Children’s book authors get asked all kinds of questions at school visits. “How much money do you make?” “How old are you?” “Does your hand get tired when you color?” (This last was asked by a kindergartner and I consider it one of the great existential questions of all time. Often, when I’m in a philosophical mood, I reflect on it.)
The most unnerving question I’ve ever been asked was “Are you good at anything besides writing?” As I stood in front of the school auditorium with 500 curious faces peering up at me, my mind went blank. The embarrassing truth is, I don’t do anything but write. I don’t even have a hobby. I’d like to act in a daytime drama and play the piano and write lyrics for Broadway but I don’t have time. Then suddenly, as I stood staring out at the young, expectant faces, I remembered something. “I’m good at laundry!” I said.
The kids weren’t too impressed, but the teachers looked gratified. The truth is, through years of struggling to attain a modest success as a writer, I’ve become a brilliant and accomplished laundress. I don’t know if it qualifies as a hobby, but I’d like to recommend mastering the art of laundry to writers of all faiths as a highly rewarding, deeply gratifying pastime. Laundry is the perfect complement to writing.
First of all, when you do laundry, you do it once and it’s done. You can’t say that about writing. There’s nothing you write that doesn’t have to be rewashed-I mean rewritten-a hundred times. With laundry, however, you just toss the stuff in the washing machine, add soap, turn the dial, and Presto! Everything comes out sparkling clean. Think if there were a computer program that could do that with your prose!
Secondly, laundry keeps you in motion. Sitting still for hours at your computer can cause your thoughts and ideas to grow stale. If, in this state of mind, you get tangled up in some bad writing, things can start to look pretty dark. But then you jump up and run downstairs to put in a load of laundry and suddenly, while sorting the lights from the darks, a door opens in your mind you see a solution to your problem-and all because you got your blood circulating doing a load of laundry.
Finally, there’s the social service aspect of laundry. When you do a load of laundry, you can feel confident you’re making the world a better place for those you love. As most writers know, a load of clean, folded underwear will gratify your family far more than your latest book probably will.
As writers we all have days when we feel that, despite our best efforts, we’ve accomplished little. But by adding impressive laundry skills to your list of accomplishments, you will be a better writer and a more productive parent or spouse. Most importantly, you will never be at a loss when a child asks, “What else are you good at besides writing?”