In particular, balancing the need for household order - neatness, cleanliness - with time for work.
One theme was adjustment: slowly lowering our expectations; tolerating what once seemed a bare minimum. Not because our aesthetic or hygienic ideals have fallen, but because they conflict with other impulses: those of creativity, or idle minutes.
Here is an example: my desk. The rest of the lounge is messy. Not 'toddler birthday party' messy, but certainly out of order. It has to be, because it's impossible to entertain two kids without disorder. Once it's cleaned and tidied, it's filled with toys and filth again. Entropy.
But I keep my desk neat. It's not a decision; a conscious choice to differentiate it from its surroundings. It's a spontaneous, unthought, easy urge: it happens without deliberation.
On reflection, what does it do for me? First, it is practical. I know what I'm working on: books I'm reading are stacked up top, manuscripts I'm writing or editing down below. Pens are in the top draw, inks to the side, paper to the bottom left. I know where everything is, and I don't have to waste time looking or wondering.
Second, it is representative. It doesn't simply contain or hold my writing tools. It stands, in my mind, for the job. In my psyche is a vision of something like this desk, with all the various projects - books, editing, journalism, correspondence - in their niches. The physical neatness somehow encourages the mental neatness; the imaginary bureau.
Third, it is respite. Alongside the noise, I find the mess of the lounge draining. The Lego on the floor, the old boxes transformed into spaceships, the toast on a plate on the coffee table, the clothes drying on the trunk next to the heater - it's not comfortable to me. My desk is a holiday from the clutter and din.
Fourth, it is evocative. It reminds me of writings past; of pen, ink and paper; of sitting and finishing thoughts, chapters. It gets me in the mood, so to speak. This can be frustrating - recalling my work, but being prevented by chores, kids or sickness. But it works: to keep the ideal rejuvenated, when it's so easily deadened.
My desk is to my right, as I write. Goading. But I've only time for a quick blog: the kids are calling, as are their stomachs.