Day Three – Initiate a Writerly Habit: Clean It Up

It’s time to initiate one good writing habit.  Initiate is an action verb.  Meaning we have to actually do something.

Let’s take a hard look at your writing lair.  Is everything organized and ready to find when you stumble into your writing space at Oh-dark-thirty in the morning?  (Thank you, Jeff Goins!)  Or are you forced to shift piles of research material from your chair, catch a stack of magazines as they slide over the edge of the desk, and move three coffee cups and a stale sandwich crust before you can dig your laptop out of the mess?

Well, today’s your day to initiate a success habit that’s going to hurt you more than it will me.  No, really.  You’re the one who’s going to be doing the heavy lifting.

Stacking 'em Up
Stacking 'em Up Before They Fall

It’s time to clean up and organize your space so you can never again whine about how it takes forty-five minutes just to get started writing in the morning, and by then the kids are up, and the toaster won’t work so you have to stand over the stove burner with slices of bread on a fork…

No more, I say.  I’m going to sit back and watch as you sweep through your workspace like those little cleaning bubbles.  Clean, clean, clean.

Take all those notes for the novel about the galaxy jumpers and put them in a clean manila folder.  Label it appropriately.  Place it in a desk drawer.  You haven’t really jumped into that story yet, so close at hand is better than underfoot.

Now, do you see the fifty or sixty sticky notes with names of publishers currently seeking manuscripts?  Yeah, get all the stickies with the details on writing contests.  Stick all of them to a few sheets of paper and place those papers in another folder.  At your first opportunity – outside writing time, that is – you’re going to enter them into a database so you can track them by publishing house, genres represented, and deadlines.

All the magazines you’re saving because you just know that one day you’ll want to re-read that article on writing stories about clowns who are afraid of rubber noses, but you can’t remember which magazine it was in – they go in a neat stack on the bottom of the bookshelf.  Give yourself two weeks to read them, and either save the important articles or donate the magazines to the library.

All the papers left on the desk and floor are the editing printouts for the novel you are working on.  Place them in a special binder.  One that makes you feel excited about sitting down and working on edits each afternoon.  Maybe the one with the Special Edition Harley on the cover.  The one that’s leveling one leg of the printer table.  Your son hasn’t missed the folder yet.  It’s not likely he will anytime soon.  Place it on the upper corner of your desk.  Right side or left side.  Your choice.  (See how easy I am to get along with?)

Dust your newly discovered desk surface; place your laptop in the middle of it. 

Waltz out to the kitchen with all the dirty dishes and moldy food you’ve dug out of the carpet.  Hum a peppy tune, do a little of that old soft-shoe while the coffeemaker sputters out the last drop of a fresh new pot.  Pour a cup, take a sip, and sigh with pleasure.

Now get yourself back into your fresh new workspace and create something exciting.  While you’re at it, you might want to create a maid to keep your space this clean.  I’d hate to have to go through this with you every morning when you show up for work.

Oh yeah… Initiate sequence… Write!

7 thoughts on “Day Three – Initiate a Writerly Habit: Clean It Up

    1. Welcome, T.C. I’m a big offender at times, allowing things to pile up so close to my laptop that the air vents begin to labor. I’ve got to be more consistent with organizing everything at the end of my writing day. I guess you could say this was a motivational chat with myself. Except for the food in the carpet. And the extra coffee cups. I always use the same mug. 😉

  1. Excellent tips and very well written Suzanne…though I must say that I think it may be dependent on the person (or I’m just weirdo, which is entirely possible). I was actually just thinking about this very topic a few minutes before I read your post because my desk at the office is a mess, so much so that it’s a running joke, and my living room table where I wrote from this morning isn’t all that straight either. But I feel like I write BETTER and focus MORE when I have clutter around me than when I clean it up. I find that I spend time cleaning and straightening when I am procrastinating or indulging in some fear that is keeping me from addressing the blank page. Then by the time things are straightened up I feel like I HAVE to write something and it just never feels right. Sometimes I think the adrenaline of putting everything off, especially cleaning and straightening, to dive right into a piece I’m excited about gives me the initial kick to get it going, which creates the momentum to finish. But again, I may just be a weirdo. 🙂 And my lack of organization definitely is not conducive for success in other areas.

    1. Thanks, Jerod. Yep. Everyone has their own comfort zone. You must be one of those people who use cleaning as a reward for hard work! Undoubtedly a rare breed amongst us. Of course, you could insist that it’s helpful having everything you’re working on within an arms’ reach, instead of lost somewhere in an archaic filing system. 😉

      I must say I use cleaning, or painting cabinets, or washing windows when I want to avoid working on a piece that’s not working. Whatever the reason you put off cleaning and organizing, it seems to be working. Megalo’s just reward was very satisfying to this reader. How did you know that was one of my pet peeves?

  2. Funny! And yet terrific advice! But, I don’t have a permanent desk. I’ll have to straighten up my little “Writing Corner” with its Lap Desk, file more of my story ideas, and organize my notebooks.

    Do you have a mailing list or an RSS feed? If not, you should start one.

    1. Hey Theresa, thanks for dropping by! Let me know how your work habits change once you’ve done your organizing.

      You know me, and how slow I am… I know I need a mailing list or a feed. But I think I have to sign up for some kind of resource like Mail Chimp or the like in order to make that connection. And I don’t quite know enough about it yet. Can we say S-L-O-W? Oh, let’s be generous and say by the time I finish my writing for the day, I don’t get to it. I’ll let you know when I accomplish the task. 😉

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