This is going to be a completely personal post. I’ve been writing about things like literature and art lately, but today the most important thing I did was vacuum the rug. No, I’m serious. My room has a hardwood floor, and on top of that is a cream-colored rug, and I don’t remember when it had last been vacuumed. But too long ago.
So today I vacuumed it and started thinking about all the other messes I have to clean up.
There’s the mess around me: piles of paper on the tops of shelves that need to be gone through. I don’t even remember what some of them are anymore, but I know that at least a few of the notebooks contain unfinished stories. At least all the poetry is in one place, so I can start working on putting together the poetry collection. There’s a special shelf for that. But I have manuscripts in piles, notebooks, some envelopes (what is in them? I knew once). Books in the wrong places.
And then there is the mess that is email. I have so many things I need to follow up on – some contracts I need to get out, interview questions I need to answer, and just plain responses to send. Oh, and facebook messages I haven’t answered either. Ugh.
And then there is the mess that is my life in general – people I’ve promised to meet for coffee that I seem to keep putting off, friends to catch up with. Seriously, I don’t know why my friends put up with me. I’ve been so awful at keeping in touch. They have the patience of saints.
And then, finally, there is the mess that is me, and that’s the biggest mess of all. I’m so used to staying up half the night working that I can’t seem to go to sleep before 3 a.m., I don’t remember the last time I stretched or exercised (other than running up and down flights of stairs in my normal routine), and it’s time to once again face the fact that organic brownies and ice cream sandwiches only sound healthy. (Also, simply to stay awake, I’ve been drinking coffee, which I love but to which I’m exquisitely sensitive. That’s probably why I’ve been able to stay up the way I have.)
You know I hate messes. I hate, most of all, being a mess.
So it’s time to clean up. Yoga, pilades, ballet. Dinner is Manhattan clam chowder, vegan whole-wheat pizza, and probably steamed broccoli (one of my favorite vegetables). Tonight, I’m going to get to sleep by midnight (all right, I’ll try). Tomorrow, dance class.
And then I’m going to keep cleaning (getting the books back in their proper places, doing laundry – yes, I’m even behind on laundry). Because when things are a mess, I can’t think. And that’s what it’s been like recently – not being able to think, being both restless and bored at the same time, unable to settle down. That’s not the way I work well.
Most people seem to work to live – that is, they work so they can have the lives they want, in a nice location, a nice house. So they can spend their leisure time doing other things. But that’s not quite what the arts are like, is it? My work is not what I do in order to have something else – it is primary. Everything else I do is, in a sense, to support the work. So that I can create the things I want to. I don’t write stories so I can go on a nice vacation. I arrange my vacations so I can write stories.
And that’s what I want: a life that allows me to do the art as seamlessly, as easily, as effectively as possible. Which is why I need to clean up the messes, including the mess that is myself. I want to be and feel at my best, so I can think clearly, so the ideas and words can come out. So I can dream my dreams and turn them into realities.
(But I’m still going to have an organic ice cream sandwich for dessert.)