Tag Archives: Serendipity

Procrastination, Clutter and the Creative Process

7 Nov

A friend just won a de-cluttering voucher at a raffle, her husband commented, ‘I know what we need to get rid of, it’s doing it that’s the problem.’

Well, I am a fan of clutter, although I am also an ex-librarian and it has to be organised clutter. I tend to know where things are, even if things aren’t quite in Dewey Decimal order. I thought I’d share with you a photo of my very cluttered work space just before I have a bit of a tidy.

My mind can be on about three different projects at once, and this is reflected in the guddle that is my desk. I also know what needs to be read/attended to/filed, it’s just getting round to doing it that’s the problem.


My messy workspace.

Can you spot:

Inspiration quotes and Guardian cartoons hiding the front cover of All the Places I’ve Ever Been;

Dictionaries and grammar books being held straight by Lewis’ chess pieces;

My new business cards for Beech Editorial Services;

My lovely blue sand hour glass, which amazed my teenage daughter as it actually runs for an hour. (She’s more used to egg timers). It’s meant to help me stay focused on the task in hand;

Catalogues that I have browsed through, but need to actually buy from if anyone is going to get anything for Christmas;

Books on Mary Queen of Scots and a printout on the Scottish Enlightenment;

At least four notebooks;

A Bakewell slice;

Files full of information and inspiration for the two novels I am currently working on;

Lots of stationery;

A pile of half-read Writing Magazines?

Amazingly there is no coffee cup (surely some mistake), and I’ve saved you the boxes of magazines and newspapers that hide under the desk, to be plundered for ideas at a later date. And that, really, is the point of all the clutter, to inform, to entertain, to inspire – I sound like the BBC. Organised chaos, basically, a bit like my mind…

Right, on with the de-clutter, I might be here a while.

Spark Joy

21 Jan

Unless you’ve been buried under a pile of old clothes, you’ll have seen the media frenzy surrounding Spark Joy by Marie Kondo – described as the Zen of tidying. Now, despite not having read it (although I did listen to an interview with Kondo on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour), it does rather make my blood run a little cold.

I’m not going to slag a fellow writer about money and old rope – really, do we need to be told how to fold our clothes? But I am going to make a case for clutter.

Marie Kondo says if an item doesn’t give you joy when you look at it, you’ve to chuck it. Okay, so let’s say you’ve got a love letter from the first person who broke your heart, that might not spark joy, but that doesn’t stop you from pulling it out every now and again and re-reading and feeling – well, any number of emotions. Maybe there is some joy in the memories, or more likely anger, or hurt, but not enough that the letter is ripped up and thrown out. So it is kept, an item which does not spark joy, but which causes pain, but that’s okay because we’re grown-ups and we don’t have to be happy all of the time.


What about that bundle of newspapers you’ve let accumulate under the coffee table, or in a pile in the kitchen? They aren’t about to spark anything, unless you’re using them to light a fire, but wait, don’t throw them out, just yet. You’re a writer aren’t you, or a thinking person, or someone who has to act in the world? Maybe another flick through on a different day will lead you to notice an article you missed the first time around. Maybe there will be a phrase which will suddenly resonate. Maybe a photograph that will sow the seed of a new short story.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you’re selling your house, you might not want your 200 penguins displayed – as the woman on Phil Spencer Secret Agent did (oh yes, I’ve been procrastinating/wasting time big style). You don’t want rotting food or dirty clothes lying about, but a bit of clutter, a bit of mess, that’s what makes us who we are, that’s what signals to our visitors where our priorities lie (writing poetry or picking up Lego?), it’s what tells those around us what we like, and what we don’t really care about.

I know that mess can become chronic, and I don’t want to turn up on The Hoarder Next Door, but if everything has a place, and everything is in it, where’s the chance encounter with a postcard you bought at the Art Gallery that has been lying in your inbox for a year, or the key that has no lock, and where’s the fun in that?