The more you clean, the more brilliant your writing will be.” — Billy Collins
A freelance journalist I knew insisted that she couldn’t write a single word if her office was a mess. She wouldn’t work on her novel — or pitch for new assignments — until everything on her desk was organized.
With tongue in cheek, poet Billy Collins plays with the idea of writers’ block and procrastination — and the metaphorical act of cleaning to make room for fresh ideas. Each time we begin a new project or assignment, he hints, we must scrub away our fears, self-imposed limits, and creative road blocks. –CL
ADVICE TO WRITERS
By Billy Collins
Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.
Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.
From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants that followed you in from the woods.
–Reprinted from The Apple That Astonished Paris, by Billy Collins (The University of Arkansas Press); 1988
— Top photo “Blue Glass” (copyrighted) by Cindy La Ferle —