Too close to my own dirt


I was looking around the bathroom this morning and realized I need to give it a deep scrub. It’s the one most neglected room in my house I think. LOL Yes, I need to bleach the tub and scrub the floor. And those kiddie smears of only-God-knows-what around the knobs? Gotta go.BathroomMess

It got me thinking about my writing and the responses we authors often encounter to our ‘babies’ tossed out into the world to sink or swim. They are only as presentable as we make them.

Back to cleaning house. Why haven’t I noticed the hand grime before? Why haven’t I seen, and picked up, those scattered hair ties the ‘kid’ has strewn around the toilet (normally kept in a container on the rack above the throne)? How could I not have seen the stain ringing the tub–from a kid who loves the outdoors more than washing the outdoors off–before that moment? Ewwww.

The answer is easy. It’s my dirt, my mess, my bathroom. It’s not crusty and gross. The toilet is clean, the sink only has a couple of toothpaste smears today (as opposed to covered in the sticky goop) and I can see myself in the mirror (I only have to tilt slightly right, instead of doing the bob and duck to see around specks and spots). I mean, honestly, it’s looked a LOT worse. It’s clean enough to me as I gather the left over towels and clothes left behind by a kid in a hurry to go play for just another half hour before bed.

It’s my mess.

Have you ever gone to someone’s house and noticed these same things (maybe not the tub ring and probably not as bad as my own–have I mentioned that I hate house work) and wanted to clean the smudge or speck for them? I have. Yet, I don’t see the same thing in my house, which I look at daily, hourly.

AnimBroomSo how does house cleaning tie into writing? Well, we write a book, it may take weeks, months, or in many cases, years of struggle and sweat, but we finish. Whew! Then it’s time to shop the baby. Find that perfect publishing home for it. Right?

Wrong. It’s now time to clean house. Scrub all those bad spots out, wash the smudgy areas so they shine, wipe away the rings we thought should stay, but honestly it’s better off without, and polish the whole thing.

We often set it aside thinking that will make it look better, or to allow us to distance ourselves from the clutter so we can make sense of it later. But left too long it will grow mold or rot to oblivion. Usually it gathers dust at the least.

How many wips have you written, only to set aside and never look at again? Shove those under the bed…let’s face it–some of those really don’t belong under the bed, some actually belong in a bag gracing the garbage can (but I didn’t say that–as I peer at all the ‘bunnies’ hiding under my bed).

Okay, so for this we won’t go there…

We pull that baby out and clean it up. We might even clean it two or three times. This is called editing.

Sometimes we pull them out, wipe the dust off and think they are miraculously all fixed. Wa-la. We didn’t need to do nearly as much as we thought we would to make it all spiffy and pretty. We’re just that good of a writer. They have steeped long enough to have rearranged those poorly written areas without us, and all we need to do is mail it out and watch it flourish.

Wrong again. THAT NEVER HAPPENS! Don’t fool yourself and set yourself up for rejection.

Take another look at it and I’m sure you’ll find something to correct, something to add a better word to, something–

TeamworkBetter yet, have someone else take a look at it. It often takes teamwork to dig deep into those cracks and crevices.

Let someone else walk into your house and see what you can’t. Have them point those smudges out to you, not clean them for you. You won’t learn to recognize those dirt specks if you do. No…that green spot is not part of the wall paper. No, your cabinets didn’t come with blue speckles all over them. It’s more likely toothpaste spatter.

I had an epiphany while staring at my dirty bathroom this morning.Idea

I’m too comfortable in my house, and no, that’s not a bad thing, it’s a fact. I can clean my house, pick up the laundry, do the dishes. I can clean my own house. But it often takes an outsider, an unbiased eye to notice the little things I can’t see in my own writing.

I’m too close to the dirt to see the mess.

I challenge you to look around your clean house. Really look at it as a visitor might having seen it for a first time. What do you see that you never noticed until you read this post?

Don’t tell me.

Go get your wip out and look at it as if it isn’t yours. Now…what do you see?

Go forth my grasshoppers (you probably won’t know what that means unless you had dinosaurs for pets). Edit.

I’m going to clean a bathroom.


Posted on 01/30/2013, in AHA moments, Editing, Goals, Pen of the Dreamer and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Sandy Bruney

    Too, too true. I’d never send out a ms. unless I had my beta readers and critique group go over it first! It’s amazing the things they catch that i glossed over.


  2. Love it! My apartment is a mess… and I knew that before I read this 🙂


  3. Very well said… and I hate house work too!


  4. Oh, how this speaks to me! Thanks!


  5. Love the comparison – so easy to see when you put it that way! It’s hard to see our own messes, which is why it’s good to have company over once in a while, or send a MS out to edit, to look at something from a different perspective. Enjoyed this!


  6. Nancy Jardine

    Great analogy, Calisa! So…what does it say about my mucky windows? Maybe something like clarity is needing a darned good polish? Best wishes with editing!


  7. LOL what a great post! Especially since I’m in the midst of the final round of edits for my upcoming Soul Mate release. I tell ya, having a few sets of eyes really does help. It’s amazing what I’ve missed.


  8. Great post and so incredibly true. Housing cleaning aside (ugh!) I think the best possible way to fix trouble spots in an MS is to have someone else look it over. Critique partners and beta readers are pure gold for providing a fresh perspective. Now if I could only do something with the house cleaning! 😀


  9. I send my WIP to my Kindle to read in a different platform or print out the chapter I need to fix. But at what point do we say “enough?” When the chrome finish is dull from cleanser? Frustrating. I totally get the mirror thing. During the winter I joke that the mass of soap splatters are on purpose to creat the illusion of snowflakes. Thanks for the post!


    • Enough is when you find yourself going back over the same stuff and adding back what you’ve already cut… twice, Joelene. 🙂 But when you send it to Kindle, do you save as a PDF and then send it through Amazon? Or do you just upload the word version. I find that way comes out messy to read. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping. I loved your parachute analogy too. 😀


  10. Noooooooooooooooooo! I don’t want to look around my house and see the mess! It’s so very true what you’re saying, Calisa, I notice things in other people’s houses that I don’t in mine. Same with a MS. Interesting, and the next MS I have to send out, I’m going to send to you first LOL. (Wait…I’ve already done that….)


  11. Really good analogy! And, it’s so true . . . My dirt, love that line. That’s why our own dirt doesn’t bother us nearly as much as that of others. We know what’s in our own dirt.


  12. Calisa, VERY good comparison. So true. My own mess in my own house doesn’t bother me as much as messes in other houses, LOL. It is extremely beneficial to have someone else look over your work. Kind of like getting a housekeeper. It is nearly impossible for me to pretend my work is someone else’s, so what I do (when I take the time I should take to go over my MS) is for one, I read it backwards, last page to first, so I’m not caught up in the story. Another trick is that I change the font size, style, and color. It feels as though I’m looking at a slightly different MS. Sort of like if you moved your house mess into someone else’s home. You’d notice the dirt then. 🙂 Thank you for an entertaining and enlightening post!


    • Moving the mess? I’d go for that, Alicia! 😆 But I can’t read backward. I have Dragon and have tried that to read it with. I haven’t figured out how to make the program continue reading, though. It reads so far and stops. LOL


  13. Interesting comparison Calisa and very true!


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