How Drafting and Revising Feel Different: The Clean House Edition

As I type this, we are having our house power washed. It feels like I’m inside a car wash while sitting at my desk. I don’t hate it.

Power washing a home must be an inordinately satisfying job. You arrive and the walkway is darkened with years of baked in dirt. The fascia is dull. The gutters grimy. As you work, you can see the dirt fall away. When you leave there is a definite difference from what it looked like when you began.

Early in our marriage, my husband and I used to argue about the delineation of chores. Once we finally realized he wasn’t ignoring certain tasks, he just doesn’t always see the dust or know when we need to vacuum, it made a big difference. Since I don’t particularly care for cleaning a bathroom (especially with three boys in the house), he became our bathroom cleaner and I typically handle the dusting and vacuuming. But I sometimes find myself irritated that the bathroom job is his. Not because he doesn’t do a good job or because I love scrubbing toilets (um, nope), but when you finish, there is clear evidence of a job done. And while dusting and vacuuming clearly make a difference, there isn’t that same spic and span feeling.

Writing is like cleaning the bathroom. After you sit down to write, there are words on the page where once there weren’t. It’s satisfying and clear. It’s easy to track. The progress is obvious.

Revising, on the other hand, is like dusting and vacuuming. No one else notices the difference sometimes but you. But I can guarantee if it didn’t get done, it would eventually be a huge mess that everyone would notice.

I’m currently stuck in a big revising mess pulling apart my manuscript and Frankensteining it back together. It feels like I’m pulling a vacuum from chapter to chapter but just as I clean up one area, I realize that makes another scene even messier and I have to follow the trail of clutter to the next room, pick it up so I can dust and vacuum, then go back and inspect them both to make sure some errant character didn’t come in while I wasn’t looking with muddy shoes and a leaking box of glittered confetti.

In other words, I sometimes miss the rough draft writing days when the progress was obvious. (Someone remind me of this when I start my next story and profess to hate that part of the process, too).

While revising may not be as immediately gratifying as the initial drafting process, in the end, it is undeniably worth it. There is something amazing about filling in a plot hole or realizing that random bit ties the whole manuscript together if you just tug on it a bit. In the end, after all the dusting and tidying and rearranging of furniture, there will be a clean and polished manuscript. One that I created. One that sparkles and shines and finds itself onto a bookshelf where once there was nothing.

A bookshelf I will inevitably have to dust.

But I suppose dusting a book with my name on the spine will hold its own special kind of satisfaction.

And if this whole writing gig doesn’t work out, I may look into power washing. It seems like a seriously satisfying job.

Featured image: Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash; Powerwash before and after photos by Monica Cox

Published by Monica Cox

Monica is a writer and book coach who helps writers get unstuck so they can reach their writing goals.

2 thoughts on “How Drafting and Revising Feel Different: The Clean House Edition

  1. Spot on on that feeling. I feel like I’ve just completed a house chore once I’m doing editing a chapter. But I feel like I’ve struck an item off the to-do list when I’m done drafting. The actual work isn’t fun though, for either process, lol. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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