Monday, 27 October 2014

Clutter, clear space and creativity...

I've always been a bit messy. I don't like clutter but I seem to attract it, mainly because it's too boring to deal with while it's still manageable and after a while it's like a tsunami of stuff threatening to swamp me so it's easier to run, screaming, preferably in the direction of a coffee shop.

So far, no problem (other than the odd angry exchange with my long-suffering husband). But can clutter affect your writing?
There are different schools of thought on this. Traditionally people maintained that an orderly desk is the sign of an orderly mind. Mess was bad, a reflection on the mental state or work ethic of the person working there.

I prefer to go with the (apocryphal? Who cares...) Einstein-ism above. Well-publicised research suggests that messy types are more likely to be creative and take a chance on new things - essential skills for any writer. [Disclaimer: In the interests of honesty, messy people are also less likely to take care of themselves  - which I suppose gives the ultimate win to the neat freaks peering into our graves and whispering, 'You shouldn't have finished all those half-eaten chocolate bars you found under the clutter...']
Mess doesn't always stop me working. Sometimes chaos brings its own energy and leads to manic bursts of productivity. When I'm working on a well-established book or project, I seem to be able to block it out and focus on the world in my head. In fact, maybe there is something about the mess (that powerful combination of chaos and stimulation) that makes me link characters and story strands together in unexpected ways, finding solutions to maddening plot problems.
There's one time when my theory falls down: when I'm writing something new. That's when the messy desk starts bugging me. Today I had planned to work in the library; for various reasons (including an interview, 8 gazillion emails and a laundry mountain) that hasn't happened. So, I find myself at my desk. And I have to tell you, it is making me itch sitting here. The books, the papers, the photos, the peanut butter jar (don't ask), the clutter. There is no possible way I can write from scratch at this desk.
Writing something new, making a new world, bringing new characters into focus means starting with a blank slate. It means space to spread out and plan and stare at clear wood and see the big picture. 

So, grudgingly, it's time to get cleaning because then I can get writing. Consider these the last words from the mess.
Until next time...
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