Happy tidy new year

If you’re like me, you’re sweeping up the pine needles and sweeping away the holiday decorations, and getting ready to get back to work. The holidays are so great, a time to re-connect with family and friends, to get together and remember and plan, to play silly games and give the baby raspberries, all while your mind is working on the flaws in your latest manuscript. With their flexible schedules, writers often find the holidays and other vacations as an opportunity for monkey wrenching. The relatives mix up the alone-time, even if you love every single second of it. (Tell me how that works, will ya?)

Then they go home or back to school. Time to get organized for the new year. First and foremost (because it bugs the hell out of my hubby) is that I will spend ten or fifteen minutes every day keeping my desk clean. Confession: I am a messy person. Usually I clean my desk and office when I finish a book. Also, I leave the mail on the kitchen island and catalogues all over the place. I take this messy persona as evidence that I am a creative person, and therefore don’t really care if you can’t find a paper clip or a receipt or the chair in my office.  I embrace my chaotic side but must hit it with a hammer: clean it up! File it! Throw it out! Box it up! Get it out of sight! (Maybe not exactly what my husband wants but it will suffice.)

My office is not always a mess. Here is evidence for a guest blog I recently wrote. Look at that gleaming wood! My downfall, I confess, is piles of stuff: printouts, files, notes, and other detritus. I resist putting things into file folders because I fear I will forget to do something. Hey, it’s happened. And keeping it all in your head is one of the things about being a novelist that makes you … different. You have to keep that entire story going in your head. Not word by word, but the trajectory, the back story, the goal. It’s not easy, and even with outlines, sticky notes, and bulletin boards (cue messy crap) you have to keep it all juggling. A glance at some research you printed out two months ago may trigger something that gives you a new perspective, a new idea for the project in motion. But not if you dutifully filed that printout. Hey, how many of you go through your files?

So happy tidy new year. But keep the chaos going because no matter what your spouse says, a certain amount of mess is what being a writer is all about.

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