15 Habits of Great Writers: Day 11 – Declutter

On Day 11 of the Great Writers series, the habit to develop is to get rid of all the junk that gets in the way of writing, to get rid of the clutter. Jeff challenges participants to do two things to declutter: (1) clean your workspace; and (2) get rid of the non-essentials.

Stephen King calls it “killing your darlings.” I call it cutting the crap. – Jeff Goins

I’ve often said that decluttering around me helps me to declutter my mind, but this habit has been the most difficult for me, given my current circumstances.

Bear me with while I elaborate.

Clean Your Workspace

I’m notorious for saying I can’t write (or do whatever project is needing doing at the time) until the kitchen is clean. I don’t write in the kitchen, so it’s clearly not my workspace. When I lived alone in an apartment, I used to feel the need to clean to clean the whole place before I could do write on my honors’ thesis. I used to sort of be a neat freak, though.  And sometimes I thought I used the need to clean as a way of procrastinating the work that I needed to be doing instead. That, and trying to avoid the “freak” part, I’d try, on occasion, to not clean first. The writing sessions were never productive and I’d end up giving up and scrubbing the cabinets. Then I had children – they knocked the neat freak right out of me. Now, I simply strive to avoid filth, only being successful part of the time I’ll admit. And now the house always seems cluttered, even when it is clean.

Ron Leishman Illustrations

So, to write, I try to escape to my room. My “workspace” is my side of the bed, with a laptop. Right now, my workspace is in disarray (as is the rest of the house). Our air conditioning went caput two days ago. The first night without a/c, we tried opening the windows and using box fans. But it was still 100 degrees at midnight. No one slept well that night. The kids have a pallet in the living room. Laundry is piling up because I don’t want to run the dryer. I don’t want to clean anywhere because it’s just too darn hot in the house. During the day yesterday, we had to get out of the heat here. I took the kids to McDonald’s and tried to make the playplace my workspace for an hour and a half. I was able to write some, but only on fanfics (which I believe I can write in my sleep) and not on the BIG project (WIP) that needs attention. Last night, we borrowed a couple of window a/c units. So, now, with furniture moved into the middle of the room away from windows and box fans sitting everywhere, my workspace seems cluttered to the umpteenth degree.

I can’t concentrate; I haven’t made any real progress on the WIP in days and I feel I’ve lost my momentum.

Get Rid of the Nonessentials

This part of the challenge focuses on getting rid of the weak, lazy words that fill up your writing. Saying what you need to say and being done with it. Taking 1,000 words down to 300. Getting rid of fancy, empty, distracting words and getting to the heart of the matter. Revising. Editing.

I’m nowhere near ready for that. I’m trying to get my WIP down on paper (or at least I should be trying). My experience with writing is that I often get too hung up in revising as I go and it holds me back. So this time around I’ve been trying to just write. Get what I can on paper and see the storyline as a whole first, then I’ll come back and clean it up.

So, in a nutshell, I can’t do this part of the challenge either. (Of course, I could have tried to get rid of the unnecessary in this blog post, but then it wouldn’t have felt nearly as cathartic for me. Selfish, I know. Oh, well.)

Building a Decluttering Habit

What a total bust.

For me, that is. And just right now. I’m telling myself that when the a/c is fixed (hopefully later today), I’m going to clean house (including my workspace) and then get down to business. Though I don’t think I’ll be ready for the editing portion of this habit for a while on the WIP, it’s definitely something I intend to come back to.

So, here’s to some serious decluttering in the (hopefully very near future). Oh, and some really cool air.

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