I read somewhere that you should never clean your desk before sitting down to write. Supposedly, cleaning your desk becomes the task, not the writing. It slows you down and distracts you. You may never get to the writing.
I’ve been having a heck of a time writing in my home office of late. And by “of late” I mean, like, for the past couple of years. (Kidding. Sort of.) My office is a room that is supposed to be mine, for writing. It’s filled with old notebooks and journals, books about writing, books that I love, dictionaries, thesauri, literary magazines, etc. etc. Favorite art adorns the walls, and there’s a bulletin board onto which I’ve tacked bits of visual inspiration; art photos, a letter from a lit contest I was a finalist in a couple of years ago. After the tendinitis that left me unable to type for a while in 2007-8, I bought an ergonomic chair, and a tray for a keyboard and mouse that helps my arms stay pain-free. My desk has a nice spot for my laptop, printer, and scanner. In short, my office is a place that should be perfect for writing. I’m lucky, I know, to have it.
Except that recently it’s been a room I want to avoid. In the year-plus since my son was born, the office has become the place to drop unfinished projects, unopened mail, and whatever else we wanted out of the way. Piles of paper began to rise on my desk. Sometimes I had to clear a space just to put my laptop down. While I was pregnant, because I couldn’t seem to write, I diverted my creative impulses toward painting and drawing. Art supplies (and unfinished art projects) covered the table adjacent to my desk.
Ugh. What a mess.
My attempts to sit down and write in my office of late have been failures. I get distracted, I remember projects from around the house that need to be done, I surf the web. My successful writing days have all come as a result of staking out a table in my local coffee shop.
Today, after a morning workout at the gym, I just didn’t feel like walking to the coffee shop. But I couldn’t get anything done. I was tempted to clean up my office. For some reason this seemed like it would help with the writing. But it also seemed like procrastination, so I tried to rally to walk to the coffee shop. I even put my shoes on. And then I decided: who cares if it’s procrastination? If it helps me write more tomorrow, or the next day, maybe a clean office is just what I need.
And so, I did it. I uncovered my desk. I put away the art supplies and the unfinished art projects. I took care of some of the piles of boring administrative tasks. I hung up some of the picture frames that have been laying on the floor under my table for months. Wow. Guess what? I feel better. And I’m writing. Maybe some people need a ritual to go through to prepare for the day’s writing. Baseball players do it when they come up to bat, so why not writers? Maybe cleaning up my desk is just my way of adjusting my gloves and my hat before taking a swing.