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The Light and Dark of ‘Tidying Up’ for Writers

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I have some conflicting thoughts about clearing out clutter.

Is more organization truly necessary? Are your current systems and methods actually outdated?

Let’s look at the light and dark sides of “tidying up,” especially as they pertain to the creative processes in a writer’s life.

The light

When we can simplify something, it usually feels good, because we’ve found something within our grasp to improve — and we don’t have control over many other complex parts of life.

For example, morning routines that prepare you for your day ahead and evening routines that let you wind down at night are tactics that can help you stay balanced during all of the unknown that occurs in between.

And you can also have work guidelines in place that set you up to be focused and productive.

The light side of tidying up is that you can optimize your chances of accomplishing both your small and large goals.

The dark

When we think we aren’t already “doing enough,” it usually feels bad.

It’s overwhelming, because the paths to make your desired changes aren’t always clear.

Instead of taking action, you just get frustrated.

The dark side of tidying up is the implication that something is wrong with your current conditions.

Artists work with both sides

Honoring where you are promotes productivity more than wishing you were already in a more advanced stage of your career.

There is always room to get better, so the trick is to not get down on ourselves when we haven’t “fixed” a perceived problem yet.

In terms of my own personal cleaning anxiety, I prefer when things are organized, so tidiness is always ideal. But until I have the time and/or energy to clean up, I’ve learned to accept when things are messy.

It’s fine either way, so instead of getting overwhelmed or frustrated, I work with where I am to meet my goal.

I chose the quote in the image for this post because of the story behind the song lyrics.

Pete Seeger created “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and the Byrds recorded one of the most well-known versions of the tune.

But Seeger only wrote two lines of the lyrics: the closing line, “A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late,” and the title phrase, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

The rest were “adapted word-for-word from the first eight verses of the third chapter of the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.”

Both parties made interesting choices to not create completely new work and find the existing words that satisfied the emotions they wanted to express with music.

  • Seeger could have second-guessed his choice to adapt from a Bible verse.
  • The Byrds could have second-guessed their choice to record a song they didn’t compose.

They could have chosen to not move forward, frustrated with their lack of originality and seeming need to “improve” their own skills before they shared their creations with the world.

But artists learn to see when an idea is “good enough” — balancing the light and dark sides of the creative process.

It’s a critical skill that helps you complete projects.

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