Monday, August 20, 2012

Mixed Messages



I subscribe to The Passive Voice and on Saturday, they sent their newsletter summation including a bit on how creativity is stifled by a clean desk.

Great, here I am, working hard to clean clutter out of my life and I see this.

And I think, “Well, f*ck.”

I’ve hired someone to help out! I’m paying out cash for help! And in two days, Mr. Clutter and I are tackling my office, and looking to clean it. And actually get me a desk. Because I truly do need some routine and order in my life, not just with writing but also with my home and yard.

And I do see the correlation.

In the beginning I wrote from chaos and I flourished. As the house grew more cluttered and the yard overgrown…I escaped into writing. And Starbucks. And I’d fantasize about how someday I’d get an espresso machine, pay someone to clean my house, reclaim my yard from the jungle rapidly overcoming…well, everything…and be the writer with the office, full of light and dust-free.

I do have an ambitious imagination.


Years passed…and it really was time to forget the fantasy and get with reality. Writing got tougher, the chaos inside my head growing more difficult to wade through to find the gems. The out-of-control berry vines from my yard pushed through the floorboards into the office and strangled my creativity. (Metaphorically. I don’t really have a thorny berry vine in my office. Really.)

But they are out there…in that mass of greenery. View thru the screen of my future office. There used to be a path…and there is gated garden out there, with a bench and an arch and a greenhouse… Really! (I keep the curtain closed a lot.

Plants don’t like to be ignored. They will grow and thrust themselves into notice. Much like how cats and dogs will climb into laps or start knocking over precious items. Kids will do what kids do to get attention. My house can’t climb into my lap, but it can just get smaller and smaller.

My therapist asked me a few weeks ago what the clutter in my life would say if it had a voice. I thought a moment and answered her. “Why don’t you love us anymore? Why don’t you use us? Dust us? If you don’t want us anymore, let us go!”

Which is what I’m working on.

I wonder how much of this is tangled in my current writer’s snarl. It was inevitable that the clutter and its many voices would intrude. One can only wear blinders for so long before the feeling of claustrophobia intrudes into the creative territory. The house grew smaller, the paths where I once indulged my writer child grew overgrown.

It’s been my experience that the more cluttered my life has become, the more challenged I am to pull the many storylines I have tangled in my head into some sort of…order. So that I can write and not just think about writing.

So, Mr. Clutter was hired.

I am hoping that as the clutter is removed from my home…and then my yard, my head will clear. If I can keep the house and yard clear.

Which is questionable.

I know that writing styles are subject to change. Plotters try pantsing and discover it can work for them. Pantsers start puzzling, finding that writing out of order has its rewards for combating being stuck. Puzzlers suddenly create scenes in order from beginning to end.

Then we shift again and try something different. And some writers never change, find the one way that works for them and it never stops working for them.

We hate those writers.

Even when we wish we were like that. I feel the same way about the effortless house cleaners and perennially organized.

So, the question is this, when I have that desk, that office that isn’t full of assorted boxes and bins of segregated, but not organized, promotional materials, when I can find a clear surface to perch my laptop and see my research materials on a shelf behind me instead of scattered haphazardly around my home…can I keep it that way? Will I need some semblance of chaos about me? What level of mess is acceptable?

I’m a little scared that I’ll get things fixed…and in less than a year, I’ll be whining that it’s back where it was… Sigh. My faith is weak.

Tell me, how much chaos/clear do you need to get your writing done? Is there a correlation between pantsing/puzzling/plotting and the desk/writing area in your home?


17 comments:

MsHellion said...

Medium clutter. I think the clutter I have now--that allows me to write--would bother very organized people. I don't have blank spaces on top of my coffee table. Everything is piled in its own space so I can find it if I need it.

I *HATE* paper clutter and if that piles up too much I will stop long enough to clean out as much as my attention span will handle. (Which I did this weekend.) In fact I decided I absolutely HAD to do something about the magazines. The problem is that I have a bunch of RWR magazines and Royalty and Majesty magazines...and cooking magazines I loved...and I don't want to part with them though they're a few years old. So I went to the store and bought a pretty organizer bookshelf cubical thing. I assembled it Saturday night and packed it with magazines and cookbooks. Took up the whole damned thing. Then I went back to the spare room to work on the paper. I was relatively ruthless for me. I was ripping out pages from old notebooks and piling up the now "clean" notebooks to write in later. I threw out pages and papers and things I decided I shouldn't have printed. Toss, toss, toss.

Unfortunately it didn't make too much of a dent in the whole situation, but I still felt a lot better about things. And I have been writing more.

When I can't write, it's because my dishes are three days old in the sink and piled high (I'm ONE person, how could have I used that many dishes?); I cannot get to my coffee table--the underneath is piled with crap as well as one foot all the way around it, piled as high. Usually empty soda bottles, kleenex, and wrappers. It's awful. Then I stop, get rid of it all (it takes about 15 minutes), and all is well again.

I should send you a picture of my cluttered room. It might make you feel better. *LOL* Terri totally wanted to see it. The woman can't bear clutter and was amazed by my descriptions.

Melissa Johnson said...

Love this post, and that mass of greenery you have out there has a lot of beauty to it too. :)

What you said about worrying it would all be "back where it was" after all the effort made me think about what I joke is my "skinny year." After losing 40 pounds I did wind up back where I was (and then some). I guess I didn't absorb the changing my life style as much as I could have. But I had a heck of a good time before I realized I was back to where I was. LOL! So I'd say to just enjoy the clean slate of your makeover and the experience of how it might energize your writing. If it has to be done again down the road, well you know it can be.

quantum said...

Funny how its only when humans try to control nature, eg in a garden, that this happens! Out in a natural wilderness everything looks beautiful and perfect.

Could be a moral there? LOL

Maureen said...

Hellion - I'd love to see this whirling dirvish of the war on paper... I do all of this, albeit, much slower. The magazines! Ah! I understand this! Though I've grown increasingly ruthless when it comes to what I keep and the rest are recycled.

Yesterday, did a real job on Princess clutter. What is Princess clutter? Chance isn't a royalty watcher!

Princess Cruises. We've gone on quite a few of them and thinking we must keep everything we bring home... NOT! I went through stuff from Alaska, Mexico and Hawaii last night... Taking it down to reasonable levels.

Though, who the hell will care about this stuff. You see, I don't have kids. And I know my assorted nieces and nephews are going just want to toss a match into the house and collect insurance...

Anyway! Okay, you can write with medium mess and clutter. I think I will be able to, also...

Maureen said...

Melissa! Hi, stranger! Thanks for the backyard. It's a jungle. Literally. I've always liked the jungle feel of it, but I do want to be able to walk through it and find the howling coyote statues that are out there, and the gazing balls...the bench... Sigh.

They are all still out there!

My yard is a good example of what happens when people disappear from an environment. We get enough moisture that most things continue to flourish and though I'm sure I've lost some things, who the hell can tell? My biggest fear is that poison oak lurks out there. Makes it really hard to get out and tackle.

Hence, we'll hire someone to do the first big sweep through.

I think with the house, it will take setting a tolerance point and when it reaches that place, we cull and clean our butts off. And I don't want it to get so bad dust and dirt wise, ever. A light schedule of dusting and polishing is going to enter our life.

And been there, done that with the diet... ;-)

Maureen said...

You know, Q...when we moved in that garden area was a lot more sparse. People before us controlled via merciless death dealing. We sought to gentle create paths and enjoy the more natural aspect of the space.

And we've been pushed around by the invaders. Yup, ivy is an invader. So is vinca... Non-natives! The berries? Yeah, they grow naturally, or should I say overgrow...

This is what happens when two people with two dogs and a cat enjoy puttering about their garden...then in the space of two years both dogs pass on, then the cat, then the woman is knocked on her ass by sudden cardiac death and the yard is left on its own.

To run amock!

It did such a good job of running amock...

P. Kirby said...

I operate in a contradictory mode that requires chaos and order. To get stuff done, especially necessary tasks at work and home, I need a schedule and must stick to it religiously. I don't multi-task that well anymore, so if I get too overwhelmed, I get lost and give up. Ergo, I need some organization.

But...I'm not a terribly orderly person. There's are clothes all over the bedroom floor; boxes of old artwork that need sorting in the office. With writing, I don't plan, because planning kills my voice and bores the muse. I need a certain degree of noise and disorder to power the creative engine.

If ignored, my garden would demonstrate a different kind of return to nature. It rains here a handful of times a year. Ergo, nearly everything would die, except the well-established natives, leaving the bones of the yard, brick paths, adobe walls and railroad tie edging.

Maureen said...

Yeah, I've lived places where that is the result of negligence with a yard. Don't have that problem here!

And I am totally enjoying the doe and two fawns that currently have taken up residence on the upslope from the yard. Don't want to do anything out there until they move on.

I think I'll find that I need some chaos. The trick is to not over-reach the tipping point where it takes over.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

Chance - My work desk and writing desks both go through a cycle. When I'm intensely working on a project things get chaotic and very, very messy. But I make it a point - a rule really - that when the project is finished I have to clean up.

Now, for the writing desk that could be forever. LOL - So every weekend I HAVE to clean off or organize the writing desk. That's it. 1x a week - about 5 minutes - and then I let myself go wild again. :)

Marnee Bailey said...

I have no writing desk. But I also am not impeccably need either. I can't be right now. But I do need to know where things are. I think that's the line. Right now, I settle for things being clean (not immaculate, just clean as in, has been dusted/vacc'd/scrubbed in acceptable amt of time), knowing where they are, and it being aesthetically pleasing to me.

I think if I felt I had to keep it "perfect" that would distract me and when it's a disaster that distracts me. So, like Hells says, a medium amount. And knowing when good enough is good enough.

I have no "writing area" exactly. Just my couches and lap. LOL! But it has to be mostly neat-ish. And, as you know, I'm a plotter mostly, so if you're using a scientific method where neat=plot and mess=pants, I fit that, I guess. But I don't think it's as easy as that. Some pantsers probably need neat around them so they can channel the "mess" inside and vice versa.

Ultimately, I think it's about listening to what you're "soul" is telling you right now. If you feel like that right now, that you need to put some order around you, I think you need to honor that. :)

Maureen said...

Scape, that might work for me, though the idea of finishing before cleaning is problamatic... I think a schedule is going to have to be established.

One thing the Bosun suggested for me was a long term calendar on the wall, where I can see it. I need to get to an office supply store and look at the possibilities. Until I am under contract again or working with an agent, I have to establish deadlines or I'll just la-la-la my way into doing nothing.

Maureen said...

I'm not sure there is a correlation of mess = pants, neat = plotter... I wonder. And I do think that with me, the pantser could run like hell from the clutter, which made me incredibly prolific. Until I ran out of places to run.

You know, I can't just move. I do have to go home to this place. Darn it.

I do write on the couch, but my skeleton is beginning to remind me that I really can't do this for long periods of time...

I'm praying that I won't be struck by the uber-neat bug. I'm not looking to have a polished perfect home or desk area... But some medium...

I always like the desk and office of Ray Bradbury, surrounded by items that would spark his imagination. Ideally, that is what I'm going for. I have no idea if Ray kept all that stuff dusted or not. I'm guessing not...

Marnee Bailey said...

Yeah, Ray Bradbury doesn't seem like he'd have been great with the swiffer. LOL!!

And I think you're doing a great thing. A home should be an oasis, not something to run from, ya know?

Maureen said...

Gods, I want that, Marn. I really do. I want back the oasis of my home and yard. I have a feeling it was a symptom of real problems. A reflection that I didn't want to look at.

But I'm stronger now and ready to face it all.

And in an odd way, I see putting together a legitimate office and working space as I way to proclaim and seize my right to be professional with writing, with sewing, with being more than a hobby-ist, enthusiast...

TerriOsburn said...

I'm home!!! Thank you, Chance, for covering for me today. I've been so frazzled I didn't even make arrangements for me being out of town.

I think I might be in the medium group too. Okay, not exactly medium. I always say my house is clean but it looks "lived in". However, a lack of clutter makes my heart happy. This weekend I found out my aunt and uncle will be spending the night at my house towards the end of September.

That means I have a month to get the place looking good. Nothing I can do about the concrete floor and I probably can't get the living room painted, but I can organize and get the pictures on the walls.

Marn - I'm like you, I have to know where things are. Right now, I don't know where hardly anything is. It's making me nuts. Organizing must commence immediately!

Maureen said...

Perhaps we need a weekend of organizing the pirates!

Though the few hours I just spent in the bedroom, cleaning, dusting and sorting...and Mr. Clutter will be helping me out in the study on Wednesday. I need to do some preliminary work in there...ah, gods!

Maureen said...

Knowing company is coming does seemed to light a fire under my ass! Aunt Cindy and her DH be spending a few days outta the valley heat while I'm sailing ta Alaska in a few weeks...