In the coming weeks, we’re going to be drawing some lessons from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Kondo’s approach is based on a “secret” she claims starts with discarding things you don’t actually use or need and proceed by organizing your space “thoroughly [and] completely, in one go.” Kondo goes so far as to assert that, “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.”
So as a writer, I wanted to see what lesson Kondo’s “magic of tidying up” had to offer. First off, I’d like to discuss how writers can declutter their workspaces, be that a desk or an entire room they write in.
1) A cluttered desk means a cluttered mind.
This is simple. If there are things on your desk that you are not actively working on, or that are not helping you in some way with the task at hand, remove them! Having to shuffle through piles of bills or checks or having to worry about spilling a bottle of nail polish or a half full cup of coffee that’s now ten days old and definitely has mold growing on it, is absolutely going to affect your productively. For me, a messy workspace equals a great amount of stress. I spend half of the time that I should be working thinking about how I really need to clean. When you’re writing and have useless thoughts like that weighing you down, your writing will come across as inhibited and will probably lack the focus and precision that can actually captivate your readers.
2) A cluttered room will also mean a cluttered mind.
If you’re lucky enough to have a whole room devoted to your writing space, make sure you organize it in such a way that it promotes creativity, provides a sense of comfort and that drive productivity.
- With regards to creativity: Keep books of authors who really inspire you on a shelf in this room. If you have another artistic hobby that can help you get the creative juices flowing when you’re feeling writer’s block such as music or painting, keep room for those activities in there as well. Then when you’re feeling stumped, you can walk over to a blank canvas and let a paintbrush speak where words have failed you, or let your guitar sing out a calming melody. This way you have access to other things that keep your creative juices flowing–rather than resorting to Facebook or Twitter when you’re at a loss.
- With regards to comfort: You ultimately want to feel comfortable in your work space. If your chair is ratty and uncomfortable, you’ll subconsciously be focused on how numb your rear end is going while you’re writing, which who knows, could make for some interesting writing, but I doubt it. Have a chair, or a giant bouncy ball, or a bean bag–or whatever sitting apparatus you find most appealing–that you like sitting in. Use lighting that is not too invasive or flourescent that will just remind you of how life in a cubical might be. If you like playing music while you write, have a stereo playing in the background.
- With regards to productivity: Keeping only the essentials on your desk will be the first step (scroll up to number 1 on this list if you’ve already let what I said escape you). Some things that promote productivity are the tools of the trade: if you write on a notepad, have one of those and a pen. If you’re a laptop kind of gal or girl, have that out and make sure that desktop isn’t cluttered with 1,000 windows of recipes for dinner, iMessenger conversations and eBay bidding wars. If you’re a list maker: utilize a bulletin board (or the more crude, tack it right to the wall approach) with a list of what you want to accomplish for each coming work session. Remove items you’ve completed, pat yourself on the back, tidy your desk after you’ve had a mad writing session, and get ready to do it all again next time!
Remember that there are very few spaces in life that get to be “just ours.” We often share space with family, friends, coworkers, etc. Make your little writing corner a haven, a place you love being in and get excited about entering. Clutter will make this space feel like a burden that needs to be dealt with, rather than a place you go to do what you love. So this week: DECLUTTER!
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