Monday 27 September 2010

A Tidy Writer is a Productive Writer

A few weeks back, blogger Ali Hale of Aliventures posted an entry about clutter and creativity. What, I hear you ask, is a post about tidying doing on a blog loosely dedicated to writing and other creative endeavours? Well, I've come to realise that it's difficult to be truly creative when you're drowning in a sea of your own junk.

You see, I live in a studio flat. I know, I know, I've just shattered the illusion that I've made my supervillain lair under a volcano or in an abandoned tube station (or have I? maybe this is all just, it's true) Problem is, studio flats are notoriously short on storage space - think of me as a lonely writer in a cold London garret, if that's what butters your muffin. I admit that I'm lucky since my landlord provided two wardrobes and a small chest of drawers, but the other storage units (and copious bookcases) are my own. Without them, I'd be wading through piles of books, DVDs and electrical items every time I wanted to cross the room.

Trouble is, despite this storage, I still seem to have clutter. I'm reasonably logical so I've divided this clutter into piles, clustered around the perimeter of the room, but lately it's really been getting to me that I have so much stuff - most of which I probably don't even need. I've noticed its effect on my output, too. I find that I write more on my lunch hour because the office is tidier. There's more of a sense of order, particularly in the room where I have my lunch. I'm not distracted by piles of books or photos that I have yet to put in my album. At home, any fleeting sense of order created by dividing the piles by 'theme' or 'content' is very much undermined by the chaos of having these dratted piles of things in the first place.

I've been telling myself for months now that I will "tidy up a bit" but then I've found myself distracted by something else. I'd find myself leaving work, all fired up to go through the flat like a dose of salts, only to get home tired and cross after a hellish commute (particularly those three hour commutes when the damned tube staff decide to go on strike). I'd look at the clutter, sigh deeply, and then pull out my sketchbook and start drawing instead. I think the only thing in my flat that I managed to tidy successfully was my yarn collection, though I think practicality was a large factor behind that particular adventure. (Ever tried to detangle fine mohair yarn? My tip? Don't.)

But lately I've been getting antsy about it all, so armed with Ali's post and infused with a sense of just simply 'wanting more space', I sat back and contemplated the contents of my flat. I like to point out that there is method to my madness and that if I desperately need something, I remember exactly where it is. Trouble is, there are lots of piles of things on the floor, and I can't remember what's in most of them because the stuff isn't important enough to remember. My logic ran that if I couldn't remember what was in the pile, chances are, I didn't need it. If I had, I would have stored it either with like objects, or kept it to hand. Still, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so I decided I needed The Battleplan.

I've divided my flat up into nine 'clutter zones', and I aim to tackle them one by one. As I clear them, my flat will therefore look tidier, providing more motivation to keep tidying, but it also makes it seem like less of a gargantuan task. I've cleared two of these, and I found myself recycling 80% of the contents, throwing away 15%, and keeping just 5%. (If you're wondering, it was all old magazines, newspaper clippings, countless coffee shop receipts or padded envelopes from things I've bought online, which I reuse when selling on eBay or Amazon) Those two spaces already seem massive, and it's such a good incentive for me to move onto the next one.

Strangely, by the time I've finished tidying, I feel fired up and ready to write again, as if removing the physical clutter in the room is enough to remove the mental clutter that blocks my motivation to write. Maybe it's the extra exercise, adding endorphins to the mix. Or maybe I'm just weird.


Xan Marcelles said...

Sounds like a messy room encourages art though. Curious effect there Icy.

Anonymous said...

I'm so with you on this one, Icy. I went and read Ali's post, too.
I find I can live with a certain amount of clutter, but then I find I have to tidy it all up so that order is restored to the universe and I feel better.
And I agree with Ali's comment on mental clutter - if your brain resembles random detritus, you can't be productive. These last few weeks have been hard for writing with so much going on, it's made the brain like chocolate pudding. I know it's made my cyoa stuff harder to write.
Holidays are here, so mental decluttering is happening.
Adam B

C. N. Nevets said...

Before I write every night, I do the dishes and straighten the room I'm going to writing in. Clutter distracts my brain and crushes my soul.


These reminders of good Feng Shui just keeps coming up for review.

I love making a mess at my place, and then playing Creepy Crawly over at a friend's home. I did that today. Beds were flying, bumping and sliding from room to room. Turned their world upside down. Now, I am left to edit my own.


Anonymous said...

Great tips! I try to be tidy but the closest I get to that state is 'Catergorised Clutter'

Icy Sedgwick said...

Carrie - If it did, that would be cool, but I rarely finish any of my art...

Adam - Yeah, clearing mental clutter is actually the hardest. You can put stuff you don't want on eBay.

C.N. - I should do that more often.

Teri - I wish I could Feng Shui my room but I'm stuck with the layout!

Eeleenlee - At least you try to be tidy, that's a good start!

Anonymous said...

And I loved the "whatever butters your muffin." Got a great laugh out of that one. And I can only imagine what it takes to detangle fine mohair wool. I think the Gordian knot solution presents itself there.

dan powell said...

I find tidying definitely fires me up to write. When I get stuck with my writing, I'll try and make a dent in the ironing mountain or put some washing on. Usually by the time I have done the job my writer brain has kicked back in and off I go. Probably a defense mechanism to save me from working too hard.

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