Wednesday, September 2, 2009

calm amidst chaos

You know that moment when you think it’s a great idea to completely overhaul a room or a section of the house that has been desperately needing attention… and then ultimately end up with a bigger mess than you started with?

Somehow, I thought it was a smart idea to finally get around to organizing my office – a space I have occupied since I moved in to this house this past February. I thought (silly me) it would be an easy task. I’m an organizational nerd, you see, and I was soooo looking forward to making sense of the final few bookshelves that needed attention, the pile(s) of to-be-read books waiting for open hands, and an assortment of to-be-sorted stacks. Well… my mistake. This is no small task.

The grand scheme was to finish up what I started months ago so that I could finally say my office was perfect; that my mental space and my writing space were in sync. The grand scheme is over-rated. Or maybe I’m just delusional. Now, not only have I created a bigger mess than I started with, I have certainly delayed my writing work for a day or two. Or at least focused writing. Oh sure, I am jotting things down, but my brain can’t seem to focus like it usually does with chaos piled knee-high beside me. But am I freaking out? Nope.

Because as a writer I know chaos. I know that half the job is getting things down on paper, but the other half is making sense of it all. Organizing my office is like editing a first draft. It’s all there, scattered around the room; I just need to zero in on the big picture, tidy up the details, and somehow it will all start to resemble something real. Like life, writing is messy. But with a calm approach and a strong cup of coffee, the horror of chaos gradually begins to make sense. It’s a challenge that can be won, and one that is almost immediately gratifying.

So, just as I do when tackling an editing marathon, I am brewing up a fresh cup of coffee every hour, stepping back for a moment now and then to reassess the big picture, and focusing on the baby steps that will gradually take shape into something fresh, orderly, and a definite reflection of me. Like editing, cleaning this office may seem like a pain in the butt right now, but in a day or two I will be very grateful for having gone through the experience and more than happy to see the results of my labors.

After all, it’s not the simple reason of cleaning my office that has me motivated. It’s the fringe benefit of clearing some mental space and cleansing the creative palate in preparation for some fun writing projects that has prompted me to purge and restore order to my workspace. A few hours of crazy chaos in exchange for a fresh start in a calm working space? Not a problem. It’s worth it.

What about you? Do you prefer to work amidst calm, chaos, or a combination? Before digging into a big new project, are there any rituals (like cleaning marathons) you do to get yourself ready? What about your workspace? Is it tidy, disorderly, or pleasantly messy? How do you keep calm amidst the chaos? How do you keep your to-be-read piles in check? Considering I’m knee-deep in books, papers, and everything else office-related, I can use all the tips I can get.

Speaking of being knee-deep in books… I’m feeling generous (and came across more postage than I can deal with). Share your stories on organizing your workspace, keeping up with clutter, or various tales from your chaotic workspace. I’ll pick my favorite posted comment today and offer up a signed copy of my latest book, stains: early poems, just because. Yup. Just because. So go on. Share. And I’ll gladly help add to your to-be-read pile. If you miss out on a signed copy today, fear not: I have something special coming up on Friday, so stay tuned for more info. Plus, everyone who clicks to follow this blog will be entered automatically in my end-of-September giveaway. Aren’t free books fun?

Next week we return to our regularly scheduled Wednesday author Q&As. Until next time… happy reading!

1 comment :

  1. Love the bigger mess than you started with problem :)
    I don't mind a bit of chaos, but I have to admit, I think better in an ordered office. That said... I am looking around me right now. Coffee cups, my sons craft project half finished, piles of books.... oh, I wonder what that scrap of paper is...