Clutter and Creativity
Habits normally take about two weeks of constant doing to form. Unfortunately, they don’t take that long to break… including writing every day. This house-buying and move has given me a valuable opportunity to experience that from the inside…
How many of you need a level of cleanliness, or for the clutter to be below a dull roar, in order to create? I was rather disconcerted (okay, I was flat out frustrated) to find I could not cook in the kitchen once it achieved a certain level of clutter. None of the individual elements were insurmountable – stacks of moving boxes on their side, leaning in the way, half-packed box on the table, everything out of a closet and piled on the floor, stacks of packed boxes blocking the deep freezer door. But I walked into the kitchen, past a certain point, and my brain went “Augh! No! Cannot work here!” If I wanted to cook, I had to clean and move things until my elbows did not hit not-kitchen objects when turning around.
Similarly, once the office devolved into a staging area, all my writing stopped. Moving into the new house, until the office actually began to resemble an office, It felt like I was trying to pull out fingernails as well as fiction.
My darling husband, on the other hand, has no stress about the clutter at all. He’s been rather bemused at my reaction, then took it with a shrug. “When you work in refugee camps, you can’t afford to let the external chaos swamp you.” Though, once the living room had four bookcases filled with books, neatly alphabetized, and the couch and recliner arranged around them and the fireplace, he did walk in the door, smile, and say “It looks like home!”
It’s not just me: J.L. Curtis, of the Grey Man series, also moved recently, and once everything was unboxed and in its place, the pictures were hung, and the paperwork sorted, he started writing again. Or, ah, “Sorry I never turned up for coffee. I got sidetracked by writing!” (Always the perfect writer excuse.)
There’s a happy medium. The beautiful Mrs. Correia warned me years ago that once my writer was happy enough to create, I was going to be lucky to get two weeks between books to work on the last of the moving boxes.
How much clutter can you stand before you can’t create?
And more importantly, how do you deal with it and restart?