Friday, July 20, 2012

Order from Chaos: Is there a desk under there?

The desk pictured at the top of this post is not mine.

But it might as well be.

I'm facing a horrifically daunting task today. I need to clean my desk, as well as the rest of the room where I do most of my writing. I would rather do almost anything else. (Litter box, anyone?) I have let it go on far too long, let the piles get far too high. I'm exhausted already and I haven't even started.

Most of the mess represents a failure to return things to where they belong. Reference books that I haven't returned to the shelves or to the library. Papers I have yet to deal with and toss or file. Sticky-note reminders and inspirational quotes that have become so much a part of the landscape that they no longer remind, much less inspire. Items that belong elsewhere in the house: stray earrings, photographs, vitamin bottles, recipe cards, hand lotion.

I have a writer friend who cannot write until not only her desk, but her entire home, is in order. Only after dishes are done and beds are made and mirrors are sparkling and everything is spic and span can she sit down and concentrate on her work.

If I waited until everything was in order before I wrote, I would scarcely ever write a word. Somehow I've mastered getting and staying focused in spite of the visual clutter and distraction all around me. In fact, that's a big part of my problem. I become so focused on my writing, so "in the flow" as they say, that I don't want to stop to put the book away or take the cup back to the kitchen. Then I somehow stop seeing the clutter that's right there in front of my eyes, until, like this morning, I walk into a scene out of Wall-E.

I know I will write better without all the clutter and distraction. That's what everyone tells me, anyway. So here's my plan. I'm going to devote much of this stormy Friday (the beach is out anyway, eh?) to cleaning and organizing my desk and writing room. And then I'm going to try to keep it that way for longer than the weekend. I'll make sure everything has a "home" where it belongs. And since I don't like to interrupt myself with tidying, I'll do a sweep at the end of each writing session to return things to their proper places. Then I'll start each new writing session with a fresh, clean desk, free of all clutter and distraction. I will be a lean, clean writing machine.

And calls will pour into news stations all over the Idaho Panhandle, reporting pigs in flight. Because I've never been able to maintain a neat desk for longer than a few days. I'm just not wired that way. But hope springs eternal.

How about you? Are you a clutterbug, a neat freak, or somewhere in between? How does the level of clutter (or lack thereof) affect your writing process? Come on, people, I need all the cleaning inspiration I can get!


elizabethbrinton said...

In the years I was home with my two children, I would write during nap time. I imagined that my break through novel would be released, just as my daughter was about to begin pre-school and that the hosts of the Today show would marvel at my discipline. It was during those years I decided that I needed a reasonable amount of order, but not too much. If I had to have everything just so and spotlessly clean, I would never have written any books. My desk is always moderately cluttered and so is my house, but it is cleaned once a week and the basics, such as dishes, beds and laundry are done. Its the best I can do and I am diligent about writing every morning. I putz around with a duster in the afternoon.

Jennifer Rova said...

Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day. ~Simone de Beauvoir