Kate Atkinson is a wonderful novelist, and recently on the BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs she told us that when planning a novel she finds it helpful to have a good tidy.
'There is something about mindlessness, as opposed to mindfulness, that is very creative,' she said.
That other fine novelist, Dorothy L Sayers, had a rather similar take on the matter. Her novelist heroine Harriet Vane is shown putting her sticky novel to one side 'to clear' as if, as her creator observes, it was soup.
Faced with the experiences of two such literary titans then my own voice can add but a trivial note, but I myself find that a bit of mild sweeping can help enormously.
It might be because staring with concentration and energy directly at the nothing which is an unplanned novel is likely only to generate more nothing. Laying a sock in a drawer, however, or gently encouraging dust into small piles, or going for a walk, leaves room for the mild wonderings that may spark just the sort of line of enquiry which, seized upon, might even turn into a book.
And after all, at worst you end up with a cleaner house.
Hmm...so...how about a novel about a woman who is despised for her devotion to housework, but then turns out to be the wisest of them all?
Compare and contract with a evangelical pastor?
Or a philosopher?
Hmm...the philosopher idea is quite interesting...
....and I haven't swept the bedrooms for a while...
Nuts and Bolts: sweep. in about 1200 this word was swepen. It's related to the Old Norse sveipa, and also to the words swipe and swoop.