The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘spring cleaning for your writing life

Wow, we’re in the middle of the second quarter of the year! Can you believe it? It seems like only yesterday when we were writing down resolutions for our creative lives for 2018. Have some of those commitments and intentions gotten sidetracked since then?

Totally understandable. Spring can put us back on track. This season enables us to connect with a feeling of renewal that we begin to see physically manifested all around us. Spring also powers us with the energy to tackle the physical spaces (and states of mind) that no longer serve our creative life.

Several years ago, I started writing about the power of spring cleaning in support of one’s creative life.

Spring presents us with a perfect time to reassess, reorganize and rededicate ourselves to the projects that we most want to bring into the world.

Here is my three step process that I have found useful for spring cleaning:

1) You reassess your space, your schedule, and patterns of mind to see what is supporting or not supporting your creative life.

2) You reorganize your space, schedule, and patterns of minds to allow you to create with more ease.

3) After reassessing and reorganizing, you rededicate yourself to having a productive and joyful creative life!

Clutter can immobilize our creative lives.

Ah, Houston…we have a problem!

 

I know from personal experience how debilitating and draining it can be to work in a perpetually cluttered space. I’ve written about how powerful it was to tackle clutter and re-imagine my home writing space.

My desk=before

My desk=after

In upcoming posts, I’ll talk more about the 3 ‘R’s as it pertains to schedule and patterns of mind. But, let’s start with reassessing your space.

What about your creative space? Does it need a spring tune-up?

Go and look at your creative space. What’s the state of it? Do you feel a 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/photography/painting, etc., 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.

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

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

-Would it be useful to create an index for your piles of journals, scripts, flashdrives, DVDS, boxes of sewing materials (i.e. whatever you consider your primary creative material)?

-Are there notes from conferences, master classes, residencies and/or workshops that need to be reviewed and filed?

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

-Are there financial records related to your creative life that need to be updated?

-Are there creative projects that you’ve abandoned that still take up lots of physical space? Can they be re-purposed or stored elsewhere?

-Do you need to physically clean your computer?

-Do you have visible reminders of your creative accomplishments? Is it time to take some down and put up new ones?

-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 (e.g. paint)?

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

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.

What plans do you have for spring cleaning in relation to your creative projects?

*adapt this question and others to your needs if writing isn’t your primary focus

 

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Spring is here!

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 powers us with the energy to tackle physical spaces (and states of mind) that no longer serve our writing life.

Last December, I made a major commitment to re-imagining my writing space. I was tired of being one of those people who always seemed to ‘be in the process of organizing’, arguably one of the most important rooms in my house, without ever accomplishing a significant change. My writing career during the last two years has taken off in remarkable ways and I began to view my perpetually cluttered room as a pattern of self-sabotage.

These before pictures show that my space definitely needed some attention!

roompix 439roompix 445

I hired a painter. I spent two days packing up, two days watching the painters work their magic and then three weeks unpacking.roompix 444roompix 447

The challenge came as I began to unpack. I needed to create new systems and to let go of stuff. During the cold days of December I often found myself frustrated, overwhelmed and entirely baffled that I could feel so emotionally undone by this process.

I began to explore how some of my discomfort in relating to space was closely tied to childhood patterns.  Due to financial constraints I shared a room with my mother from the age of nine until eighteen. I missed out on a lot of  developmental experiences of the joys and challenges of having one’s own room and caring for it. Although this wasn’t the sole cause of clutter in my life, I understood why I held onto things too long (often coming from a place of scarcity or deprivation), and also how I simultaneously paid little attention to the aesthetics of space. After these insights, the organizing went a lot smoother.

Although this spring I still have a few more things to work on in my new space, I am in love with it!

extrablogstuff 029

extrablogstuff 027extrablogstuff 030

Spring cleaning, for you, may not involve any deep-seated emotional issues. But, if you think it could, you can begin by asking the following questions:

-Is clutter an ongoing issue for me?

-Have I experienced patterns of deprivation that may effect how I relate to material objects?

-Do I feel unusually sad, frustrated, or angry as I try to declutter and organize my space?

Depending on your answers, you may want to solicit support from a coach or therapist who specializes in organizational issues.

The first step in my spring cleaning process is to reassess your space, your schedule, and patterns of mind to see what is supporting or not supporting your writing life.

Go and look at your writing space. What’s the state of it? Do you feel a 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.

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

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

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

-Are there notes from conferences and workshops that need to be reviewed and filed?

-Are there writing exercises that could be useful to you if they were typed up?

-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 visible reminders of your writing accomplishments? Is it time to take some down and put up new ones?

-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.

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.

What are you reassessing right now in support of your writing life?

Dedicate v. 1. To set apart for a special use. 2. To commit (oneself) to a course of action. 3. To address or inscribe (e.g., a literary work) to someone.  (Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, 2nd ed)

Spring possibilities are about to cede to summer pleasures. I’ve been ruminating on the importance of spring cleaning for your writing life and have covered the first two steps—reassessment and reorganization. The third step is the most powerful one—rededication. To rededicate ourselves to something we deem as special in our lives strengthens and amplifies our commitment.

Weeks ago, I posed a question to writer friends:  What is one thing that you’re doing, giving away, rearranging, reassessing, reorganizing, etc., to support your writing life? Michelle Wotruba, is a ‘day dreaming mommy’, blogger and my online writing buddy. She offered this nugget:

I’m going thru my ‘Magical Maybe’ folder and seeing what is really in there.

The ideas that I’m no longer interested in I’m tossing.

The ideas that I like I’m setting “mini coffee dates” to start on them; if by the end of that date I haven’t done anything but drink my coffee, I’m going to toss those.

I’ve realized some ideas I like but now I’m looking at them in a fresh way. Those are the ideas I’m going to start with; we’re skipping the coffee and going on a “dinner and a movie date.”

I’m always looking for new ideas in my “Magical Maybe” folder; I usually save those for a dessert date but not always.

http://mommyspinkielipgloss.blogspot.com/p/about-me.html

I just love Michelle’s ‘Magical Maybe’ folder (and wish I had one!). Michelle’s comment suggests that we periodically sort through ideas, concepts, and themes, rededicating ourselves to the ones with the most juice.

Rededicating ourselves to our writing life sends a joyful message to our creative self. Remember, our creative self loves to be wooed. Its language includes ritual, ceremony and demonstrative acts of appreciation.

Here are some areas of my writing life that I’m rededicating myself to this summer:

I rededicate myself to using the most routine occurrences as story generators.

I rededicate myself to cultivating delight in the writing process.

I rededicate myself to finding new ways to dialogue with inner resisters, critics, evaluators, judges and committee members and either work with them as allies or assign them to a different job.

I rededicate to asking ‘what if?’ and then daring myself to come up with an answer!

I rededicate myself to looking at revision as a way to honor my writing by keeping the right words and setting the rest free for another day.

I rededicate myself to asking daily, ‘What wants to come forth in my writing’?

I rededicate myself to becoming educated about the changing nature of publishing.

 

As you move into summer’s rhythms what areas of your writing life would you like to rededicate yourself to?

 

A few weeks ago I began a series on spring cleaning for your writing life. There are three steps in the process:

1) You reassess your space, your schedule, and patterns of mind to see what is supporting or not supporting your writing life.

2) You reorganize your space, schedule, and patterns of minds to allow you to create with more ease.

3) After reassessing and reorganizing, you rededicate yourself to having a productive and joyful writing life!

I also asked writer friends for their thoughts, posing this question to them: What is one thing that you’re doing, giving away, rearranging, reassessing, reorganizing, etc., this spring, to support your writing life? I’ve organized their comments into several categories: Body, Space, Schedules and Patterns of Mind.

We only have a few more weeks before the official start of summer. Let’s continue to use the forward propulsion of spring energy to clear away anything that keeps us from our optimal writing life.

Body

I am clearing out deadlines. Rearranging everything so poetry comes first. Dusting off hip-opening yoga mornings and rededicating my body to sleep.

Alexis Gumbs, writer and activist, http://alexispauline.com

I did a spring cleaning of what was ailing me:  the (supposedly) most feel-good aspect of my life. I had a great physical therapist, but physical therapy was killing me. I spent my whole life either going to PT or recovering from pain or fatigue. I got some support from Sharan and some friends, and realized that PT isn’t healing anymore. So I quit. I feel scads better after only two days. The very same day I did it, I found an acupuncturist who knows all about my rare disease (how about that!?) and will do Medical Qi Gong on me. That’s cleaning house.

Heidi R. Moore, writer and artist, http://heidiwriting.wordpress.com

Space

My mom’s fantasy: I am a domestic goddess who hosts grand dinner parties. My reality: I can barely cook a pizza without burning the house down. Result: A cabinet stuffed with beautiful, but unwanted table linens (gifts from my mom). Solution: I donated the entire unused collection to the Habitat for Humanity Home Store and can now open my cabinet without the constant reminder that I am NOT Martha Stewart!

Linda Johnson, writer and author of A Tangled Web, http://www.lindajohnson.us

I am purging and streamlining my physical environment to eliminate chaos and create a zen garden peace to allow my writing to flow. Today I shredded 2 bags of documents related to estate business for my parents and father-in-law.

Cathy Pelham, emerging writer and photographer

Schedules

I’m prioritizing… and I found out that focus on my writing gets a higher rating than a focus on my cleaning… but not by much. Just 1 point more on a 15-point scale. So, it’s important to do both. But I write FIRST, and THEN I clean. This is the first day I’ve used my new system, and I’m liking it.

Ellen Jacobs, writer and author of “The Littlest Sparkler” (a children’s book,-in-progress) www.thelittlesparkler.wordpress.com

I am cleaning out my sleeping in so there’s more of that sacred silent space to write.  DJ, emerging writer

Patterns of Mind

This spring, I’m throwing out my inner critic, the voice that tells me what I’m writing is crap! This won’t be easy. We’ve been attached at the hip (or the head) for a long time.  But in order for me to move forward as a writer, it must be done. Wish me luck.

Judith Marshall, author of Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, optioned for the big screen, www.judithmarshall.net

I was on the road, winding up the book tour for Blood Clay, when my husband did the spring cleaning. He shook out rugs, dusted, vacuumed – and painted the bedroom. When I returned, he opened the door with a flourish to show washed-out yellow walls and tired woodwork replaced with a vibrant cayenne red and creamy white. It was a daring choice, and the right one.  So I’ve been trying to do the same thing in my writing. Be bold! I remind myself. Go into the dark places, yes, but I don’t need to focus only on the hidden and buried and painful. I am seeking places where joy and light suffuse the mind. I am letting go a little more, being open to that character making an unexpected move – it’s a gift from the writing gods. I’m shaking the cobwebs and accumulated dust from my thoughts and opening doors that have been closed for too long. Welcome spring!

Valerie Nieman, writer and author of Blood Clay, http://valerienieman.blogspot.com/

What needs to be reorganized to support your writing life?

 

(Photo credit: http://beforeyouwrite.com/page/2/)

Is your desktop (or smartphone) awash in files and icons that you rarely use? Is your Inbox crammed to capacity? Do you break out in a cold sweat when you think about the last time you backed up and sorted photos stored on your computer? Do you have hundreds of bookmarks? Digital acquisition feels easy at first, but like any kind of clutter it adds up and over time can contribute to disorganization and psychological stress.

Last week I started a series about springing cleaning for your writing life. Spring cleaning brings both physical and psychological benefits including increased energy, clarity and an uncluttered space. I focused on reassessing clutter in one’s physical writing space. In doing my own bout of spring cleaning, I couldn’t help notice how cluttered my desktop looked, how I was a bookmark acquirer and how all three of my email accounts haven’t been purged or organized in quite some time. After I posted, I realized that e-clutter deserved some time of its own.

E-clutter covers a vast array of digital items: email, contacts, bookmarks, photos, videos, text messages, blog posts, e-books tweets, documents, newsletters, etc. Items that as Jamie Derringer says, in her article about e-clutter, can “turn your computer into a virtual disaster area, making it nearly impossible to locate items without conducting a search.”

Managing the digital world too often fails to get (or sustain) our attention. E-clutter is easy to ignore, unlike physical clutter, most of the time as it fades into the larger digital background noise of our lives. While I’ve trained myself that if I bring five books home it means that I have to give away five, I’m less diligent when I subscribe to blogs, accept a specialty coupon by email, or bookmark every passing fancy to ask: What’s my capacity here? Do I really need this bit of information? How often will I use it? Where will I store it over time? These are the kinds of questions that are useful to ask as we go about our day navigating the digital landscape.

The psychological payoff for decluttering our physical environment holds true for our digital lives. It takes time, patience and a strategy. If you’re interested in putting e-clutter on your spring cleaning agenda, here are some helpful resources to get started:

http://www.diylife.com/2010/10/05/organize-your-e-clutter-like-a-pro/

http://www.otherinbox.com/cbs-early-show-tips-to-declutter-your-e-clutter-with-organizer/

I’d love to know: What’s your story with e-clutter? How are you managing it? Is it on your spring cleaning list? Any worthwhile tips you can share?

(post appeared today on She Writes)

(Photo credit-Google Images)


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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

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