Writing and Tidying

Lately, my attention has been to writing and tidying. Together, they’ve filled up days. I’ve found both disciplines carry similar language. When I attend to one, I learn about the other.

When I place words on a page, I tidy thoughts together. I put each word in the place it fits. If a word, or a sentence, or even a paragraph is extraneous, it is discarded. I practice keeping the sentences that bring me joy, the ones that delight me when I shape them out loud. There are some I wish I could use, with words that held such promise when they jumped from gray matter to white page. But if I do not smile when I see them, they are not meant to stay. Each sentence must have a purpose; none can be there to fill space.

I discard. I appreciate the skeletal structure of what is there. I ask if it says what I want it to say. If it does not, I discard more. I bring fresh sentences in until I have the sentence that brings me (and hopefully others) clarity and pause.

As I tidy, sorting through the stuff that surrounds me in the house, I look at how I want my space to reflect me. How do the things around me reflect my inner mental structure? Are they scattered and stored away in places I can’t access? How could I arrange them in a simpler way, so I could check in on them, pull them down when they’re needed, and put them back when they’re not?

I examine what I hold on to, and why I am holding on to it. Why am I tied to this fragment of my past? Does it keep me from living where I am right now? I work to surround myself with physical objects and mental architecture that informs who I am, rather than who I was, or who I will be.

Two books have helped to stitch this writing/tidying connection: The life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo and Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. One is better written, the other has sold over 3 million copies. They compliment each other well. They remind me that neither writing nor tidying is easy. They both take attention and discipline, but the effort required is worthy. As I write and tidy more, my life–complete with its fears, desires, and joys–eases into clearer focus.


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