Edit Your Life and Declutter Your Brain
by Kelly Klepfer
I want to downsize and move into a much tinier home. "Ok?" You might respond. "Whatever floats your boat. But the last time I looked this blog is about writing fiction."
Exactly. I'm headed there. The past couple years I've grown intrigued by the minimalism movement. Why? Because it is not about she with the fewest toys wins. It’s about curation. As a museum curates the art it contains and seeks, we have the option to choose only the best of what we want into our lives. It is like editing our lives.
An edit slices the unnecessary, the redundant, and the excess from our writing. I know this freshly firsthand because my co-authored book has been edited to death and reinvigorated by those edits. Out of the Frying Pan has been a long time coming. Michelle Griep and I started this novel nearly a decade ago. Though it spent many months of that decade in different doneness and languishing in our computers, the darn story just kept calling us back. We finished it. And then the fine tuning began. So, many edits later, it is polished and in book form and the editing process has become such a picture for me.
If you feel like you are not at your most productive or most focused, maybe you could benefit from decluttering your physical surroundings. Picture a sink with dirty dishes piled and a countertop full of cooking implements vs a full dishwasher, empty sink and wiped down gleaming counters. I'm going to guess you feel better looking at the second scenario. Our writing spaces aren't much different. They can get crowded with tools and evidence of our creativity.
Raise your hand if you have back copies of writing magazines in your possession. How about a pen collection? More than one coffee/tea mug sitting on your desk? Idea boards covered in sticky notes on each wall so that you can't focus on what you are currently working on?
Do you sigh with anticipation when you sit to write in your space, or sigh in frustration? Or have you abandoned your quiet corner in your own home for the public hum of a coffee shop because your corner makes you want to scream?
Do you want a space to write that is just that? Or are you better suited to laptop and couch and your "office" has become the junk room? Honestly, I have discovered tremendous freedom in getting rid of the extraneous. There is less time spent organizing and cleaning spaces because I have deleted some of the stuff that filled those places.
Curating or editing my life has left me with a knowledge of items that are my favorite—items that bring me joy.
3 Simple Steps to Editing Your Life
1) Editing includes getting rid of extra words that don't move the story forward. They slow reading down and muddy the waters. So, in your office/life, get rid of the obvious items that have no use, especially ones you have to relocate in order to work. With every stack of mail, or every shopping bag that comes into your home you bring unnecessary clutter.
Go through the piles you've created. One piece of paper at a time. Toss/recycle or file every bit. Chances are real good most of it can be recycled. Take a photo or scan little items like important jotted notes or receipts and get rid of the paper. Put a box or file or whatever makes sense for you to keep on your desk for the detritus of paper that comes in and repeat this process weekly or monthly if not daily.
2) Redundancy in a manuscript is annoying and sloppy. Say it once and trust the reader to get it, right? So delete duplicate items in your life. Do you really need 27 pairs of socks? 40 pens? Or 15 sticky note pads? How about writing craft books? How many do you use/refer to/need? Now, you might be thinking about clutching these to your chest and whimpering. But think about the value they might have in someone else's life. What would you have given for a solid how-to-write book when starting out?
3) Lack of clarity in writing is death to your story. If the story is not clearly communicated you have not done your job. In life, lack of clarity can easily happen when you have too much stuff. White space is important in your area of creation. The bulletin boards around the office with little stickies are a useful tool, but if you still have three books worth of pictures and stickies on finished novels or way future projects how can you find what you are currently focused on?
What can you do to minimize the visual clutter? Maybe transcribe all the notes onto a couple of index cards and file. Or take everything down, keep it in order and put it in a file until you need it. Do you have too many inspirational signs or pictures or collectibles around your desk? Gift friends with meaningful ones that you are ready to let go of to add more white space to your writing nook. How about candles or cozy items that have multiplied like bunny rabbits? Pick your favorites, put others elsewhere or out of the house and see if you don't feel like you can breathe a little deeper.Our muses are finicky enough. Don’t hide your inspiration behind piles of unnecessaries.
Kelly Klepfer had ambitions to graduate from the school of life quite awhile ago, but alas . . . she still attends and is tested regularly. Her co-authored cozy/quirky mystery, Out of the Frying Pan, is the culmination of several of the failed/passed tests. Kelly, though she lives with her husband, two Beagles and two hedgehogs in Iowa, can be found at Novel Rocket, Novel Reviews, Scrambled Dregs, Modern Day Mishaps, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter with flashes of brilliance (usually quotes), randomocities, and learned life lessons. Zula and Fern Hopkins and their shenanigans can be found at Zu-fer where you always get more than you bargained for.