Monday, June 4, 2007

Cleaning the Clutter, Clearing the Mind

by Julia Buckley

Cynthia Baxter makes an excellent point about how to keep your mind in the game of writing; how to hold yourself accountable when your body wants to drift away from the computer. I find, though, that if the story won't organize itself in my mind, it sometimes helps to organize something else. This weekend I am cleaning up my office.

Sometimes it feels good to go through those piles you were convinced had to stay on shelves gathering dust and say "Hey, I really don't need this stuff anymore," and pitch it. (Some in the garbage, some in the recycle bin, let me be quick to point out). I got rid of old raggedy binders and rough copies of novels; I tossed old mail and put old pay stubs in the shredding bag.

My inbox had entirely disappeared (after all, everything is IN, isn't it?), so I had to take the huge pile of junk on top of it and sort through it. Sometimes it means making tough choices: do I save the cute little picture my son made in 2nd grade--a drawing of a policeman that says "Officer Graham's Safety Tips" and then a list of the ways that Graham thinks he can promote safe and responsible behavior? (Like: Don't run near a pool; Be careful on ice. :) It's hard to recycle that, but I have to remind myself that A)I have a drawer full of Graham's artwork, and he produces approximately ten cute pictures per week, and B) No matter how much I save, I can't make him be eight forever. So I save some of the masterpieces, and some go into the recycling pile.

I have a similar dilemma with my elder son's stories. He has the opposite of the writer's block that torments me; creativity flows through him, and his output is immense. His stories are easier to recycle, though, because I have them all on the computer, and the copies lying here have food stains and bent corners. Out they go, even the wonderful poem about manatees that has perfect rhyme and meter.

There's stuff from work in here, too; all sorts of handouts that say "Handy Comma Rules" and "What is Context?" I have copies of all of these at work, so these, too, can go away.

What I find is that with each thing I uncover, like an archeologist in my own office, I feel a sense of rejuvenation. I have reclaimed my desk; I have reclaimed my writer's space. It can't be long before I reclaim my writing.

Now I'll try Cynthia's tips and try to make myself stay in the chair--although I have a whole lot of rooms that could use organizing.


Lonnie Cruse said...

Whoa, your desk looks a lot like mine, including drawers and doors in the same place, not to mention the clutter! Great minds and all that. Now, if we were just writing???

Julia Buckley said...

I know, Lonnie. I'm trying to get back into it. I think the computer actually distracts me. :)