It's not that I'm a slob. I keep things reasonably in order, even though I'm losing the battle with the "kitty tumbleweeds" that skitter across hardwood floors. I go after them about once a week and do other cleaning only when the dust and scum go beyond my tolerance level.
Unless, that is, I've invited someone over. I clean for guests. Mostly. What I've discovered about myself is that I have different levels of cleaning that depend on the visitor. The better I know you, the less I feel compelled to pretend that the crew from House Beautiful just left.
Last week, for example, I cleaned thoroughly for a meeting with our financial planners. But several days later, when friends Mike and Janet came for a chili night, I just tidied the bathroom. They've been here before and they know our cats run our lives; no need to hide Kit's scratch pad or remove fur-gathering towels from furniture.
I supposed my whole psychological profile could be derived from these cleaning habits. A quick swipe will do for a fellow writer, but my brother-in-law? Break out the Pine-Sol. Verrrry interrrresting.
And then there's the island house. I'm actually a better housekeeper there, out of necessity. Doors and windows stay open, so the beach makes its way indoors and sea air keeps salting the furniture and floors. It's hard to keep up.
But everyone there is in the same situatiion, so even casual acquaintances become close friends in this who-is-spongeworthy (cleaning sponge, that is) spectrum. And true close friends take an even cozier position in my psyche.
So when Lynn says, "Forget the windows. Let's go to the beach," that's friendship. When she adds, "But you've got to clean then sometime soon," that's love.
Transferring some of this cleaning hypotheses to writing, I can see first of all that I do make a distinction between my writing-for-pay and my fiction. When I do a magazine piece, I try to write well but I don't fuss over it. I get it done. For fiction, I push more. I try to get it right.
So it's a good thing fiction audiences are anonymous. Writing for strangers is, I hope, making my work cleaner and more meticulous. I guess there's a reason we're told to polish a manuscript.