Doing the Dishes – Creative Writing Workshop Exercise

by Anita Menon

As a part of the creative writing workshop, we get to do a lot of exercises that help us spread out the wings of our imagination and push our creative boundaries. One of them was ” Washing the Dishes”. The idea was to write about a mundane activity like Doing the dishes and turn it into something dramatic and memorable. 

Doing the Dishes – Making Music (fiction)

She sighed heavily as she picked up all the dirty plates one after the other from the dinner table.  They were licked clean and she was glad there were no left overs to worry about. It was a successful dinner party. Her husband’s boss left their home a happy man.

It had been some time that she had left her busy life as a concert pianist to settle into the blissful life of a home – maker. Music had been her life but now her hands indulged themselves in cooking and keeping the house in order. Somewhere she found great solace in doing everything all by herself. Mainly it kept her mind off from the frustration of not being able to play her piano. It was her choice to give it up when she got married to the man she loved so much.

She had a piano at home but didn’t feel like playing it. She needed a real audience to feel alive. That nervous tension and the tingling that brought the best out of her at every concert. She needed the grand applause of an appreciative audience. Then the notes danced out of the instrument on their own.

But right now she needed to take care of the dirty dishes.

She collected the dirty ones and placed them at the sink. Then she brought the dirty spoons and forks and soup bowls one after the other in a tray to wash. Suddenly one of the spoons slipped out from the tray and landed with a ‘clink’ sound on the floor. It sounded like a key-note from one of her favourite parts from the piece she played at the last concert. She picked the spoon up and placed it in the sink. She shook her head and put that thought behind her.

She opened the tap and let the water run. To this she then added some soap to raise a foam. In an absentminded manner, she turned to pick a spoon to soap which fell on the floor with a another beautiful sound ‘ chink’. Another note, another song, another concert. The scene began to float in front of her eyes. The audience clapping and the atmosphere magical. Every time that happened, tears never ceased to flow. She caught a tear rolling down and wiped it right then with the back of her hand. She turned to the task at hand and tried picking up the soup bowls with her soapy fingers. They seemed to rub against each other as if making music all by themselves. The bowls banged against the glass plates, standing upright on the dirty dishes stand to make a series of notes. Her mind went buzzing. She picked up a spoon and tapped it deliberately against the plate. The sound resonated. The dirty dishes were prompting her to make music with them. She ignored the obvious signals and picked up a plate to wash. The plate squeaked under the pressure of her fingers, like a song she once knew. She felt transported to a time when she was only seven and taking her first piano class. She felt the trepidation she felt as a child sitting in front of the giant instrument and the teacher’s gaze burning down on her Then she recalled the jubilant sensation like she was flying with the music that her fingers made in tandem with the piano that became her best friend for life.

One by one, she washed them and began to understand the music they made. Dirty dishes were transformed to shiny ones by the music they created.

She wiped them and smiled at the face smiling back at her from the clean plates. Then she made her way to the living room where the piano was waiting for her.