Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Desk

Normally when writing nonfiction, I write top down. That is, I start with the broad and then narrow my focus. With my blog post on pens and pencils, I started this blog bottom up: I started with the tiny details and moved upward.

Why? Because so many people who try to declutter say they get overwhelmed by the big picture. Starting with pens and pencils was a way to show that you can start with the details and even a little bit at a time can make a big difference.

But now let's widen our focus. What about the whole desk?

Desk? What Desk?

If you're serious about writing, you need some space, whether it's a corner in a room, a TV tray next to your bed, or a back hall that you use for writing. If not, you'll be wasting a lot of precious writing time looking for your materials or hiding them under the bed when company comes. Still, if that's your only choice, hiding them under the bed, do it. Read this article, replacing the word "desk" with "underbed storage container" and see if that helps. Keeping all your stuff in a container that you pull out when you're ready to work is much more efficient than searching around the house or apartment for things you were working on last week. It also makes it less likely that the cat, dog, or house gnome will run off with it.

What's on Your Desk

For inspiration, writers and artists often keep things that don't traditionally belong on a desk. For example, when writing vampire fiction, I keep resin vampire figures, wax vampire teeth, and a miniature coffin or two next to my monitor. Many romance writers have adopted the idea of creating a collage for their novel (see Jenny Crusie's blog post on the collage as prewriting), something that would adapt well to other genres of writing.

There's no reason you shouldn't keep inspirational items on your desk. That's one of the things you need to do your creative work. Do you really need them on your desk? What about shelves at eye height? Or putting the paper items (photos, collages, notes) on a bulletin board? Don't like the look of cork? What about a magnetic board?

Too expensive, you say? Well, yes, a large white (or silver) magnetic board can be expensive, but there are other options. Fabulessly Frugal tells you how to turn an oil drip pan into a message center. This one, advertised on Advance Auto Parts, would work great turned on its side, but it has an embossed area that you might not like. Either search online for one that doesn't, or hang an year-long calendar printout over it.

To make space for items that you want to keep on your desk, start looking at getting rid of the things you don't need for your work, creative or otherwise. If you can move them away from your workspace, you'll not only have more room for creative totems, but you'll feel less hemmed-in, less inhibited, which might help your creativity.

At the End of Each Day

At the end of your day, whether that's 7:00 am when you have to quit to go to the day job or midnight when you have to stop so you can get some sleep before you get up for your day job, clear away things you can.

There are some creative things you can't put away (physical artwork in progress) or some things you don't want to put away (that manuscript you're editing that is open to the page where you left off), but take a good look at everything else. That book you were using for research? Are you still using it? If not, shelve it.

Your attempts won't have much effect at first, but the point is to get in the habit of going through what's on your desk. Who knows, you may find that check for your last story that you've been searching for!


Here are some useful articles to give you more ideas on what you can do to organize your desk or desk space.

From Lifehacker. Be sure to read the section called Reboot Your Office Every Evening.

Lifehacker: Streamline Your Workspace

These articles probably apply more to the day job, but you might find some of the techniques useful for home.

What Does Not Belong on Your Desk

More on Desk Organization

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