A Primer Primer

I’ve mentioned before that I also blog over at my friend, Tom Knighton’s blog, By Spear & Axe, usually about self-improvement related to physical pursuits. In addition, I’m in the process of revamping my own – long abandoned – blog and site in order to further my climb up the Official Alphabetical List of Author Success (I’m somewhere around N-list, for the curious: some of those categories blur for those of us strictly indie). I’ve been working with a friend who specializes in small business consulting in order to teach myself how to think more in line with my goals.

The other thing-

Let me back up: I mentioned By Spear & Axe. In it (and here, come to think) I’ve referred to the littles as the Wee Horde. Well, all children are little barbarians, and it’s the parents’ job to provide them with the veneer of civilization that will see them through modern life, until magic returns, the Dark Forces invade, and they can shed that veneer like a snake’s skin and ride the Wild Hu- *cough* Excuse me. Um. Sec. Lemme make a couple of notes…

Okay, where was I? Children are savages, right. Anyway, the point being that barbarians don’t tend to care much for their local environment. I mean, as long as the mead doesn’t run out, and there’s a roast on the fire, who cares? After all, the brave man likes the feel of nature on his face, Jack. And when you’ve hunted out the forest nearby, and cleaned out all the closer villages, well, just up stakes and move a new patch. Maybe don’t burn one of those villages.
Except that doesn’t work well for those of us living in any kind of fixed dwelling. And besides, cleanliness is a pretty cool thing, what with modern hygiene and sewers and all. In a similar way, the Wee Horde isn’t so concerned about cleanliness, hygiene, or – and this is the current one – organization. You see, one of the things I’m working on to encourage creativity and productivity is improving the overall organization at Caer Dave. And this time, it’s personal.

You see, Mrs. Dave doesn’t mind the disorganization so much. She can choose to not see it. I can’t. Part of that is that I’m always home, so it’s constantly in my face. A big part is I’m the one who does the cleaning, at least right now (we’re making strides on getting the Horde-lings to mind their local forest a bit better). But the visual clutter of the homestead makes it nearly impossible for me to disconnect enough to start digging into other worlds in a meaningful way. There’s also history there. When Mrs. Dave and I first moved in together (lo, these many moons ago) we were each maintaining more or less complete and separate households. And then all that stuff got consolidated in one place, and gained the definite article and capital letters.

The Stuff began to take over. First, it was our little, two bedroom apartment. Then, there were a couple of moves, and always The Stuff got its own room. When we were living in the East Part, The Stuff more or less occupied the changing room, and had heavily colonized the Dungeon. And then we got yet more Stuff when Wee Dave joined us. And while I’ve worked to winnow The Stuff, there’s only so much I’ve been able to do. Well, the move from the East Part to the West Part impressed upon me just how unruly The Stuff had become.

And I’ve been doing something about it. The Home Despot has lent his strong assistance, though not without cost, but it means that some of The Stuff has a new, more vertical home. Which means more floor space, less clutter, and room to sort and cull The Stuff. It’s amazing how much trash gets moved from place to place simply because it’s mixed up in more worthwhile possessions.
The point, though, is much of this has been shoved here and there with more regard for where it fits, than in whether it actually belongs in this room or that room. Right now, my writing workstation is in the laundry room, conveniently co-located with the liquor shelf, and *quite* inconveniently co-located with a sizeable fraction of the Horde’s toys. So right now, I’m prepping the battle space to move said toys up to the Horde’s Redoubt. It’s a lot of work. I’m going to be building new bedframes, installing some shelves, moving many things upstairs, many more things downstairs, and ultimately, I’m going to end up with a cleaner, better organized Caer Dave. After all, my Skulls of My Enemies collection doesn’t deserve to languish in a box somewhere, and this should free up a closet into which I can finally jam all those skeletons. One of my major sub-goals is consolidating the Craft Stuff into one place, and I can almost smell it from where I am (smells like Elmer’s glue and acrylic paint, as it happens).

The really big deal, and it’s somewhat speculative at this point, is the big projects will be done with and the house will be organized such that I can lay my hands on a tub of stuff if Mrs. Dave calls and says, “I need X in the next 24 hours.” Success breeds success, and with the accomplishment of such a major undertaking, my workspace will be primed for creativity. Both my physical workspace (I’m stepping over Legos and building blocks, right now, which is exciting, but unnecessarily so) and equal or greater importance, my mental workspace. I won’t have The Stuff metaphorically hanging over my head anymore. Lurking. Just waiting to demand all my attention because one little thing is needed.

And I want to get this done sooner, rather than later, as the Wee Horde will both be rocking the schoolyard for more hours each day come September, which opens up opportunities for yours truly. Honestly, I don’t know that the Great Re-Org is going to help me write, but at this point I believe it will, which is at least as good. Something, something, psychological to material is three to one.

Is this helpful? I don’t know. How’s your work space? Can you separate yourself from the day-to-day grind enough to write? For some, writing is an escape. For me, it’s almost always work. Escape means the Wee Horde is off terrorizing some other poor soul. Do, though, give some thought to how best you can prime your environment to assist in creation. It’s taken me nearly four decades to grow to the point where I’m willing to do the work when I’m able, which leaves me a lot of time to create. Which is good, as I have a LOT of unfinished projects. And somehow, I keep ending up with more.


  1. A primer-primer: When the paint can says you can go ahead and put it over new drywall or drywall repairs, or wood, or metal, they are -lying-.

    You can’t. You have to prime it. Even car paint needs primer.

    You should always use primer first, or you will be sorry later. If necessary, such as in a bathroom with watermarks on the ceiling, use an alcohol-based primer.

    You have been warned.

    1. Although some paint these days comes with primer mixed in. You may need to use two coats against bare plaster or wood, though.

      1. Yes, those are the ones I’m talking about. When they say “primer mixed in” its marketing. In my (long) experience you still have to use primer on repairs and new material. Over previous paint, then you don’t.

        The issue is flashing and colour change. Flashing is a difference in sheen, and sticks out like a sore thumb on all those nail-holes and cracks that have to be repaired with drywall compound. Same deal with vinyl spackling on exterior wood. Scrape, spackle, sand, spot-prime. Otherwise the house will look like a dalmatian.

        About every five years since I started in the 1980s a paint company will come out with a “NEW!” and “IMPROVED!!!” paint that “Doesn’t Need Primer!” and they swear you will “Save Money!”

        Sorry. Chemistry and physics have not changed. Still need to spot-prime your patches.

  2. I have a bag that I lug to work and then I write during my lunch hour. Also in the evening at my desk. Which is separate from the desk with the internet access.

  3. Thanks to various problems associated with old age and arthritis, I now work on the only reclining-type furniture in the house, which happens to be in the living room. Putting a recliner in one of the less-used rooms with a door to shut is my dream, but there are logistical problems.

  4. I have to have a clean space to live in, much less work. Part of this is vicious allergies to dust mites and lots of other things – so any dusty surface will make me itch, swell, and start having problems breathing. It also makes me feel just generally cruddy, all my joints hurt, head fogged… yes, sometimes I can cure what feels like the flu just by vacuuming including under furniture, changing the air filters, doing all the laundry, and then taking out all the trash.

    Clean is not the same as neat, but it’s close: Unattended clutter attracts dust, and the process of dust removal invites clutter removal as well. Trust me: when my immune system was, ah, not so aggressively engaged in civil war, I had a much messier house.

    My husband doesn’t mind clutter, or dust, so his office is far less neat than mine. I think he’d be happiest if I never touched a thing in there, but he accedes with good grace to forays by the vacuum cleaner and mop, under “You may be fine, but I’m not going to itch when I pop in to talk to you about dinner.”

    Does everything have an away? (Of course not.) Clutter is usually the pile of “thing we got that doesn’t have an away yet, so we stuck it here”, and “thing that it’d be a pain to put away right this second, so I’ll get to later.”

    When cleaning, I try to put the things Away that have a place, because it makes it easier to clean again later. And I try to find a place for some of the others. Not all, but some. It’s an iterative process, like cleaning. And as I’m cleaning, I also keep an eye out for things that we really aren’t using, aren’t going to use, and don’t need anymore. Those also have an away – either in revising plans to use them up, or moving them to the trash, the charity donation box by the door, or a long-term storage in the garage.

    Trying to find an away is also a great time to remember all those little want-to-dos that stuff was accumulated for, and write them down, so you can work them into your plans of things to tackle… or revisit, decide it’s no longer something you want to do, and move the stuff related along to someone else who’ll put it to good use.

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