I don’t have a dishwasher at my house. This isn’t necessarily a moral or economic or environmental choice, it’s just that when we moved in 3 years ago, the house didn’t have a dishwasher. Because of laziness, lack of electrical / plumbing knowledge, etc., we’ve never put one in.
Though we’ve talked about it a few times, I (not so) secretly hope we don’t add one. Washing dishes is a lot like writing. No, for real. Here’s why.
Washing dishes is magical.
“What the…,” you’re thinking, I know. In elementary school, I remember the teacher asking if there were any volunteers to help wash lunch trays in the cafeteria. Looking back now, it seems like a pretty odd request, especially since it was a job they paid others to do. But I jumped at the chance. You got to slam all the lunch trays on this huge metal workboard, and then funnel all the excess food down this blackhole to outer space, probably. Then we got to use this showerhead-sprayer on all of the trays, and we just pressure-washed the heck out of those trays to get the excess mac-n-cheese and ketchup smears off. Then we put them in the drying rack area and they went through this hot dryer, making the same very dirty trays clean again (Did we use soap? I can’t remember…).
I thought the people that got wash dishes on a regular basis had the coolest jobs in the world.
Ok, now I realize that not everyone views washing dishes in the same way I do. And not everyone views writing as being magical either–but it is, right? Or we wouldn’t devote so much time to reading, writing, and creating. There’s a special interplay between words, form, structure, and idea that creates something unique. I’ve seen read some really great writers who got me excited about it.
Like my elementary school self, I’ll dive into it with one sense of eagerness, one sense of process, and another of wonder.
Sometimes it’s frustrating, sure, but it’s that simple joy that keeps bringing us back.
Washing dishes is a job.
Later on in my life, I actually did do dishes for money. Sometimes it was pleasant, other times it wasn’t. But I still did it. There was enough of a kernel in what I liked about it to make me do it for money, and other times I did it even though I didn’t like it. But it taught me patience and perseverance.
In the same way, I often view writing as a job. I view it that way, because for me it is a job. I work at it everyday. I write stuff for other people and they give me money for it. Sometimes I like what I’m writing about, sometimes I don’t. But there’s enough there, enough of a kernel, for me to really appreciate it.
However, in my personal, creative writing, I don’t always apply the same rigor. I get too caught up in that “magic” that I mentioned before, and if the magic’s not there, I often don’t do it. (Am I contradicting myself from this post?)
And just like dishes, if i don’t write, things get messy. I forget where I was going. I forget what character was doing what. I forget the goal. I forget the next scene. Then it’s a sludge I have to tread through, without any high-powered sprayers.
When I start the faucet, pour soap in, and then grab a plate, it begins. Press in the wand, get the food off, rinse, and go. It’s a rote process. My mind fills up with all kinds of things, including writing problems. Taglines for work. How to structure emails. Knotty problems in whatever fiction I’m working on. As I’m elbow-deep in water, I’m also sinking into my creative problems.
Do I have to write everyday? No. Do I have to do dishes everyday? Technically, no. But things are easier when I do, no matter how much I don’t want to.