Wednesday, 29 September 2010

(a dissertation in the role of housework in the creative process, with special attention to the role of tap polishing)

FIG A: a tap like this is almost complicated enough to stimulate an entire chapter of a novel)

When I was a little girl my mother made my sister and I do household chores on saturday mornings, after orchestra. My sister had to hoover the dining room and study. I had to clean the bath and basin in the main bathroom.

I remember bursting in on my sister as she was doing her hoovering to discover her mid emphatic declaration, arms waving. She was actually shouting, the noise of the hoover covering up what she was doing from the rest of the house. 'What are you doing?' I asked in astonishment: my perception of my sister was of a quiet, practical person not given to interior thought, but there was no one else there, had she gone mad? She coloured with embarrassment as if I'd caught her in some intensely private act and then got angry to divert me from what I'd seen. Later I realised that she must have been telling herself some kind of story. So I started telling myself stories as I polished the taps. Move over Jonathan Franzen, sitting in your soundproofed box, talking your dialogue out aloud as is so often talked about the way you wrote,'The Corrections' and'Freedom' - little girls also talk their stories aloud to themselves, while doing the housework. Girls not only get stories made up we also get the room hoovered at the same time! Even now I can't see a dirty tap without wanting to amuse myself while polishing it by making up a little story. And I don't think my sister of I are at all unusual. I notice that X, who's only three, while in the bath and she thinks I'm miles away ( usually just outside the bathroom door, snooping while tidying up) also chatters to herself, making up stories with the pig and the tea set that sit on the edge of the bath. She's musing out aloud to herself.

This leads me to a proposition: that Virginia Woolf got it wrong when she said that women need a room of their own to write - what they really need is a comforting array of boring, pointless household chores and a little time to commit their subsequent musings onto paper. No doubt the argument against my theory is that housewives have not tended to win Nobel prizes for literature or even publishing contracts. Well, that may be true, but that may say more about the men in the publishing industry of the past than about what has actually been written. Women who've had a series of mundane household chores and a little free time have written their musings down in journals for centuries: The Diary of an Edwardian lady etc. Women's journals have been a major source of writing for eternity, cave women probably scribbled on the cave walls more than the men- using charcoal from the fire while making mammoth stew.

Many bloggers, mainly women ones, also muse 'out aloud' by blogging. The stereotype of 'the blogger' is a young man geek talking about tekkie stuff, but Richard Jalichandra, President of Technoriati, talking to iMedia said that, in his opinion there's another there's another topic that beats it:

' Personal musings. Different groups seem to move in and out of the spotlight, such as mommy bloggers, but in the past two studies that we've collected demographic data, they've remained pretty constant. However, it's my personal observation -- and this is more anecdotal than scientific -- that the influence of mommy and women bloggers with consumers has become really important. The proof is in how much attention they are given for outreach and advertising from CPG marketers.'

For those uninitiated is one of the tedious anacronyms of marketing - CPG is simply short for consumer packaged goods.

Mr Jalichandra may be right regarding mommy bloggers and advertising outreach. I can see that there are a significant number of mommies desperately trying to connect online everyday to 'make friends' and to network to become part of that CPG marketing outreach. They're, quite understandably as mums at home, trying hard to find a job that pays a bit of pin money. But far more than that there are countless women musing out aloud into the void in their 'free time', simply to amuse themselves.

If they find that their musings are interesting to others I'm sure that they feel thrilled and amazed. I imagine it's truly a wonderful thing to find someone else who stumbles onto your private musings and connects with them. But the impulse to put those musings out into the world in some kind of journal- on a white screen or a white piece of paper- is just the way women are made, scribbling away in their little diaries with locks on them. For me proof of that comes almost as much in other blogging areas, sex for instance, where women bare their souls in works of subtly crafted poetry mixed with personal imagery, often not at all graphically sexual, on sites that have passwords to enter, their own little online secret drawer where they muse on their most inmost feelings, and then send it out into the void with only the vaguest thought or hope that it might connect with any life form on another planet outside their own head.

Like me over my taps, X in her bath and my sister behind her hoover, these women are just saying it out aloud for the pleasure and interest of having a look at it, musing to amuse themselves.

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