The Practice of Creativity

Spring Cleaning for Your Writing Life: Part 1

Posted on: April 20, 2012

Spring presents writers with a perfect time to reassess, reorganize and rededicate ourselves to the projects that we most want to bring into the world. Spring fuels us with the energy to tackle physical spaces (and states of mind) that no longer serve us. Over the next several posts, I’ll explore the role of spring cleaning for your writing life. I also asked writer friends for their thoughts and will share their nuggets of wisdom. I posed this question to them: What is one thing that you’re doing, giving away, rearranging, reassessing, reorganizing, etc., to support your writing life?

Samantha Stacia, writer and visionary creator of the ‘Blooming Late’ community (for women writers over forty on She Writes, Facebook and Twitter) shared:

The ONLY thing unique I have been doing for spring is rearranging my writing nook. (It’s a small indentation that has a desk with shelves all the way up the wall above it across from my bed in my bedroom. I have to write on my laptop sitting on my bed due to my disability.) I have been saving my son’s schoolwork there as well, but have found that it sits there making me feel guilty that I am not putting it into albums, scrapbooks etc., while I am trying to write. So I am moving all his stuff to a place all by itself AWAY from the nook, so I can take ONE day this summer to go through it and file everything where it belongs. It’s been so distracting to have something OTHER than my writing materials in my writing nook. It’s amazing how all that other stuff hanging out in one’s writing area (reminding you of all the other projects waiting for you), can make you feel bad about writing!

So spring is about making my writing space EXCLUSIVELY about writing and not a multitasking space. It’s already made me feel more focused that I have given my writing its own place, making it a real priority.

Jennie Kohl Austin, a writer who also describes herself as a “fiercely determined mom, artist, researcher, lover, and motorcycle enthusiast” shared:

I chose to rework my writing work space as a part of my spring routine this year. I separated my writing work space from my regular computer area so that I could define the state of “being a writer.” Laptop, markers and notepads, nice lighting, and my most inspiring books make for a soothing space that not only honors my process, but also lets my family know I’m working. The best part is how it doesn’t gather unrelated clutter, so I’m always ready to work!


Samantha and Jennie’s insights remind us how important it is to periodically reassess our writing space. Go and look at your writing space. What’s the state of it? Do you feel as sense of ease when you look at it? Is it crammed with stuff that belongs in other rooms of your house? If you live with other people, is this space known as your special writing area?

Have you even claimed some special place yet, or are you waiting for permission from someone else? If you’re struggling with this, see my post on claiming creative space.

It’s important to not get overwhelmed during spring cleaning. Many people decide they will devote a day to a spring cleaning project and then realize that they’re cranky after two hours and that the task requires at least two days. Start small and reward yourself often. Why not take from now until the official start of summer to spring clean? You could choose one project each week. I suggest working in 15-30 minute intervals so there’s less chance of getting frustrated and overwhelmed. I enjoy using an online stopwatch.

Survey your space and make a quick list of what you feel needs your attention most. The questions below are not exhaustive, but a good place to start.

-Do you need to organize and sort out your paper files?

-Would it be useful to create an index for your piles of journals?

-When was the last time you did a backup of your computer files? Do you need to delete or add programs?

-Do you need to release some writing books? Welcome others?

-Do you need to physically clean your computer?

-Do you have too much or too little of something in your space?

-Do you need more or less shelf space?

-Are there big physical jobs you’d like to do (i.e. paint)?

Once you have your list you can break each item down into specific tasks.

I’d love to hear from you about your process of spring cleaning and your writing life. Any please feel free to share any tips!


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7 Responses to "Spring Cleaning for Your Writing Life: Part 1"

I love the picture, Michele! Clutter can be a real distraction. I’m a “piles” organizer myself – I hate to file things, can never find them!


Hey Karen,
Thanks and so true! Things are out of control in my office when my piles (and especially stickpads) have gotten “pregnant” and spawned piles of their own that are not even thematically related to the original piles.


A space of ones own is so important. I psychologically signals you are taking your writing seriously.

I sit in the living room with a cheapy tilt desk for laptop, which works but I don’t have much space for notes, books, etc… I have things piled up all around me. I’ve been contemplating trying to carve out a space for myself. Not to mention laptop screen is pretty groady-I guess I’ll start my spring cleaning there.


Hey Lynne,
I agree with that doing space clearing lets your subconscious know that your writing holds an important place. Good luck in clearing a space that really accommodates you as a fabulously productive writer


Michele, this looks frighteningly like my work room right now! It’s a beautiful space but completely taken over with overwhelming projects. I’m working on a way to save/archive my teaching files, every class I teach goes in a notebook and you don’t want to see how many new notebooks I’ve accumulated. So my plan is to compile them all in a new notebook, maybe keep a couple of repeats in their own notebooks. Hmmm Which are repeats? Every class I teach right now is new. …. Suggestions?


Hey Marjorie,
Uh-oh–I got the idea of indexing and organizing my journals from you! lol
I know that some teachers organize their folders just by topic and not by class and they put all the stuff pertaining to that topic in that folder, so it’s a grab and go model. You could maybe do it by theme–or create a master index that lists which notebooks have the top 10 things that you use over and over. If you skim all your writing prompt notebooks over the past two years, you could probably distill much of the notes into one notebook/folder and add to that as you move forward. The other notebooks then form your archive for that class–going back to them for refreshers or clarification. Also, can you think of a delightful way of doing this task?
*seems like this topic could also be a 15 minute segment in your ‘Strategies for the Writing Life’
As productive and creative a writer as you are (and as long as you have been teaching), there is no easy answer. Do a little at a time. And, remember when we’re overwhemed it usually means that we’re assigning everything the same priority.
Thanks for stopping by!


I definitely struggle with this; I don’t have a lot of living/working space, and clutter builds up fast. It’s definitely distracting from getting work done, so I’ve been trying to reduce for the last several weeks, with not as much success as I’d like. I’ll get there eventually, though!


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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