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.