This post is longer than usual, but I have heard so many stories lately about writers with health problems and writers throwing in the towel, I felt a need to share information from several sources. I hope you find it helpful.
Every twenty-four hours, we have the opportunity to start a new day, but few of us do anything new. Oh, we may start a new piece of writing, but I'm talking about real change, the kind that affects everything we touch. We muddle along in our writing and living grooves, while stealth energy drainers sneak in and sabotage our professional and personal lives, which are, after all, inseparable.
This stealth "bomber" is called clutter. No, this isn't another article about feng shui; although, a little feng shui probably would be helpful to motive us to a more fulfilled life. Clutter can be physical clutter or mental. The insidious nature of clutter is this: it establishes itself so gradually and entrenches itself so deeply, that we don’t consciously know it's invaded our lives until it drains our creativity, our energy, our productivity, and ultimately our health.
I did a little research on this subject to remind myself exactly what feng shui involves and found that the first item on every list I perused was to declutter in order to obtain good feng shui. The art of feng shui is quite complex in all its forms and tenets and beyond the scope of this article, but I suggest you look it up to determine what you could use to help you along this path of decluttering. It is quite enlightening.
Physical Clutter: We leave a fast-food cup in the car or on our desk and soon have a matching set. We stack folders we plan to file, pile clothes that need folding, build a tower of old pizza boxes or water bottles, drop wet towels on the bathroom floor, forget to hang tools back up in the garage, save all the articles we want to read under "Documents" and the list grows too long to go through it, turn down the pages in our writers' magazines and books, then can't remember which book has what we're looking for. Before we know it, we are surrounded by an unorganized mess, and by the time we see it, the problem seems insurmountable and writing our tome has lost its excitement.
Whether it's physical or mental clutter, we are skilled at stepping over it, dusting around it, feeling guilty when we look at it, promising ourselves to work on it a little every day, declaring we will sort our pc files by topic and create folders with obvious names to house our research. But by the time we collapse in bed, our promises can wait one more day. We tell ourselves and convince others that we know where everything is and to leave the piles alone. Writers don't need to exercise; our legs swell from sitting so long, and it goes away when we go to bed. A blood clot doesn't have the nerve to settle in our creative beings.
Quit fooling yourself. Those piles are taking up valuable physical space, draining and filling your mental space with junk. A clear mind and energetic body needs SPACE. Space to think. Space to rest. Space to plan. Space to get energized! And I don't mean closing the office door, taking your laptop and heading to the closest coffee shop to work. Surprise! the clutter will still be there when you return.
Clutter, even unconscious clutter, crushes forward mobility. Always in stealth mode, clutter demands too much of our energy - energy we need for health and fitness, for creativity and productivity.
Mental clutter: Like physical clutter, this sinister glutton of energy inhibits our ability to think clearly and react to everyday problems and activities logically. Warning Will Robbins: Mental clutter relentlessly hovers under the radar, making it hard to recognize.
We tell ourselves our bodies will never be fit. And that's okay. We're writers not gymnists. We have genetic problems that make us overweight. It's okay to cry on the way home from critique group. We’ve always been shy. Joining an exercise class or critique group would be too embarrassing. Between work and kids, there isn’t time for cooking from scratch, much less writing an hour a two every day. We can’t afford a sitter so exercise is feasible and time alone at the library is doable. We don’t know where to start to declutter our lives. And the list goes until our mental clutter blinds us to new possibilities and binds us to old habits.
Our heads are so jammed with negative messages, we run on autopilot, which means we are no longer in charge of our lives. We can’t see alternatives. We are blinded to options. Creativity is strangled and stagnates. Energy seeps away.
So What? A writer doesn't need an organized house; the piles of stuff stimulates our imagination. A writer doesn't need a mind filled with "happy" messages; we write from our angst, like Poe and Hemingway. My critique group can suck an egg. I know what I'm doing. Bear with me as I suggest a few new ideas gleaned from fitness articles, nutrition articles, and articles from other well-known writers who guard their minds and health with guided missiles of wisdom.
4 Ideas to Clear Space
- Look, really look, at your home and office/desk. Taking one space - a small one like a drawer in the desk or one pile of clothes. Physically touch the things in the area, so you become aware of what is in the mess. You'll find yourself saying things like, "I wondered where that dress disappeared to. So that's where all the spoons are. I wish I had found this before I downloaded the whole file again. Oh, the deadline was January 31, 2012.
- Question each thing you touch. Tip: Make a checklist on a piece of paper to help you remember these questions. What is this? Why do I have it? What is its function? Does it enrich my life? Does it bless me? Would someone else be blessed by it? Is it trash? After I’m gone, will someone else have to come in and get rid of it?
- Get a friend/family member go through it when you’ve finished. Bring your fresh perspective to the area and welcome their objective one.
- Make it a rule to remove something when you acquire something new.
Out with the old. In with the new.
- Slow down and pay attention, really listen, to the messages in your head.
- Use this key question to help you make improvements and eliminate brain drain.
“Do I have other options?”
Rushing to get out the door and get to work? Do I have other options?
Rushing to get the kids to school on time? Do I have other options?
Rising blood pressure when the same person pushes your buttons? Do I have other options?
Refusing to try an exercise class or go to the gym? Do I have other options?
Stopping at a fast-food place on the way home? Do I have other options?
Skipping a few days of writing won't hurt. Do I have other options?
- Leave yourself notes or set an alarm (I use an online alarm clock after I had a clot scare.) http://onlineclock.net/ and stop a few times a day to see what you’re doing and what you’re thinking.
Eating? Checking Facebook/Twitter for the 10th time?
Playing Spider Solitaire? Playing Mahjong?
Deleting more than your adding to your manuscript? Feeling sorry for yourself?
- What are your routines? Morning, Lunch, Late afternoon, Dinner, Bedtime?
- What are your habits? Productive, Time wasters, Destructive? Can you drop/change some?
- Do you regularly procrastinate? Avoiding tasks drains energy and leads to low productivity.
Want an Energy Boost? List the tasks you’ve been avoiding and DO THEM!
Being intentional about our physical and mental environments, including how we schedule time and treat our relationships gives us energy to face our daily challenges and do the things we want without feeling guilty.