“Organizing is what you do before you do something so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” — A.A. Milne
If you’ve spent any time in the self-help section of your favourite bookstore (or watching TLC or Oprah) you’ve likely heard about the importance of decluttering and keeping organised not only your workspace, but your life. All of our senses are constantly taking in information for our brain to process. Therefore, the more visual, audible, or physical “clutter” there is around us, the harder it is and the more energy it takes to focus in on one thing. The same is true of the places in which we write. The more disorganised and cluttered our writing spaces are, the more likely we are to be distracted, and thus to be less creative and productive in our writing time.
What about your writing space? Let’s take a look. Are there stacks of notepads reflecting fleeting moments of inspirational thoughts, or scattered pages of loose leaf with scribbled outlines for a lifetime of manuscripts? Are there piles of books covering the floor creating a maze for your feet? What about post-it notes and coffee shop napkins with that perfect opening line or the elusive antagonist’s dialogue scrawled across them? And let’s not forget about that empty coffee cup beside your computer…I know it’s there.
Now search your writing space for the things that inspire you. Is it the adorable photo of your family swimming with the dolphins on last year’s amazing vacation? Is it the painting you picked up at the thrift shop that inspired your first novel, or maybe a keepsake from a loved one? It could even be as simple as a favourite pen or a musical playlist. Whatever it is that inspires you, those things should be what’s prominent, not the clutter.
So maybe it’s time to do some reorganizing, and create a space where your mind can focus on writing and creativity can flow. After all, what doesn’t inspire you distracts you. So how do we get rid of, or at least work at minimizing, those distractions? How do we begin the task of organizing and decluttering our writing space?
The first step is to ditch the excuses. We’ve all got them and are experts at justifying them. Although excuses make us feel better in the moment, they will not help us in the moments to come. Decide that you are going to bypass your excuses and begin the process of decluttering.
Next, make the time to make the change. One of the biggest challenges most of us face is that we don’t feel we have the time. Some recommend taking anywhere from 15-30 minutes a day to work at decluttering. For others, however, even that is either overwhelming, or seems unrealistic with the pace of life. So start small. If all you can manage is five minutes a day then do five minutes. Just five minutes a day of organizing and decluttering is 30.5 hours in a year! If five minutes still seems overwhelming then set a timer for two minutes. The point is, just start somewhere. Doing something is better than doing nothing and even if it seems small, you will, in time, accomplish your goal of a decluttered and inspiring writing space.
Thirdly, gather your tools. Do you need files or a filing cabinet? Do you need a pen holder or desk organizer? You’ll probably need a garbage can! Whatever it is that you need, go get it, or even make it for yourself (mason jars make great pen holders). No matter the job, it is always made easier and more enjoyable when you have the right tools.
Lastly, remember to maintain. It always amazes me how good I am at convincing myself that I will do something later. Seriously, I fall for it every time! Peter Walsh, an organizational guru, says that “Later is the best friend of clutter.” You may not run to the kitchen to wash your mug as soon as you take the last sip of your coffee, but maybe you set aside time each day or each week to clean up and organize. Whatever you find works for you is great, just don’t plan to do it “later”.
One blogger (Tony from We Only Do This Once) writes that “The look of simplicity in a room makes me feel at ease and makes me want to be creative…To walk into a room that reflects simplicity and calmness is something to be enjoyed. It makes you want to read a book, write, create or think about the things to come.” In order to create that space for yourself, I encourage you to get rid of the excuses, make time, gather the necessary tools, and then make a plan to maintain. See what a difference it can make to your own focus and creativity when you sit down to write.
Having shared with you these thoughts, I must now go file my notes and take my mug to the kitchen, but I can’t resist sharing with you the humorous words of albert Einstein before I go: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
In her role as a Publishing Consultant, Marie is honoured to be entrusted with so many amazing stories on a daily basis, and considers it a privilege to be a part of bringing them to life in print. When she’s not at work, Marie can be found spending time with her family, enjoying coffee with friends, serving at church, or simply relaxing at home with a good book or favourite TV show.