Why I don’t call myself a writer: part one


Four hours set aside for writing


Hour one:

I open my computer. Then I remember I need to throw a load of clothes into the washing machine. I go down to the basement and notice the new containers we bought to organize the boxes of pictures, the winter clothes, and other must-save-because-you-never-know-when-you-might-need-it items sitting on the shelves.


Hour two:

The basement is organized. I open my computer. I hear the dryer buzzer. If I get the clothes out now, I won’t have to iron anything or, more likely, wear wrinkled clothes. When I’m putting away my blouses, I notice how messy the closet is. That is one of the things on my to-do list. After I finish, I do the hall closet as well. When I carry out the bag of clothes to give to the Goodwill, I notice my computer.


Hour three:

I open a blank Word document. It looks sad, bereft of words. My mind, ever sympathetic, also goes blank. I enter the is-ness of the blankness. I am one with the nothing that is, or is it? Maybe nothing is not. This makes me thirsty and a little bit hungry. I make a cup of tea and cut up a mango.

I notice three or four documents on the desktop that I have not put into files. I drag them to the appropriate folders. One of the files is for the genealogy folder. Last night I had an idea about how to search for one of my great-great grandparents. I’ll do just that one thing before I start. When I find something, I get another idea.

While I’ve been researching the dead, the living have been sending me emails. I will check quickly, just in case someone in Nigeria wants to share $23 million dollars with me because, of all the people on the wide world’s web, he or she selected me.

I finish the mango and open the folder marked “Blog Ideas.” I read through all of the files. Frankly, I’m appalled. Who comes up with these ideas? Then I remember I do. I close that folder and open the one called “Blog Ready.” It’s empty. I close the computer.

Hour four:

I search for the green notebook, the one in which I write other appalling ideas. Now I must find one of my Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.3mm pens. I convince myself that the words I need are hidden in one of those slender tubes.  I find one of the pens in the office cabinet on the upper left-hand shelf. The contents of the cabinet need sorting. When I sit down and begin writing, I notice I have thirty minutes left to write.

The moral of the story:

Some are called to write; I am called to clean and sort. My legacy will be clean closets. At my funeral, I expect one of my children to say, “Mother was a fairly good woman, almost average in the areas of mothering, being a wife, and writing; but, heaven’s above, she could clean out closets like nobody’s business. I’ll always remember her for that and for the way she organized her spices. And I’m so grateful she left all these papers for me to line my pantry with.”



66 thoughts on “Why I don’t call myself a writer: part one

  1. It’s funny because it’s true. Sadly, I lack the cleaning/organizing bug. But ALL of your other procrastination devices are familiar to me. (I do find that I write very well when procrastinating on something else, though! Like the work tasks I brought home with me).

  2. Good post. I’m not called to clean though I am easily distracted. When you write and have other things to do it boils down to how much you want it. Whether the other things can wait. I’m trying to keep the distractions to a minimum so I can write more. Sometimes it works. Sometimes 🙂

  3. Sorry I was delayed in writing this note but I noticed my bedspread was dirty so I had to stick it in the washer. Then the counter top was dirty. Can’t have that. Now where was I…….

  4. When we moved into this house five years ago, a floor to ceiling spice rack hung on the pantry door. I alphabetized my spices–very satisfying experience. My children ignore my writing, but they know to put those spices back where they belong.

  5. I believe you have every right to call yourself a writer…just as my roommate and I had every right to call ourselves students. Most of the time our dorm room was what some friends called “the chaos of creativity” and I called “the vertical floor-filing system” and both of us augmented unabashedly. But when one of us had a big paper coming due, My my, how could ANYONE think in that mess?…and we would sort and clean and clean and sort. Most of the papers I turned in were remarkable especially for a permanent curl in Page One, the result of that page sitting blank in the typewriter for days while Margo and I made our room Fit To Think In. You go, girl!

    • You are encouraging, RAB. I may one day work up the courage and call myself one.

      I love your “vertical floor-filing system” – which reminds me I need to work on the back room.

  6. haha, wonderful, wonderful! 🙂 but then, i just found out that am not worth being called a writer myself, how bad. and my closet isn’t even perfectly ordered. what luck! maybe, they’ll put on my tombstone “she takes out the garbage fairly often and ensures that the sinks are clean.” that isn’t much, not impressive, i guess. :c oh, well… hello, ms. yearstricken! 😉

  7. I am so impressed as I am no where near as productive with my *writing time* – I use the term very loosely of course. So instead of cleaning out closets and organizing my spice rack when I can think of nothing to blog about I am prone to waste endless hours surfing the internet. I loved this post because it made me smile and laugh which is always good for the soul.

  8. Margie

    Wow, if I could organize my basement in an hour, I’d hop down there right now! My basement is a project for when I have about a month to spare!

    • I did a major organization last summer, and my sweet husband built more shelves and bought containers so I could take things out of cardboard boxes and old suitcases. Of course, I don’t time these things; I just do them to avoid writing. 🙂

  9. It must be something about a blank sheet of paper. I am afflicted with much the same malady, so maybe I shouldn’t call myself an artist! Or maybe it is the white of the paper…? Should we start with a colored sheet? If you turn you computer screen a different color, would you be more encouraged to write?

    • I think it has something to do with the blankety-blankness of the paper. Even if I changed the paper to purple, I’m afraid my mind would be a purple blank. I need a notebook with all the words already written down for me. 🙂

  10. This is so great! You had me laughing! I often wish I had a job that put me on a schedule to be there, but then let me call out at will – since I seem to be the most inspired to write when I should be doing something else. Of course, that wouldn’t really work, because I would know I could blow off work, so there really wouldn’t be any pressure. Ah, well.

    • It’s true, isn’t it, that when you have to be at work, you suddenly have all the energy to sort the filing cabinet at home, but when you’re at home, you never quite get around to it.

      • I have TONS of energy in my thought life – just all kinds of energy for things I’m going to do “later”. “It will be So Great! I’ll do this and this and that other thing. And then I’ll tackle that big ol’ pile o’ stuff that’s parked on the dining room table.” Somehow, when the moment comes for all this Great activity to take place, I’m finding excuses to put it off again.

  11. Oh my God! I’m not alone. I’ve been nurturing the thought that I have some rare psychological disease … like the inability to recognize faces… which science is on the cusp of assigning a Latin name and making popular. Which would get me off the hook when a stranger approaches me and gives me a huge bear hug.

    You are definitely a writer .. one of the best bloggers out there. But I suspect that the most gifted writers carry extra genes for procrastination. The least talented seem to get their butts in gear and churn out trash which hits the best seller lists. .The very best are folding laundry and looking for the one and only pen they absolutely need to get those creative juices flowing. It’s in the genes.

  12. Oh… my… goodness. Every professional writer I’ve ever known has had the little problem you wrote about here. You’ve described procrastination with extraordinary prose, my friend. And now I know that your house is tended with the same thoughtful care as your sentences. I think that’s lovely!

  13. The Blankness of the reply box stumped me for a bit there when it opened. Before that, I was laughing out loud and thought I had something to say.
    My malady when I open the computer to do something is reading the articles, and then I think I have to read the comments too, and worse than all of those, is the almost compulsive need to reply to the other comments.
    I think I’m working my way up to being a top commenter, then I look at the ones that are already “Top Commenter” status and think, Really?! I want to be in That category?!!!
    And after I have almost put myself to sleep with the back and forth of commenting, Then I remember that I got on the computer to do something Else……

  14. It’s not important what you call yourself… We’re used to people making all kinds of claims. And if you’ll tolerate me for taking this in a serious vein, it can be chilling at times, to find out just what others enjoy about us… sometimes it’s not what we put our greatest efforts into. For instance, this post. What really concerns me about it, is why I got no notification that you had posted it. Can’t figure that out.

  15. I have to say that I have only envy for you and your organized spaces…lol…if only I could be productive when I’m not productive painting! Every image you created in this post; the plastic storage containers, the wrinkled clothes, the load of laundry and more; all images I relate with, but see! You deal with those! I actually find this post inspiring! I’m glad that we can all see the humour in life’s situations! And good on you for exploring your great-great-grandparents. You know I’m all about THAT distraction! Have a great day! Looking forward to the next ‘read’.

  16. Mary

    Are we twins?! At MY funeral, I expect someone to say, “She always returned her cart.” Must start grinding through my stack of notebooks! Must not worry about making a “mess.”

  17. I came to your blog through a link at Pen Addict. I completely understand where you’re coming from, but unlike you, I don’t clean to procrastinate (can you come help me with that? lol). Instead, if I’m writing I usually mess around with the music on my computer or get on the Internet. That’s why I am a better writer, if you can call it that, when I handwrite things. I can identify and enjoyed this post!

    • So glad you came by to read and that you enjoyed the post. Handwriting is good in the sense that it keeps me away from the computer. And I really love using a nice pen. Japan makes some of the best.

  18. I have wanted to write since I was ten and I’ve only been able to take the bull by the horns (!) now that I’m 50 by giving almost everything else up. Cue much more ordered house than I’ve ever had….I have cupboards full of attractively ultilitarian boxes, their silver edged labels saying things like ‘Photographs’ and ‘Stationary’ and ‘Art Materials’ (as if I ever get around to that) written with my favourite pen the ‘Uniball Micro Deluxe’. Great post great writer. Thanks.

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