spring cleaning for writers

Spring Cleaning for Writers

posted in: Productivity, Writing | 2

The temperatures are soaring, the birds are singing, and the trees and flowers are bursting into bloom. It’s time to shake off the cozy lethargy of winter and clear out the cobwebs. It’s also the perfect opportunity to examine your writing space and maximize the spring’s organizing energy. Think you don’t have time to clean the house *and* your hard drive? Keep it simple. Here’s how to celebrate spring cleaning for writers:




Conference and Workshop Fliers

A lot of us keep worksheets, notes, and conference materials for longer than we should. We tell ourselves it’s one way we get our money’s worth for the admission cost. But how often do you actually reference or look back at those papers? Me? Rarely. And even when I do, I notice the information is either something I’ve come across elsewhere since the conference, or it’s become obsolete.


Conferences can be powerful, but it’s not due to the worksheets. Focus, instead, on the new ideas, energy, and networking opportunities you’ll find.




Stale Research

Information just doesn’t keep the way it once did. Like donuts, some news is best consumed hot. Otherwise, it ends up stale and soggy and marked-down on the day-old rack. If you’ve hoarded info that’s past its expiration date, let it go. Just like those old donuts, pitching this excess will make you feel guilty and victorious all at the same time. Embrace the paradox and get rid of it.




Articles Filed for … ?

Do you collect articles as inspiration for stories, essays, and other works? Do you have overstuffed files on your hard drive, full of links that dead-end to error pages? In a melancholy way, these past-their-prime bits and bobs act like a creative time capsule, revealing what once tickled our imaginations. It’s likely these topics no longer interest us in the way they once did. Give them an honorable death–right into the recycle bin.




Ancient Notebooks

Smeared, coffee-ringed, and crumbling–I have stacks of old notebooks. Most of these are half-finished, containing disjointed fragments of story buds and false starts. This category of clutter can be difficult. Listen to your intuition and decide what to keep and what to scrap. Remember: all of it counts in your journey to become the writer you are today.


I reread several old journals and notebooks and found them so embarrassing, I knew I never wanted anyone to read them. (And I certainly didn’t want to read through them again.) If you find notebooks like those, you know you’ve got the emotional green light to free yourself and release the notebooks to the trash or recycle bin. You might even find it cathartic to run a few pages through the shredder and use the fluff for mulch base in your flower beds… Now that’s redemption!




Desk Detritus

A clean desk will do wonders for your busy mind. There seems to be a direct correlation between the orderliness of our external environment and our creative inner landscape. If it feels like you have too many ideas, too many to-dos, too many obstacles to make progress in your work, try clearing off your desk.

My desk falls prey to entropy in an astonishingly short time. All it takes is one receipt or book or magazine and that’s it–chaos! It’s like other clutter is drawn to a single scrap of paper by magnetism. In order to prevent a cataclysmic junk pile from forming, I developed the 5 Day Clean Desk Challenge. It breaks down a desk recovery into easy-to-manage steps to prevent overwhelm.
No matter how much time you have to spare on spring cleaning, you can always cull a few unnecessary papers, files, or folders. Commit to at least ten minutes this week. Choose one or more of the categories above, set the timer, and take back your space. Whether it’s your office space or your mental space, you’ll feel lighter and more creative.




NOW YOU: What do you know you need to pitch but struggle to let go? How do you do spring cleaning?




Sign up for the free 5 Day Clean Desk Challenge





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2 Responses

  1. Writingdianet

    I need to spring clean my writing area about once a week, for all the reasons you mentioned: conference notes, research, pages with writing ideas jotted on them. I LOVE the donut comparison!!
    Thanks for this, Cole!

  2. Cole Smith

    Think I’ll send out a before/after comparison of my wreck of a desk to my email community. It’s astounding how much better I can think when the desk is clean!

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