Weekend Edition – Spring Cleaning Makes Writing Easier Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

How Spring Cleaning Helps You Write

She just wants a place for everything and everything in its place.

She just wants a place for everything and everything in its place.

So, yesterday was the first, official day of spring.

It didn’t much feel like it around here, with temps hovering around freezing and gray skies hiding the solar eclipse from view. Still, according to the calendar and the wheel of the year, the Spring Equinox had finally arrived. Hooray!

I unintentionally spent a good part of this week doing what I guess might pass as a sort of spring cleaning. I didn’t dust any drapes (I don’t have any drapes), defrost the freezer (I’m not even sure how to do that), or air out the linens, but I did make a dent in wrangling the frightening amount of administrative loose ends that had accumulated in my life.

You know the kinds of things I mean – returning calls, following-up on project statuses, figuring out your new insurance premiums, paying your excise tax, finding a new CPA, getting to inbox zero … stuff like that.

As a freelance writer, I am often swept up by the crush and hustle of needing to get the job done. Though I work for myself, in truth I have many bosses (even if I don’t include my cats, which I do). Sometimes, keeping everyone happy means that these small, household-type responsibilities fall to the bottom of the To Do list. Eventually, they pile up and pile up until what used to be a single, simple, five-minute task has mutated into a growing horde of could-become-catastrophic-at-any-moment chores clinging to my back like so many manic monkeys.

Perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much.

At any rate, this week, I shifted some deadlines so that I could focus on clearing out some of the physical and karmic debris caused by my long-term neglect of these clerical obligations. The work was tedious and without acclaim or monetary reward, but I have to tell you that I came away from the effort feeling refreshed and fulfilled and even empowered. There was suddenly more breathing room in my day. I felt lighter, and more optimistic than before.

I have long held that there is an important, if somewhat ineffable, relationship between The Maid and The Muse. My muse is fairly tolerant of disarray, but at a certain point, she takes in the scene, crosses her arms, and looks at me as if to say, “Seriously?” And, I have to admit, she has a point.

On the other hand, my internal maid can’t stand any amount of clutter, and the weight of things left undone is a heavy burden to her, indeed. Because of her slightly OCD nature, she tends to just vacate the premises when things start to spin out of control. It’s a matter of self preservation, kind of like how I’ve learned that if I’m going to make my deadlines, I have to compartmentalize my life a little.

But, eventually, The Maid and The Muse get together and stage an intervention.

I think that The Maid just reaches her breaking point. There is just too much clutter and too many things that should have been done weeks ago still hanging over our heads. She just can’t stand it anymore. The Muse becomes an accomplice out of necessity when the hand-wringing and griping of The Maid make it impossible for anyone to concentrate on creative endeavors.

So, I get to organizing, clearing out, and checking things off lists. Like I did this week.

Whether you realize it or not, having all those little tasks biting at your ankles takes a toll on your creativity. Even if you’re not actively thinking about them, all those worries linger somewhere in your consciousness and distract you from your work. They are like a shadow that you can only see out of the corner of your eye. You’re not exactly sure what it is, but it makes you uneasy.

When you finally confront that shadow, it’s not nearly as scary as you’d imagined. A few hours of focused effort, and – voila! – your head is clear and you’re ready to get down to your real work. I also believe (warning: woo-woo alert) that clearing your plate of physical and virtual clutter opens the way for new opportunities and possibilities. By creating more space, literally and metaphorically, you are free to invite more of what you want into your day and your life.

Ok, I’m stepping off my soapbox, but I do wish you a happy spring and (if the spirit grabs you) happy spring cleaning!

 

What I’m Writing:

nuthatchIt’s been a while since I’ve linked to a piece of my own writing, but in honor of the Spring Equinox, I’d like to share a recent column I wrote in admiration of our feathered friends and the way they help usher in the warmer weather and the new season.

I wrote Spring on the Wing after the phrase “held aloft on hollow bones filled with promises and sky” popped into my head just before I fell asleep. I’d been wanting to write a little something that expressed my love for and enjoyment of the many birds that frequent the feeder just outside my office window; and when I had that little piece of the puzzle, I knew it was time.

I hope you enjoy the piece and would love to hear from anyone who’d like to share his or her own piece on the arrival of spring.

 

What I’m Reading:

book bookmans taleJust  yesterday afternoon I finished Charlie Lovett’s novel, The Bookman’s Tale. I had three girlfriends coming over later and probably should have been running the vacuum or making some other domestic preparations; but I only had a few pages left to read, and I just couldn’t put the book down.

The Bookman’s Tale felt to me like a delightful mash-up of ages and genres. The story weaves in and out of four different time periods (Shakespeare’s day, the late 1800s, the mid-80s, and the mid-90s), and tells the tale of a recently widowed antiquarian bookseller who is drawn into a literary adventure when he discovers a mysterious portrait hidden in a book. There’s a love story, a mystery, and quite a bit of history. There’s a bit of the DaVinci Code’s intrigue and a bit of the gothic flavor of books like The Thirteenth Tale.

And, of course, as a lover of literature and books as works of art, this story held a particular allure. Lovett, a former antiquarian bookseller himself, clearly has a reverence for all aspects of the bookmaking art. Certain passages made me long to hold one of the literary treasures he describes in my own hands – a bit of paper and ink, but also a piece of history.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Marketing & Other Business-y Topics:

Inspiration:

Craft, Process, and Productivity:

Just for Fun:

Bookish:

 

Finally, a quote for the week:

A twofer this week – to cover both sides of the clean desk debate.

pin tidy deskpin cluttered desk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy spring. Happy writing. Happy reading. 🙂  

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Housemaid Sketch Photo Credit: april-mo via Compfight cc

48 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Spring Cleaning Makes Writing Easier Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. I see the blog has a new design! I didn’t realize it until your Saturday post. I am so glad that Spring is finally showing up! I like Winter until New Year, then I just wait for Spring! Good luck with all your projects! Here, I am deep in short story writing and it is going well. I am still reading a lot about writing craft, social media and book marketing. Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing thus. I can relate to the fact that unfinished business is a toll on our focus and creativity. And it applies not only to things like the tax income declaration which needs to be done. It is also about accumulated stuff in the house, like clothes, books, useless kitchen items.
    And , last but not least, unfinished emotional business has the same effect, but this is much harder to clean up.

    • You are SO right, Karin.
      I couldn’t agree more about the physical stuff that we accumulate. Having moved four times in the past eight years, my daughter and I have done a lot of purging, but there always seems to be more left to get rid of. It’s amazing how sneaky stuff can be, worming its way into our homes and our lives. I feel another garage sale coming on!

      And I hadn’t even thought much about the unfinished emotional business, but when I read your comment, I thought, “Of course!” and realized that there has been quite a bit of upheaval in my personal and professional worlds lately. Some things have come to a head, some things I have come through (nearly!), and other things are just blooming into slightly scary, but transformative experiences. It’s all happening all the time, and the better I’m able to deal with things head on and not let them ferment into unfinished business, the better off I am creatively and in general. Excellent observation. Thanks so much for bringing it up!

  3. Hi Jamie! There is so much good information here – thank you for all that you posted. I guess you could say I’m a “maid to my muse” right now, with all that I’m learning about the craft, the media, and the marketing. And I’m so glad you linked to “Spring on the Wing” – it was just delightful to read that just now with my morning coffee. 🙂

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed “Spring on the Wing.” Thanks for taking the time to read it. 🙂

      A maid to your muse – I love that. And, I love how writing keeps us learning and stretching. Though I may study and practice the craft my whole life, I know I will never know all there is to know, and that is a happy thought.

      Enjoy the links to all the other great blog posts. I hope your pursuit of knowledge is fun and full of side trips.

  4. I heartily agree that cleanliness and creativity tend to go hand in hand, especially if you’re a bit OCD about tidiness (which I confess, yes, I totally am). I can let it build up for a while, but eventually it reaches a point where I can’t be productive again until some sort of resolution is reached. Glad you could clear lots of things off the bottom of the to-do list! It’s a good feeling to start fresh!

    • Hello, Kaitlin! 🙂
      Thanks for validating my own slightly OCD tendencies when it comes to clutter. I do my best to embrace my wild and carefree creative side, but the truth is, even she is happier when there is a nice, open space to play in.

      Here’s to starting fresh – in the springtime, and – indeed – each day!

      Nice to see you.

  5. Hi Jamie! I love the quote of the week. Happy spring! Well the North of England is full of the joys of spring today so I believe that we are finally on the way to summer after what feels like a very long winter. Although the cold, snow ridden January was what enticed me to start my first novel so I am sure I have January to thank for giving me this new found love of writing. I still can’t put the pen down! Have a great weekend guys.

    • Hello, Mark. Glad to hear that your neck of the woods is full of the joys of spring. That’s lovely!
      You are right, however, to acknowledge the riches of each season – even winter’s cold and barren months have germinated something – your writing. So, here’s to the nurturing power of cold and snow and dark. Who knew?
      😉

      Glad to hear you’re still at it and having FUN!

  6. Wow, I see some Spring cleaning happening here on the blog too! Great new design, and great post. I find that I’m a lot more productive if I can just sit down at my desk and start working. If I have a pile of unfinished work next to me, I can’t really focus. I’m definitely in the “tidy desk, tidy mind” camp. I don’t mind artful clutter, books, drawings, etc, but unfinished work or unopened mail just bog me down.

    • Oooh! “Artful clutter.” <– I am all about that. 🙂
      I miss having a giant bulletin board next to my desk. When I was growing up I had an oversized board that hung over my desk and was part organizer, part storyboard, and part vision board. I still have some of the artwork and other odds and ends that used to hang on that board.
      And have no problem with having piles of books and notes on my desk as long as they are more or less neatly arranged. In fact, there's something to be said for having all your inspiration and tools right to hand (vs, put away in drawers and cupboards) … and all the better if they are pretty to look at.

      Thanks for stopping by and for that reminder!

  7. Jamie, lovely work :). Woo woo? Clearing out the old to make way for the new? I thought that was a goddamn physics law or something ;). Seriously though, yes! Sometimes we can make our minds tidy by making a drawer tidy. Sometimes we can organise our mind by organising our filing. I so know what you mean about the burden of undone small tasks like screaming monkeys clinging to our backs. Why? Why do we let them accumulate so long before addressing them?Goodness knows. But the relief when they’re done!

    • I knew I could count on you to bring the woo-woo home, Sara. “Goddamn physics law.” Hell, yes. I think so, too. 🙂

      I don’t know why we let these things accumulate and mutate until they seem like such an insurmountable task. It’s almost embarrassing when you do finally get them done and it wasn’t nearly as horrific as you thought. But – bottom line – it’s done, and that’s the main thing.

      I’ve been trying to gently cultivate a habit of closing out my week with a bit of this kind of business and household maintenance. It doesn’t always work because, you know, Life. BUT, it’s amazing when I can manage to keep up for a few weeks in a row how little effort it seems to take.

      Hope you’re having a lovely week that is free from those awful screaming monkeys! 😉

      • Sending you good monkey-peeling energy (even though that sounds kind of gross.) 😉

  8. Great post, three take aways: organize paperwork today, look up quote on Spring, add Bookman’s Tale to reading list. Thanks for the prod, the prompt, and the tip.

    • Hello, Ray. Nice to have you here. 🙂
      I hope you enjoy The Bookman’s Tale and find a good quote on Spring.
      I enjoyed the poem, Prologue, in your recent post. I can see why it’s a favorite of yours. Thank you for that.

      • Jamie, thanks. Tried to leave a comment on your Ipswich Spring article but after three loop arounds to “log in” I let it go. Nicely balanced article, the talent shows.

      • Thank you so much, Ray, for the compliment and your attempts to leave a comment. (Sadly, the digital arm of the company that owns our local paper is somewhat lacking in technology savvy. I apologize for the awful user experience.)

    • Sounds lovely. Perhaps you can send some of that warmer weather our way, and help us break out of these freezing temps! And, I do hope you write about spring. Enjoy that.

    • Thanks. I’ve had a lot of experience mediating the battle. 😉
      I hope you’re finding a good balance between the two and plenty of opportunity to write.
      Enjoy!

    • I’m so glad you liked it, and I hope you that when you do give in to the maid, she paves the way for more fun with your muse.

      I hope work is going well on your novel. Just read your post about not making your 2014 goals, but being re-inspired by reading a work that is somewhat similar to the one you’re crafting. I hope you’re still finding time in your day to get out a few words here and there.

      Best & thanks for stopping by!

  9. This is exactly what I needed to read right now. My muse is still elbowing the maid aside, but the maid is getting pretty feisty and maybe it is time to give in. Great post!

  10. Hey Jamie

    Spring is here? Really? Tell that to that Winterland vista outside my home *sigh* After one week of balmy temperatures, the snow-gods dumped that icky white stuff on us with a vengeance last night! LOL

    As for the battle of the Maids and Minds, I have accumulated so much physical and virtual clutter, I can’t even see through this foggy soup of mess! Where the hell should I start? Hmm…maybe with that dentist appointment or the DMV Address Change or redoing my laundry because of my stupidity….I see piles of clothes and crap everywhere!

    *sigh* Your post was – as always – the nudge I needed to get off my ass 😉

    ” “held aloft on hollow bones filled with promises and sky” – how on earth do such phrases pop into your head before bedtime anyway?! 😉 The only phrase that pops into mine is “Can you please stop snoring, hubby?” 😛

    LOVE YOU SO MUCH
    Kitto

    • Hello, Kitty! 🙂
      I know exactly what you mean about spring not seeming like spring. We still have WAY too much white stuff on the ground for this time of year. I have a feeling it’ll linger and linger, and then – all of a sudden – we’ll wake up one morning and it’ll be almost gone. I can’t wait.

      I hope you get some time (and energy!) to tackle some of your clutter. I’m still chipping away at things this week, but it feels great to have made a substantial dent in the monster list. I even managed to reduce the huge list of un-filed paperwork that was threatening to consume my kitchen in an avalanche of paper to a tiny handful of documents. The rest was either recycled, or put where it was supposed to be. Ahhh!

      Oh, and to answer your question about where those things come from (the ones that pop into my head) – I have no idea, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s just a case of me having something or other simmering on the back burner of my brain, and eventually it turns into something useful.

      Good luck with your clutter monkeys!
      🙂

  11. Great post – especially for when I have time to do physical spring cleaning! The other kind is time consuming, too…

    • It’s all pretty time consuming, isn’t it? But, then – when it’s done – it definitely seems worth the effort. I’m still puttering through that long list of Things I Should Do. I’m trying to be realistic, but doing a little happy dance each time One More Thing gets crossed off the list.

      Of course, often we cross off one item only to add three more, but at least the new ones don’t carry the same guilt as the ones that have been hovering over our heads for MONTHS!
      😉

      Good luck. Hope you get some time to tackle the physical spring cleaning when you’re in the mood.

  12. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Writing When You Don’t Feel Creative plus Good Reads and Writing Tips | Live to Write - Write to Live

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