Decluttering … Clearing the Mental Clutter

Continuing the series Inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo, let’s spend some time this week talking about the ways in which we can declutter our minds as writers.

mindful mindfulness

You know how it goes; you sit down to write and you start thinking about that item you need to add to the grocery list, you recall that really annoying thing a coworker said to you and you start analyzing why he or she said it in the first place, you remember that your child has a soccer practice tomorrow and you start mentally trying to figure out if you have time to pick her up afterward or if you should arrange a ride for her with another player’s parents…the list goes on. Now if you’re capable of simply “emptying your mind” of all of this useless information by a simple exercise of willpower…kudos. If you’re like me, and need some reminders for how to declutter your headspace, here are some things to consider:

  • Write down all of these bizarre and/or unproductive thoughts you’re having. Putting these things down on paper empties your mind of them, allows you to look at them, analyze them and then put them aside for a time when they become more relevant. Also, any writing gets the writing juices flowing. Who knows, maybe stream of conscious ranting about an interaction at work could create a meaningful dialogue in an upcoming chapter of yours!
  • Focus or meditate on nothing. ‘Now empty your mind of all of your worries and attachments,’ she says, calm as a cow in the downward dog position, her yoga pants screaming enlightenment as she hums a long ‘Ommmmmmmmmm,’ followed by Namaste–or something ridiculously cliché to that same effect. As silly as it sounds, trying to think of ‘nothing,’ or meditating is serious business, and something I would never call myself talented at. Trying to actually let go of the idea that you and all of your little problems and anxieties are at the center of the universe is like trying not to blink. Practicing this focus on nothing will help temporarily remove our focus on that giant ego we all have (and would never, if only begrudgingly admit to having), and help you become present in the task at hand: namely, writing.
  • Put on some music, and go out for a walk or run or a spin on the bike. Exercise (with or without music) is a fantastic way to help you process all of those nagging thoughts cluttering up your mind space. Exercising with music supposedly activates your frontal lobe (the area in your brain associating with higher mental function), and not only that, it gives you something else to meditate on–lyrics perhaps. Focus on the words in the song, seek inspiration in the creativity of music. Meditate on putting one foot in front of the other if the whole Namaste thing is too much for you. Moving meditation is my favorite form, and it always helps boost my creativity.
  • Take a nap. If you have way too much going on in your head to write, take a snooze. Let those things drift away into Never Never Land and wake up feeling refreshed. A nap is like a reset button later in the day. We only get more and more stressed out starting the minute we shut off the alarms anyway, so go back into that bliss-like state of nothingness that is slumber. Maybe you’ll even dream up an interesting scenario for your main character to overcome in the midst.
  • Listen to a podcast or call a friend. A one-sided conversation with a podcast is my favorite means for readjusting my focus. If I want to write about anxiety or loneliness and I’m unable to focus, I’ll search YouTube to see what some of my literary or philosophical love interests have said on the matter. Listening to someone I truly respect and whose opinion I long to have on any matter in my life always get my brain gears turning. Especially since I can’t talk back to them, but can only entertain the conversation in my mind. This makes me want to write to no avail; it makes me want to express my thoughts triggered by someone else’s ideas. This same effect can be achieved by calling a friend who you love discoursing with as well–just make sure to not get too carried away and forget to get back to work at all. 

 

 


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Decluttering … The Desk & Workspace

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.

cluttered desk tidying up

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!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com