide into squalor.

My problem is that my husband and I own antiques and heirlooms. Here’s a mere sample of their demands.

Our lamps incorporate complicated curlicues and fretwork (which, in some cases are hidden by the shades). To dust them, I have to painstakingly slip the point of a rag through each tiny opening and make sawing motions. The early 20th century dining room chandelier from my childhood home in New York is too fragile to swipe with the vacuum cleaner. Preventing dust from hanging from it like fuzzy grey icicles requires my mounting a wobbly, 100-year-old oak chair and executing a precarious balletic stretch over the dining room table, duster gently flailing.

We use an old-fashioned Duncan Fyfe affair as our kitchen table. That wonderful reference book, What’s What, describes it as supported by swinging gates, turnings, stretchers, and even knees. Those knees are attached to as many legs as a spider has and I take trips to the floor on my hands and knees to clean them. The dining room table has only two legs, but they are giant pedestals that can only be reached by easing myself under the table, stretching my arms, and waving my cloth around, hoping it hits dust.

A friend was moving to London and offered his antiques for sale. For $35, we bought an authentic Morris chair with slender balusters on the sides and horizontal spindles in back; a Victorian “lady’s” chair with wooden thingies I won’t even try to describe, but which, like the lamps, have to have a rag poked through them, and an old library lamp with green glass shades mounted in the fragile brass necks. Caught up in a rare bargain hunter’s euphoria, I didn’t consider what all these would take to maintain.

Unlike modern furniture that has the sense to be manufactured to look polished, our blond oak chest with designs etched on its doors, the large Victorian bishop’s chair, and all the rest of the stuff has to be occasionally, but actually, polished.

Leave a comment about what interferes with your writing.

And check back for the next in this series of excuses, I mean reasons, for what interferes with my writing.

Twitter: @lynettebenton

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32 Responses to “What Keeps Me From Writing? My Furniture”

  1. Ardee-ann says:

    I don’t even have fussy furniture to use as an excuse for not writing. It is my general lassitude, lugubriousness, laziness and misguided perfectionism that are my stumbling blocks.

    Why couldn’t I be a perfectionist about house cleaning and my eBay business but NO I find myself being obsessive about my writing and every little word that I utter in print. I have used NaNoWriMo and JulNoWriMo to force me into writing and just getting it done. I CAN throw the bones down and then later fill in the good stuff but for the most part I tend toward a certain lackadaisical nature when it comes to my writing and yet I feel that I must write or I shall explode. It is a conundrum to be sure.

    This is what keeps me from writing. I get in my own way. That is more than enough. Sigh!

    Ardee-ann

  2. My family gets in the way. You see, I love writing about life almost too much. In fact, sometimes more than actually taking the time to live it. I am always observing. Living a parallel existence outside of myself, I’m always semi-detached, watching everything unfold like a good drama flick. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my life and yet, my five “ridiculously adorable high maintenance kids and husband-with-the-killer-calves” require a lot of “dusting” and “polishing” —similar to your fussy furniture. Only difference is that mine talks, whines and needs to be fed on occasion.

  3. Sunny says:

    Sleepiness gets in my way…

    You have a beautiful home. I love fresh flowers. They always brighten a room. Your furniture sounds fussy, indeed; but it is all so pretty. Once the pieces are clean, they sound like they make for inspiring surroundings.

  4. Naya G says:

    For me, it is somewhat similar in that the daily family activities always seem to require more time and energy from me, so that stealing away some of either for my writing can become yet another chore. But things really do work best all around when I can cherish (and maximize the use of) what moments I do have.

    So my notebook and pen really do go everywhere with me and if we end up sitting around the table after dinner watching the news, I won’t hesitate to take a moment to capture a word or two, even a whole paragraph to be expanded on later. And I found that washing dishes is a oddly quiet moment amidst the nightly hub-ub where I can mull over scenes and “chat with my characters”.

    Another thing that interferes with productive writing for me though is making the mental switch from all my different worlds to a space where I can just write. That shutting out and calming down transition is extremely difficult for me some days and most of my writing has to be done very early in the morning for this reason. Nice and early when the house and mind are still relatively quiet.

    Thanks for asking this question, Lynette! Great post – sounds like you have some really beautiful pieces. All that dusting would drive me up the wall though! :) Be well.

    ~Naya (@mindfulbeauty)

  5. Mary Schutter says:

    I am my own worst enemy when it comes to writing–or not writing. I have ADHD and an anxiety disorder to boot and have never resorted to taking medication for either, much to the chagrine my family members who must deal wth me on a daily basis.

    I’m an expert at distracting myself in any number of ways, one of which is spending hours cleaning what isn’t dirty. If everything that isn’t dirty has already been cleaned, I surf the net doing neat stuff like reading writing blogs or pretending to be doing things related to writing. The real reason I allow these distractions to derail my efforts is that I’m beyond excellent at letting my fear of failure (Who in his right mind would want to publish my junk?), and my fear of success (I might be asked to speak about my work. Horrors!), keep me from productivity.

    Sometimes I become so frustrated I have a serious conversation with myself that goes something like this: “For crying out loud, get busy and write something! Print it, stick it in an envelope along with a cover letter, and mail it to somebody who has the word ‘editor’ after his or her name!”

    Occasionally, my self-talk actually works, and I do submit my literary endeavors. It’s a good feeling that results from knowing my darling creation is on its way to the desk of a person who might value it enough to puchase it. Now, while I’m waiting to hear from that editor, I think I’ll go clean something.

  6. Terry says:

    Or – if you can’t hire help….just let the cracks and crevices get dusty…it might protect the chair after all.

    I like Darah’s comments and boy, can I relate!! Family members have the most needs, and it is SO difficult for some of us not to want to take care of every need. I am working on that this year.

  7. Hi, Lynette,
    I decided the worst interference with my writing time (when I do have writing time) is other writing. If I’m working on one thing, I often get conflicted–is this the best use of my creative streak? Why don’t I hop over to that other project? What about the blog? But really, shouldn’t I channel it into plain old bread-bringing work? What about…
    It goes on and on and sometimes I don’t get too far in either direction!

  8. Virginia says:

    Let me count the ways … paid jobs, laundry, the need to eat. Most of all, my inner critic trying to stop me from starting.

  9. Hi, Virginia.
    Thanks so much for commenting. We can all share. In fact, when I read your comment, i thought I had written it!
    My booklet, Polish and Publish, is in its way to you. I hope the tips in it will help you get going and keep up the moemntum!

    Regards,
    – Lynette

  10. Shakirah:

    I can SO relate to what you wrote in your comment. (If you ever have time, I’d LOVE for you to write a short guest post on the subject! I think it’s a comment conflict that most of us writers don’t even recognize.)

    I’m thrilled to be in touch with you and have the benefit of your fine writing, so whatever you decide to write, just write!

    Your copy of Polish and Publish is on the way! I hope you find it useful (even though it doesn’t cover trying to choose among writing projects).

  11. Anna says:

    Oh my – I think I’d be tempted to use a soft brush on some of that. It might not pick up the dust but it would get it off those tiny places. Something like a really soft hair brush.

  12. Bekah says:

    I find the thing that gets in the way of my writing the most is my job. The demands, the long hours, and the fact that I am a copywriter and editor leaves me feeling drained at the end of the day. Since my job revolves around writing and editing for others, most days the last thing I want to do after work is more writing. Too often I feel my creativity is stifled and do not have the inspiration or motivation to do my own writing.

  13. Thank you, Bekah! I hear you. But, you know, the funny thing is that when I worked a job with long hours, much of them spent writing, I actually published more of my work. Go figure.

    Thanks so much for your comment. Your copy of Polish and Publish is on the way to you.

  14. Thanks for your comment, Anna. (I was hoping you were going to suggest I try looking the other way or hiring a maid!)

    I’m sending your copy of Polish and Publish right away. I hope you find it helpful.

  15. Thank you for your comment.

    I love your contribution, Mary—and your candor! All I can say is that if your “real” writing is as smooth as your “comment” writing, do keep submitting your work. In the meantime, you might relate to my posts, “Writer’s Remorse,” http://bit.ly/b4g5Uo and “Who’d Read This Book Anyway?” http://bit.ly/9DLvxZ.

    I’m sending you Polish and Publish right now. I hope it supports your writing efforts.

    – Lynette

  16. Thanks for your kind comment, Sunny. You know how it is: pretty stuff gets too complicated sometimes. But I *do* like our house.

    So it’s sleepiness that creeps up when you want to write, huh? I usually don’t try to do any creative writing at night—maybe just make a few notes. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open.

    Well, I’m about to send you Polish and Publish. Maybe it’ll give you some ideas on how to write long before it’s time for bed!

  17. Great ideas, Naya. I use some of those myself. You’re right that washing dishes seems to bring out creativity. Don’t know what I’d do if I had a dishwasher. :-) Like you, also, I’m most productive in the early morning, but my writing occupies a portion of my mind all day.

    BTW: The dusting *is* driving me up the wall. I’ve been ignoring it these past few days.

    Polish and Publish is on the way to you. Enjoy it!

  18. My goodness, what doesn’t keep me from writing? A big thing is cleaning the office–which unfortunately usually does need de-cluttering. Today I paid a few bills, got my stuff together for the taxes, did a few other things, cleaned out the keyboard drawer, un-cluttered the desk, got a few birthday cards out, wrote a good idea about the end of Book 1 of my proposed trilogy and emailed that to myself at two addresses, answered a few LinkedIn things, read a bit of Dan Simmons’ Drood and Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, commented on a few websites, answered email, sent texts, and after I finish this, I need to shovel the driveway and then do a lot of the job I have that pays The Man. When it comes to being majorly productive and not writing, I’m a professional!!! (Is a download of your book still available? If so, I can read that instead of writing, too! But it sounds like it could help…)

  19. Naya G says:

    Thanks Lynette! I received it and will take a look at it tomorrow, maybe after the shoveling…

    I can relate to so many of the comments!! This was such a great idea. Thanks again.

    ~Naya

  20. Naya G says:

    Shakirah – bc of the ADD, I especially have to struggle with the urge to work on other projects. I would love to talk to you about this more if you like – I have a bunch of thoughts on the topic, including pros and cons of going with such a scattered flow. I’m mindfulbeauty on twitter if relevant. And happy writing!

    Mary, I have very similar biochemistry, and have found a few ways to cope (incl a life-saving treatment but i don’t mention that as a judgement) but the reality is that no one thing seems to work all the time or even for long periods of time. But that’s part of the ADD. One thing I struggle with is how much to let my personal struggles actually come out in my non-fiction writing (on wellness). The inner critic gets kinda ancy when I consider it. I think that means all the more reason to test the comfort level a bit. We shall see. Good luck with the mss being reviewed!

  21. Steven, I love your artful reply. Sure you’ll get a copy of the book. Hope it helps distract, I mean informs, you! Thanks for your entertaining (yet probably true) comment.

  22. Whew! Thanks for the comment. As you can imagine, I have no specific advice for you, except, don’t explode! I love your candor and insight, so . . . I’m sending you Polish and Publish.

  23. Fariza says:

    My biggest problem is not having enough time to do everything I enjoy, or may be my real problem is I enjoy too many things. But since I can’t change any of that, the obligations related to my work, which I also enjoy supersede my hobbies, writing being one of them. My work schedule is flexible, so sometimes as the unexpected trespasser, it appears and takes too much of my time. After that is gone, the hobbies seem to compete with each other to have access to the rest of my time. Although I am more inclined to spend the time for writing, the other hobbies help me to clear my mind for focusing on what I want to write. But that means losing more time. Also, I love to sleep, which takes away more time. I am trying to find a way to have more time for writing, and someday I may succeed!

  24. Hi, Fariza: It’s wonderful to get to know this aspect of your life. Sleep? It’s fantastic. Hobbies/interests? I know their seduction. Work? There’s just too much of it.

    I’m so glad you make time to write your beautiful, evocative poems and attend my writing class!

    Your copy of Polish and Publish is on the way.

  25. [...] If you enjoyed this post, you might also like “What Keeps Me From Writing? My Furniture.” [...]

  26. Melissa says:

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  27. My dogs! They are so freakin’ cute and each wants lovies and attention on and off all day long! I am more than happy to take my eyes off the blank screen and adore them to bits and back again. :)

  28. I hear you. There are times that anything at all is enough to draw us writers away from that blank, or terribly badly written, page. :-)

    I’m sending you Polish and Publish—something else to distract you from actually writing! :-)

  29. Sure. Please include it. Thanks.

  30. The Internet keeps me from writing. I have multiple sclerosis and use voice-activated software to write. This requires me to use the computer which also has “always on” high-speed Internet access. Once I power-up the ‘puter, I MUST check my e-mail (hey, it might be important!). Then, well, gotta check the news (Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook). Maybe there are things I need to respond to, better do it before I forget! Uh oh, time to play a couple games to unwind. Oh look: I’ve got mail! Better jump on it. Hey, I’m hungry – time for lunch. Then maybe, just maybe I’ll have some inspiration. Now what was that great piece I thought of during lunch? Hmm… Nope, forgot. Dang! Oh, well. Time to check my e-mail……

  31. Michelle: I think your experience is widely shared by writers! Thanks for admitting it. You’re not alone. :-)

  32. Oh, and I’m sending you Polish and Publish! Hope you’ll enjoy it.

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