The only good way to get the floor clean is on your hands and knees. Believe me when I tell you that I’ve tried virtually everything else and in the end it’s a scrub brush and a bucket of hot, soapy water that does the trick. Scrub, rinse, wipe, scoot, repeat. And I’m of the opinion that it does me good, too. It’s honest work, it stretches out the back muscles, and it gives me some time to think about things that aren’t necessarily related to what I’m working on or how annoyed I am by my leaky roof or whatever’s been on my mind for the last few days.
I pull the brush out of the bucket, apply it to the floor and think about what I’m doing. I am in the moment. Of course my knees hurt like hell, but I feel more clear-headed, less aggravated than I did before I went down on my hands and knees to do something that is about as direct a chore as I can imagine doing. I think scrubbing floors makes me a better person.
Early this morning I finished the novel I started on Feb. 1st. I did it by writing 2000 words a day. It’s a lot like scrubbing a floor, too. You put words on paper and move them around until you’re satisfied with the way they look. Then you move on and do the same again, and again. At the most basic level, it is just that simple.
“Oh no,” you say, “it’s about brilliance! and genius! and just the right words! and ideas! and plot! and characters! and, and, and…” Well yeah, it is. But all those things are worthless unless you sit down and actually put those words on paper, one sentence after another. If you have all the rest inside yourself it will come out. But only if you do the work. How do I know this? Because I used to be one of those writers who never really did the work, and I’ve known a lot of others like me. We have great ideas, we create great characters, we can talk plot until we go green, but we never really accomplish much of anything because sitting down and writing? Well it’s kind of the dull part of the job. Or as Peter de Vries was reported to have said: “I love being a writer; it’s the paperwork I can’t stand.”
The physical act of writing is the floor scrubbing of the literary life. It’s when you get down to the most basic level, when you get your hands dirty, when you hurt doing it, but you can see that something good is happening on that page because you’re doing the work.
We write on our hands and knees. There’s no other way to do it.