Positive Writer

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Clear the Clutter to Overcome Writer’s Block and (or) Become Your Most Creative

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, organized chaos?

That is how I used to refer to the clutter on my desk. But, really, if I am honest, it was disorganized chaos and it drove me crazy.

I didn’t realize clutter was the cause of so much stress, anxiety and frustration, which naturally resulted in sapping my creativity and all too often caused writer’s block.

Creative Commons by Bestarns

A great ride

On Saturday I went for a relaxing drive, and it felt absolutely fantastic.

My car seemed to drive better, smoother and dare I say it even smelled better (it did)!

I enjoyed being out on the road, sailing the streets and listening to rock and roll music.

Even better, as I drove, my mind filled with ideas to write about. Ideas I could grab, hold on to and use. My creativity was flowing right along with the speed of my car down the highway.

It’s the same car I have had for 5 years, but something was different.

For some unknown reason I woke up one day last week with an unrelenting urge to clean it inside and out, top to bottom. So I went and did what I’ve always avoided.

No, I didn’t have the Cleaning Madness fever! (Well, maybe a little.)

Have you experienced cleaning your car and then feel like you’re driving a newer, better one?

It’s this difference that I want to talk about today.

Clutter creates stress, anxiety and distraction

A couple years ago I got tired of all the clutter on my writing desk, and as with my car, I got the urge and cleaned like never before – and I do mean, NEVER before!

I had been considering doing the job for a while and had already purchased, and read, a book on organizing.

The book ended up in one of my disorganized piles and became part of the clutter it was supposed to help with, but when I did get the burning desire to finally clean up, the information the book contained proved very useful.

One of the suggestions in the book was to take before pictures.

Then, when the job was done, to take after pictures.

These pictures play a very important psychological role.

My before photo reminds me of what it was like when I wrote less, when I was more prone to writer’s block, and when I would just sit at my desk staring at the mess. I was doing anything but writing.

My after photo reminds me of the effort it took to clean up and to keep it this way. It is such a contrasting image next to the before photo.

Those photos are now posted on my board above my desk where I can see them whenever I sit down to write.

The difference between a clutter free environment and one that is a total mess can only be described as miraculous. Ultimately, it feels better.

I am far less stressed, anxious and distracted when sitting here.

Effective Creativity

I am free from clutter at last!

It is this freedom that allows me to not only have more creative ideas, but also to be more effective with my creativity.

In other words, I get stuff that matters, done.

The distraction, anxiety and general stress that a mess creates is far too overlooked in my opinion. It’s too demanding to think clearly, much less put to use any thoughts or ideas when surrounded by chaos.

Out of clutter, find simplicity.

~Albert Einstein (Tweet This Quote)

Why in the world did I not realize this sooner?

All too often I hear creative people saying they have thousands of ideas floating around in their heads, but can’t seem to capture and use them.

I believe part of the problem is our surroundings; at least it was for me.

My ideas used to be like the clutter of piles, I knew something I needed was somewhere in one of those piles, but where?

With my writing area clean and organized I can find things quickly and use them right away.

It was like parting the red sea.

Who wants to clean up that mess?

You do.

I know if I keep my desk clear of clutter I will be more creatively inclined and write without distraction.

If I am not writing a blog post, I might be writing a free eBook, or perhaps writing a longer book to sell, or maybe writing a sweet love letter to my wife (she likes those).

Regardless of what I am writing, at least I am writing! (Tweet This)

And I know that’s what you want to do, too.

Clean up when you get up

As creatives it is normal for us to get so involved in what we are doing that we do not realize how much clutter we are collecting around us while we work.

Stacks of papers, books, pens, pencils, cups, dishes, good luck charms, Jelly Beans, tissues (hey, I write some sad stuff sometimes), crystal balls (as writers we gotta have those), and all sorts of odds and ends.

Living clutter free takes initiative. A daily cleanup after working is an absolute must. (Tweet This)

It’s too easy to let it go one day, then two, and then fifty, and so on.

I’ve found that it is necessary for me to routinely clean up whenever I get up.

You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.

~Edwin Louis Cole (Tweet This Quote)

Home office organizing books

It’s one thing to clean up the mess and it’s another to get organized and throw away what you really don’t need.

And trust me, there’s always plenty of what you don’t need.

If you can afford it, hire a professional to visit your home and show you what to do. These folks do this for a living for a reason – it’s not easy, especially the first time.

However, not everyone can afford to hire someone. Fortunately there are some great books which will guide you in your effort to become clutter free and organized, and stay that way.

I am a fan of the Organizing Do-It-Yourself for Dummies book.

Once you do get the chaos defeated (and I know you will), spend a few moments every day simply taking in and enjoying your clean and organized work area. This will help remind you why you keep it that way.

So, what about you, how does clutter affect your writing and creativity? Share in the comments.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins



  • Dan

    My clutter owns me! Great topic, great post!

  • AnthonyDejolde

    Hi Bryan, Anthony here! This is my first comment. This line got me: As creatives it is normal for us to get so involved in what we are doing that we do not realize how much clutter we are collecting around us while we work. => It perfectly describes me when at work. I gather notebooks, pens, keys, coins, and whatnot around my desk, while working, and I don’t even notice ’em while deep into writing.

    I have resolved to fix my clutter each and every time I stand up to fix myself coffee or to go to take a bladder break. That way, clutter won’t accumulate.

    Great insights, Bryan! Thanks for posting this.

    • Let me know how it goes, Anthony! Isn’t it interesting how we can collect so much in so little time when focused on creating? Hope to see you around.

      • AnthonyDejolde

        I agree! Why can’t we create minus the mess?:)
        I’ll be here Bryan, thanks for the warm welcome. Love your E-book, Good Enough. Was inspired!

        • Awesome, Anthony! Glad you were inspired by it. Sounds like a win-win for both of us 🙂

          • AnthonyDejolde

            Yep, I love win-win situations. Especially among writers.:)

          • AnthonyDejolde

            I really appreciate the warm welcome I’m having here, Bryan. Love it here!:)

          • Awesome, Anthony! We are glad to have you!

  • Yikes! Clutter is an on going battle that I’ve been dealing with for years. And this is the 3rd blog post on the subject in my email this morning. Hmm… Someone’s trying to tell me something. Alright I’m going to conquer the clutter monster today. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • lol Anastacia! Isn’t it funny how certain messages come at the right time? When the student is ready… the messages will appear 🙂 Let me know how it goes. Don’t forget your before and after photos, they really do help.

  • themagicviolinist

    Great post! 😀 I’m a very organized person in the sense that I know exactly where all of my stuff is, but I’m not the greatest at keeping everything clean. I’m getting up to clear out my desk right now!

    • Great MV! Did you get it done? How does it feel?

      • themagicviolinist

        Not completely (ha, but I got inspired to write a post about being focused, which I will be sending you soon for this month!), but I’m working on it. 😉 I can feel the difference already, so I can’t even imagine how it’ll feel once it’s done!

        • That’s wonderful! And I’m looking forward to reading your latest post 🙂

  • Anne Peterson

    I resonated with this one, Bryan. AND figured out how to leave a comment even though I’m not on my computer.Great post.

    • Cool, Anne. Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Do you know what the issue was with commenting? Anything I need to fix on my end? Thank you!

  • kathunsworth

    I have always believed a clean house and work area is the key to a good writing day. De-cluttering is a must for me, I cannot focus on the job at hand if there is clutter about and always feel the vibe in a clean room. Thanks for the reminder to keep it this way.

    • You know, Kath, I’m the same way now. Whenever the area (any area in our home actually) starts to get dusty or disorganized, I do not feel comfortable and have the urge to take care of the mess ASAP. But I’m much better at cleaning as I go now. And it makes my wife happier since she’s always keeping the rest of our home so neat and clean 🙂 – (Except the garage, I still need to get out there and take care of that!)

  • Nancy Bouwens

    clutter and craziness zap my creativity like a drop of water on a hot sidewalk! Thanks for a great reminder to keep on top of it ! Great post Bryan. 🙂

    Blessings :)!

    • Thank you, Nancy! And blessings to you, too. 🙂 Watch out for that hot sidewalk!

  • Brenda McGraw

    Hey Bryan. I enjoyed this. I have to keep my clutter clean. It kind of starts driving me crazy if I don’t. I am a “To Do” list person. Before I leave my office (I work from home) re-do my list and straighten things up on my desk so I know what I have to the next day. It’s kind of cool, this week, as a matter of fact I started adding my writing projects on my To-Do list too. Up until now, it was just kind of a fly by night. I realized I am a writer! Yay! Thanks for your post. I like your site! It’s very encouraging and “Positive”!! Great job!!

    • Thank you, Brenda. That’s brilliant actually. I always find it best to clean my desk when done, because when I return it will be more inviting 🙂

  • I love the idea of taking before and after shots. I can totally relate to the car analogy too – after a clean inside and out it feels like a completely different place to be. Everything feels safer, more controlled etc. I always get my desk cleared at the weekend ready for Monday. By the end of the week everything’s falling apart around me and I find creativity all mushy and difficult to get on top of. I need to work it into my daily routine. Thanks for this inspiring post, Bryan!

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