Unlikely Teachers

3 Things My Vacuum Cleaner Taught Me About Writing

Cleaning is often a daunting task, especially vacuuming. After I accidentally sucked up a sock as a kid and made the vacuum smoke, I am especially not fond of those suckers! (Bad pun intended) Who knew that we could learn some great writing lessons from vacuuming? The fabulous Laura Wynkoop did, that’s who!  Please give her a warm welcome.

I don’t know about you, but  household chores aren’t exactly on my list of favorite things to do.  Sure, I love the way my house looks when  it’s clean, but I often wish there was someone else to do the dirty work for  me.  After all, I’d rather be  writing.  Or researching.  Or revising.  Or checking Facebook.  Wait, ignore that last one.  At any rate, when I get to the point  where I can’t stand my house, I’m forced to get off my computer and start  cleaning.  And as I grab my Dyson  Upright out of the closet, I realize that vacuum cleaners can teach us a lot  about writing.


1. My vacuum cleaner  sucks.

Vacuum  Cleaner:  This is probably  pretty obvious, but vacuum cleaners are meant to suck.  It’s what they do.  And if you’ve got a Dyson, they’re  guaranteed to never stop sucking (they’re not paying me to say this, I  swear).

Lesson:  At times, your writing will suck.  And that’s okay.  I once heard Libbra Bray say, “Embrace  the suck.”  It’s perfectly fine to  make mistakes because that is how you  learn.  Nobody writes a perfect  first draft.  Or second draft.  Heck, I know writers who feel like their  twentieth draft still sucks.  But as  long as you keep writing, keep learning, and keep working hard to improve your  craft, you’ll one day find that you’ve written a draft that, amazingly enough,  doesn’t suck.


2. I love freshly vacuumed  floors, but I don’t love vacuuming them.

Vacuum  Cleaner:  Freshly vacuumed  floors look awesome—they’re tidy and dust bunny-free, and they have those  mesmerizing little wheel tracks across them.  But as much as I love the way they look,  I don’t exactly love vacuuming them.  It’s hard work!

Lesson: Author Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate  writing.  I love having written.” I know many writers who share this  sentiment, because, let’s face it, writing is hard work.  It’s especially hard if you’re a  perfectionist, and/or you have a really tough inner critic.  It’s important to not make this job  harder than it already is.  Learn to  open your mind and let the words and ideas flow.  Tell your inner critic to go away until  it’s time for revisions.  Forget the  rules.  Forget about getting  published.  When you free yourself  to write what YOU want to say, you’ll find you’re having a lot more fun.


3. Vacuum cleaners don’t  get everything the first time.

Vacuum  Cleaner:   When you’re  vacuuming your carpet, sometimes you have to go over the same spot several  times.  And even then, you might  have to bend down, pluck something sticky from the carpet fibers, roll it into a  tiny ball, and throw it back on the floor so you can properly vacuum it up.

Lesson:  When it comes to revisions, you’re not  going to clean up everything in the first round.  You’re going to have to go over that  paragraph, or that sentence, or that word time and time again until you’ve found  the best way to fix it.  And  sometimes, you’ll have particularly sticky areas that need to be completely  reworked until they’re just the way you want them.  At that point, set your manuscript aside  for a few days or weeks (or even months).  When you pull it out and go over it with fresh eyes, you’ll be amazed at  how much more effectively and objectively you can clean up your work.


What has your vacuum cleaner  taught you?


Laura Wynkoop lives in Southern California where you’re much more likely to  find her writing than cleaning.  She has been published in a variety of  children’s magazines including Boys’ Quest, Fun for Kidz, Highlights for  Children, Jack and Jill, Turtle, and many others.   She also edited and contributed to a middle grade poetry anthology  that was published by Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books.  For more  information, you can visit her website at www.laurawynkoop.com.


14 thoughts on “3 Things My Vacuum Cleaner Taught Me About Writing

  1. What an interesting way of looking at writing, very original I think, maybe I should read the other ones. I agree completely, especially number 2, which I always kind of say. “There’s nothing I love more than writing, there’s nothing I hate more than writing.”

  2. Nice post! Never thought about comparing the writing process to vacuuming. Hmmm… so what has my vacuum cleaner taught me about writing? You have to do it regularly it order for it to be effective.

  3. I learned absolutely nothing from MY vacuum cleaner, the scum. But I learned from your post how much fun it is to watch someone else make lemonade out of what is really, you know…
    I may have a talk with my vacuum cleaner the next time we glide all over the house together.

  4. Love it! Number 3 had me laughing. I guess I’m not the only one who “plucks, rolls, drops and sucks again!” Hee hee!

    What has vacuuming taught me that’s similar to writing? I guess I’d have to say that even though the process can be a pain in the *** sometimes, the end result can be so satisfying!

  5. ROFL! I could so relate to all three of these! Great post, Laura! I’m one of these people that hates writing, but loves having written. And I definitely hate cleaning. I can be a procrastinator at times too so I guess what my vacuum cleaner has taught me is that the longer you leave the cleaning (or writing), the harder it is to come back to. Whereas if you do a little everyday, it’s easier to maintain things.

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