Call me sensitive–when a perpetually neat houseguest bought me a book on tidying, it kinda raised my ire. The book is entitled The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and the houseguest was my mother, alias The Recreational Cleaner. We also call her The Phantom Picker Upper, although not to her face. Seriously, I can sip my lemonade, set it on the table beside me, reach for the glass a minute later, and it's gone, rinsed, and already in the dishwasher. How does she do that, without me even noticing she came in the room?
After walking by the book for two days, I finally picked it up, planning to casually skim the first chapter or two. Sucked in, soon I was turning the last page.
I admit I learned a few things, such as Never Throw Away Other’s Belongings, of which I may or may not be guilty. But the Spread Out Every Item You Own, Touch Each, Have A Conversation With It, Asking If It Brings Joy Or Not, seemed outlandish to me. I set the book aside; just another self-help scheme.
And then the weirdness started. Dressing in the mornings, I’d find myself thinking, “Hm. Do I love this faded blue shirt? How much joy is left in it?” Unloading the dishwasher, I’d ponder stacking the chipped green bowl neatly, or throwing it out. Did it make me happy? It felt like a spell had been cast on me, and I was annoyed.
I’m an author, a writer, a researcher, a traveler. On a daily basis, I’m swamped. I juggle a husband, kids, grandchildren, friends, Church responsibilities, writer’s groups, and assorted doctors who seem to be throwing plaster on my crumbling walls. I converse plenty. I simply don’t have time to be listening to dated jackets and seven-year-old skirts.
I’ve written eleven non-fiction books, including two best-selling cruise books, and I recently released a sequel, “More Cruise Tips from the Cruise Addict’s Wife.” Around this same time, I began my first novel. Off to a great start, until the voices in my head began. Does this paragraph bring me joy? Is this character making me happy? Has this scene outlived its usefulness?
I reread Mom’s book. I know it plainly talks about sorting one’s Things, but it squirmed its way into my mind and changed my writing for the good. If “man is that he might have joy,” then I guess I’m entitled to some joy in my writing, too. I winnowed my novel down from 89,000 words to 68,000 words, weighing each sentence, jettisoning the parts that brought no joy.
“Peril In Paradise” was released in early 2016, and is selling well. I love the cover design! It’s a cozy mystery set on a cruise ship in Hawaii, with warm characters and descriptions so rich, you could plan a cruise with it. The process was more fun than I expected, so much so I’m currently writing two more novels.
Bonus-I also have more room in my closet since I began writing. Weird, isn’t it, how some books wriggle into one’s subconscious?