Writing is a Very Dirty Habit

Some days, writing simply serves as my own muddled version of confession.

I wish I always came to the keyboard with the honorable intention of making people really think.

But more often than not, I write when people disappoint, frustrate or simply anger me.

Fortunately for others, I don’t usually share those thoughts publicly in writing. I do, however, write about them. I’ve always just been compelled to transfer most of my emotions and all of my opinions into the written word.

I scribble them in the margins of meeting agendas when the person speaking is a blowhard. I jot them on notepads when I’m on the phone with someone who is obviously making excuses. And I type pages and pages when I’m forced to sit on the sidelines while someone blatantly lies, manipulates and abuses his position.

I admit there are times when I’m able to quietly call out these people by surreptitiously weaving them into my blog. But, for the most part, I simply let my written words and the space they occupy clutter my desk, my computer, my brain and my life.

And if that clutter weren’t enough, the time I spend writing far exceeds the time I spend cleaning up those or any other messes.

For the record, I do clean. I simply do just enough to ensure my house will never be featured on an episode of Hoarders or that my family isn’t forced to wear dirty and stained clothes.

To me, the task of cleaning is comparable to cooking. While some people take pride in their spotless homes and fabulous meals (as they should), I only see a lot of time spent doing something that won’t last. Clean houses always require more cleaning, and meals that take hours to prepare can be gone in minutes.

Writing can last forever…or at least as long as someone is willing to read what you wrote (even when the reader and the writer are one in the same.)

I know my life would be less messy if I spent more time cleaning and less time writing. It just wouldn’t be as memorable.

I have a box full of diaries dating back to second grade. The spelling is sometimes amusing, but the narrative is always entertaining. The diaries chronicle my life from the first entry (a meeting with Senator Bob Packwood that ended with a reprimand from my mother for offering him my left hand to shake) to the angst of adolescence and the wonder of emerging adulthood.

I have drawers full of cards and letters sent in a time before emails.

And I have bags of notes that were passed between friends and classes in high school. These notes could be an exhibit about an art form that was lost forever with the advent of text messaging.

These items take up space.

Writing takes up time.

And life takes up emotional and physical energy.

We are all defined by how we spend those resources.

Recently, a friend was recalling an obituary published in the Washington Post several years ago. The name in the obituary had been forgotten, but a description of the deceased was seared in my friend’s memory:  “She loved to vacuum.”

This statement and the obituary struck a chord in my friend. “Will people remember me because I vacuum or will people remember me for being passionate about something?” she asked.

For me, I hope the answer is easy.  I’d rather be remembered for my passions – and even all the emotions they elicited – than to be remembered for whether or note there were dust bunnies under the beds.

Writing, after all, can be a very dirty habit.

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About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a daughter in high school, a son starting his latest adventures at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on September 16, 2012, in My life, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Wow, Trina. You are the epitome of ME! As I speak, I am messing with words on the page while I should be washing clothes and cleaning the dust in my bedroom (not to mention the rest of the house).

    I am wondering about all this writing we do and how some of it stays in our minds and messes of the good stuff. It’s hard to clean up our writings to focus on meaningful writing sometimes, isn’t it? I guess Morning Pages helps me with this, as I get all that stuff out of the way so I can shift my writing to more purposeful writing.

    What do you do to “clean up your writing messes”? (Not that I see you have any, just assuming that you have the same amount of notebooks, cards and letters in boxes and shelves that I do! )

    Shari 🙂

    • Good question! I have one of those minds that is constantly going in different directions, so there are times when wring does help “clean up” a bit. I do have a tendency to write on everything… scraps of paper, backs of envelopes, etc.then do absolutely nothing with what I wrote… so maybe I should say the recycling bin? I also have a lot of draft blogs that never get published!

  2. I know I know… I have lots of writing messes now. They are not on my scraps of paper here and there. They are the ones where the laundry waits for 7 whole days instead of the two I used to do, and dinner is put together AFAP (as fast as possible). And the dog has to wait to get walked. One more minute writing – puleeze! It’s my pleasure and yes, the rest can just wait. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  3. I totally get where you are going. I spend so much time on my laptop writing and working. Sometimes my husband and son just sit and shake their heads. I have composition books full of works in progress. My assistant stays busy typing them into manuscripts. Sometimes she comes in and I have a whole stack of rambling notes. She just laughs and says “More job security”. I do manage to dust, vacuum and wash clothes, but I designate those duties to a couple of hours on Saturday mornings.I recently pulled out a box of letters passed between friends while still in school which was over 25 years ago. It is a lost art. My husband laughs that I save all cards and letters but I feel like they are part of me. Just as I saved all my son’s “artwork” from his early years of school.

  4. Sounds very familiar… only I don’t have an assistant!

  5. Trina – Don’t ever give up your writing – you write on paper what so many of us feel and have a hard time expressing. YOU can hoard all the writing that you want!!! Share it with others always!!! Your blogs make my week!!!! Love them all!!!

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