Mowing the Lawn: Turning the Monotonous into Inspiration

Some chores I put off all day. When I was younger, scooping the dog poop in the backyard would automatically get put at the bottom of my list. Cleaning the bathrooms and dusting were likewise victims of procrastination. But one chore I volunteer for and, don’t tell my parents, would probably do even if they didn’t pay me for it (but seriously, don’t tell them; as a soon-t0-be grad student I need the extra cash) is mowing the lawn.

Even before I began writing plays more seriously, I loved the time alone with my iPod on my arm, the white noise of the mower blaring in the background, and the grass turning into a soft green rug with each step I took. More than any other outdoor or indoor chore, it gave me time to think without getting anxious. I’ve discussed this with my friends and we think the key is doing something repetitive. I’ve heard that driving and taking a shower can work in the same way, but nothing works the same for me as cutting the grass in the front and back yards. Sure I get some great ideas in the shower, but they never seem to last after I cut the water off. It’s fleeting magic (even if hotel commercials claim otherwise). And as for driving, I can only rationalize long drives when I’m going somewhere with gas prices . . .

But when I mow the lawn, I get the repetitive mantra of continuous motion, white noise, and the perfect peace to allow new ideas to come and go as they please. I can’t act upon any of them until I finish, so there’s no mad rush to act before I can puzzle out the bud of a new play, short story, or screenplay past the initial stages. Actually, little known fact, it’s where I got the idea for my second play The Failures. I tell everyone that I got the idea from watching American Idol with my parents, which is true, but it didn’t gel into the confrontation between contestant and newspaper reporter at the heart of the play until I was mowing the lawn one Saturday afternoon.

Sadly, I have no more yard work to occupy me this week. But I’m wishing that maybe you’ll find the unexpected peace to think and dream during your favorite–or least favorite–chore this week.


About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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