On this blog, I’ve promoted the use of lists to accomplish tasks in a timely manner.  I have found this a very useful technique for both writing and non-writing chores. Once I’ve itemized a job and added it to a weekly list, changes are pretty good, I’ll get it done.

Except. . .

Clean the sewing room has been on my weekly list for the past four weeks, and still the stacks of fabric, missing buttons and lost threads accumulate in corners. I have become a master of avoidance when it comes to a deep dive on organizing my sewing room. Can’t explain it, but the many times I’ve transferred to task from last week’s list to this week’s is testament to a deep-seated resistance. Mind you, the little clip at the top of this post is another reason the sewing room is not decluttered.

Decisions and Fear

Perhaps it’s the need to make decisions that holds me back. To really tidy the room I’ll have to decide on what to keep and what to throw away. Fear of making the wrong decision keeps me from making any decision and the detritus grows.

The Discovery Stage

I’m also resistant to writing the “romance” in my romance novel. I’ve finished the plot line days ago, but cannot arrive at a logical happily ever after, because I haven’t built the love story into the middle of the manuscript. This is a common failing of mine. I should be used to it by now. 

Because my first draft is more a voyage of discovery than a charted journey, I’m afraid of locking myself into a bad idea, of picking up a theme that I cannot sustain throughout the novel. So, I hedge. I leave my options open, hoping that somewhere in this flight through the mist, I’ll stumble upon the key to the romance. Usually I do. Usually it is not until I’m about to smash into the mountain. The clouds lift and I see where I’m going.


Having reached the crisis moment where h/h must chose each other or the story turns from romance to downer, I finally have a clue as to what the big issue between them is and how to resolve it.

Hint:  It is not the issue that seemed to be the stumbling block at the beginning of the story. That first conflict is never big enough to hang a novel on. 


So, my promise to myself and to you, dear reader, is that this week I will face the challenge of both the laundry room and the romance. I post that promise here to give myself extra motivation. Having publicly made a declaration, I don’t want the humiliation of admitting I dodged the issue once again.


So writers and readers, how do you cope with avoidance? Is there a magic formula that will get that closet cleaned out? Do you have to be stuck at home amid a pandemic before boredom drives you to the neglected recesses of your home and your mind? Does avoidance make you feel guilty or clever?

Use the comments section to share your wisdom or your frustration.

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  1. Diana L.

    First off, I love your cat! What a beauty! Don’t they just brighten our lives?

    On the subject of avoidance, I am guilty. I’ve been trying to get back to my novel for several years now. I have three that are awaiting editing, and I can’t ever seem to start. There is always something else that needs doing. I think one day it will just be time, and the sun will burst through the proverbial clouds as a sign. I’m waiting…

    For other, less daunting tasks, I have a couple of strategies. One is to play a game I call “Ten Things.” It goes something like this. The kitchen is a mess, with dishes to be loaded into the dishwasher and a lot of handwashing. Maybe a couple of plates with a bit of food to be scraped into the compost. But I don’t feel like doing it at ALL! It might be the second time within twenty-four hours that I have faced the same mess. So I play Ten Things. I decided to tidy just ten things. Now, I cheat a little. Picking up all the loose cutlery around the kitchen and putting it in the dishwasher might be one thing. Three plates, the second thing. Put the bag of flour back in the cupboard, the third. It’s a game. After the ten things have been done (as quickly as possible), I’m free to leave the rest. Sometimes I do. Other times I look around and reason that with just a few more things dealt with the place might look halfway decent. The game gets me over my inertia. I played a variation on it today, which I called “Seven Minutes.” I decided I would do just seven minutes of kitchen cleaning, then go upstairs to get my other tasks done. Turns out the kitchen looked so good after the seven I made a batch of popcorn for hubby and delivered it to his office. That took only 5 minutes more.

    Did you get back to your sewing room? Perhaps a game of Ten Things might work in there.

    I got very motivated in my sewing room a couple of weeks ago when it dawned on me that it would make a good office for my now-working-from-home hubby. I sewed up 4 Covid-19 masks, and got through the pile of mending in about a day. I had thought the project daunting, but it turned out to be way easier. Seems a lot of things are like that. The trepidation we feel at what we perceive to be a huge task can cause us to procrastinate indefinitely, when the reality is that just doing the job would take a fraction of the energy that it takes to feel guilty about not doing it.

    Now if I could just get back to finishing my books!

    • Alice Valdal

      Oh, Diana, I love your “ten things,” game. I’ll definitely try some version of that to get past my avoidance tendencies in the future.
      Kudos on looking after your “work at home” hubby.
      Stay safe.

  2. E. Ayers

    A friend complained to me the other week that she blocks off time to do the things that she needs to do that day but somehow after 2-3 hours she’s made bigger messes. She’s an artist and balances her time between writing poetry and creating paintings to match her poetry, or just crafting and caring for her two cats. I knew exactly where her mistake was. She needed to block of 45-50 slots not 60. at the end of her 45 minutes of painting, she blocks 15 for cleaning up her paints and putting things away. If she’s cleaning she need to give herself 10 minutes to switch tasks. That gives her time to wash up or whatever it might be. If she’s been writing, she spends that 10 minutes drinking tea or playing with her cats. She called me back a few days later and said my plan works. Her house looks much better, the cats are happier and so is she.

    • Alice Valdal

      Ah, better organization to defeat avoidance? Glad your suggestions helped your friend. We all want happier cats. 🙂

  3. Jacqui Nelson

    I like to read Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.” Or at this point, it’s re-read the notes I made after I first borrowed the book from the library. I love how he writes Resistance with a capital “R” because it can be a heavy challenge to overcome.

    • Alice Valdal

      That sounds interesting. I’ll have to check and see if it’s available as an ebook from the library. Won’t it be nice when we can go to the stacks again. 🙂

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