I Ran Out of Room To Think

To the right of the door my files

This is my credenza after the last clean out. If you click over to Flickr and put your mouse over the image there are boxes commenting on the wall collection. Oh I’ve gotten new curtains since then…

There wasn’t room to turn a thought over in my office any more. I mean physical room to do it. I’m one of these people who can’t think when clutter gets to be too much. I’m not sure what my threshold is but I reached it in my office. The clutter may or may not be where visitors can see it, generally it’s not. Clutter on shelves, in drawers, in closets behind closed containers takes up space for me to think. I can’t explain it but it does. It’s all part of the Mary Louise Cycle of cleaning. First I start out orderly and vow to keep it that way. Next I become productive. Then I over extend a bit and clutter builds on surfaces. This is followed by putting it away. This step is known as the CLEAN UP. The next part is away gets filled up. Then clutter comes out onto the surfaces. Then I deal with it on the surfaces but start being nagged by the away that is full of stuff I don’t need now and haven’t needed in some time. Then I get bogged down, I can’t think. I feel closed in by stuff – stuff put away in the crammed full away. I try to find something and the packed full away gets in the way of finding that thing. I remember back at the beginning of the cycle when I could put my hands on things quickly because I didn’t have to dig in the cleaned up stuff to get to the important thing. THEN comes the CLEAN OUT.

The CLEAN OUT is a big deal because everything gets emptied, sorted, evaluated, and categorized. There is the I need this stuff that goes back close to hand. Probably the type of thing was looking for when I got fed up with digging in the Cleaned up stuff clutter stuff. Then there is the donate stuff. It’s served its purpose for me. Time for it to go serve someone else. This is followed by the keep until I need again stuff. This is mostly resting writing projects, genealogy documentation, or reference books. I tend to let large projects rest a month or two before going back to start rewrite or edit. I find the distance helps me. Finally the tiniest category of all is the keep just because I like it stuff. This applies to a very few books, a few things Aaron gave me when he was a child, some art supplies, and a box of pens. My rule is this stuff cannot exceed one file box. Nope never. So far I’ve not had to toss anything because the file box isn’t full. I’m VERY discerning about what goes there and I’m a damn good packer.

Why do I tell you this? Because for the last two and half days I’ve been involved in a major CLEAN OUT of my office. In many ways I’m heading into a new chapter of life. Aaron is on his own. I’ve just finished a 2nd draft novel. I’m approaching surgery and recuperation time. It’s a transition period for me to the next thing. Not that I’m ending anything I’m just building on it, like one chapter of a novel builds on the next. Yet you know from reading chapters end signaling a change in the on-going story. Life is the same. I’m ending one chapter and moving to the next.

My office is my sanctuary. It’s my place to be me and from there build outward to the home, the house, the town, and the world. I want my sanctuary orderly as I venture into the next chapter. It helps me build if I’m not digging through clutter to find the important things. What’s important in tangible things change over time. That years worth of bank statements that was so important for my first mortgage approval doesn’t matter now. That book I enjoyed but is over can be passed on to someone else to enjoy. I want to be surrounded by what appeals to me now, what is useful to me now, what I need now, what’s important now. That can’t be EVERYTHING – decisions have to be made with what is taking up physical space and by doing that I also clear out mental space.

So far all the files are now in order. My desk top is clear. What is close to hand reflects current projects that are used at least weekly. The shelves here in my tiny office hold references I need for those current projects. Tomorrow I tackled the office supply drawers and the next day the office closet. So far I’ve three large grocery bags of books and a box of odds and ends for donation. I’ve taken out one large trash bag of stuff I don’t need any more. I’ve got some boxes of genealogy documentation that can be stored, the digital copies are at my fingertips. I’ve got a file box of a novel draft that needs to rest in the dark for 4-12 weeks. I’m sure a box office supplies we don’t need now that Aaron is out of school will be collected next for donation. Gosh knows what I’ll find in the closet – I’m hoping Narnia isn’t back there I’d have to have another cold draft I have to block this winter. ¬†Besides I need to make room so I can run through another Mary Louise Cycle in this chapter.

Until next time!

9 thoughts on “I Ran Out of Room To Think

  1. Pingback: The Black Cord Tangle Has ME! « Mary Louise Eklund

    • Thanks now I’ve finished the desk, the shelves, and the filing cabinets. Today tackling the closet and drawers but I know that’ll spill over to tomorrow too… Once it’s done I’ll feel so accomplished! (We won’t mention all the other rooms that need this)

  2. LOVE this! You and I are very similar. I did learn something too — I was told to let a manuscript rest 2 weeks and then look at it again. But I like your idea better – the more distance, the better probably. The problem I am having right now is, I probably already told you, is I’m very organized by nature but now writing has become everything to me, so much so I forget to eat sometimes. (and for me to do that, is huge!!!) You and I talked before about how to quit while I still have some gumption — then I won’t be totally worn out if I stop while I’m ahead. It’s still a very good goal for me. Yeah, Mary Louise, you just keep on talkin’ about this stuff – it interests me very much!

    • When I started thinking about writing as a professional I read a lot books about it. They kept saying how the hardest parts about writing are discipline and consistency. My creative pump was primed, I was excited and couldn’t ever imagine when the flow wasn’t going to be there until I was too physically exhausted to channel it. Now over a decade later I get it. The difference between a professional and an amateur writer isn’t really the pay – it’s the discipline and consistency.

      How each writer achieves those two thing varies as much as the individual. Learning to pace oneself so that there is more to give when you come to the page is part of that. For me it’s stopping when I’m feeling good and have more to tell so I can pickup there tomorrow. I need a plot plan when I start – my mess of a first novel still needs more work because it rambled terribly and I sill don’t have the heart to face it for a third rewrite. For me to not read what I intended but what is on the page it takes more than two weeks distance.

      I strongly suggest reading some books on how to write – don’t take them as gospel but as examples of how some people do it. Try things from them that intrigue you and develop discipline and consistency for yourself. There are many conflicting opinions on lots of things (is there such thing as writer’s block? how long to rest? how much should be planned? how much should be left to process?) As you try out things and gain experience you’ll find your own discipline and consistency.

      Oh my surgery is during the first half of November.

      • Thanks, Mary Louise. You’ve given me great things to think about — especially the fact about finding my own discipline and method…my writing prof used to tell me all the time, like you said “Read a lot of books about writing”, but I was too eager to consider that. Now, after talking with you, I understand. Sure am glad you’re on WordPress!

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