Ahhh, spring. The air is filled with the chirps of migrating birds returned to the northland. The grass changes overnight from dull brown to lush green. Buds pop on tree branches. And suddenly flowers dot otherwise skimpy flower beds.
Spring is the perfect time of year for fresh starts and new beginnings. I’ve often thought this a better time of year for resolutions rather than the dark, cold days of January. Spring cleaning has many of us heaving stuff from the garage and scrubbing away the grimy prints from windows and doors, too.
Last year around this time, I was embarking on a new-to-me journey: a foray into minimalism. For those of you unfamiliar with the term it basically means less of what you don’t need so you can have more (money, mental space, cleared out physical space) of what you love. I loved reading Joshua Becker’s blog, Becoming Minimalist, and later a few of his books. Courtney Carver was the inspiration behind a serious overhaul of my wardrobe when I pared down to less than 40 items. Everywhere I looked it seemed, I found more blogs and books on the subject. And they were inspiring.
Fast forward a year
While I’m nowhere near having a home that looks like this, I still like to keep things clutter-free (as much as is possible living in a small house with a family and two cats). This year I’ve learned some good lessons about decluttering and living in a more minimalistic way. More interesting? I’ve seen how questioning clutter in a physical space is starting to influence my writing. I'll share a few of the lessons learned below.
Lesson #1: Find a new normal. I struggle through the months of February, March and April. No matter how I try to prepare myself and take care of myself through workouts, supplements, light therapy, and new activities, this is the worst time of the year for me. It’s when I put on my “winter weight,” and get lethargic and feel like no matter how hot baths I take, I never fully unthaw. It’s also the time when my healthy habits like decluttering, refraining from buying things I don’t need and keeping things organized slip a little.
I used to consider myself a failure because of this. This year I realized that even at my worst, when I’m browsing clothes stores every week and drooling over things I won't buy, I’m still far better off than I was several years ago. Then I would actually spend money, most that I didn’t have—(hello, credit card, where’ve you been?)—on things that I didn’t need.
It’s cool to look back at where I was a decade ago and see how much my habits have changed. This is my new normal. While it still always feels that I have miles and miles to go before I end up anything like this, I enjoy this new path so much more.
The same thing can be seen in our writing. At first setting up a writing practice is hard. You’d rather trim the dog’s toenails or deep clean the fridge. But then you find your groove, your new rhythm. And realize that this writing thing isn’t so hard after all. Especially after you’ve set up an easy way to win.
Lesson #2: Less really is more. When I was a kid I was the queen of collections. I had sticker collections, stuffed animal collections, book collections, glass jar collections … basically I hoarded everything I could get my sticky little hands on.
Over time, especially after having a child, the importance of less stuff has become more and more a priority. I don’t want 10 of anything. I’m driven mad by the Christmas Tree Shop commercials, “What? Only $4? I’m going to get twenty!” says an over-dressed woman throwing in armfuls of candle pieces or potholders into her cart.
How does this relate to writing? In recent months I’ve noticed a difference in my editing abilities. Now it’s becoming easier to see where I can let words go—unclutter my sentences—and end up with something that sounds better.
Lesson #3: Make room for what’s important. Last year when I did my big closet cull, I donated bags and bags of clothes and accessories. I generally shop at thrift stores and gladly take my sisters’ hand-me-downs so I didn’t feel guilty about filling bags with donations. I did, however, feel a little panicked when I looked at my newly pared down side of the closet.
It looked empty. Yes, it was nice to see everything that I had easily. Instead of too-tightly crammed together pieces, I could actually see every single article in a quick glance.
But you know what I realized in the next few weeks? I had so many more options! Because I could easily see what there was to choose from I had fun putting together new outfits. I love fashion and clothes and it was an eye-opener for me to realize this: make room for what you love most and you’ll always be well-dressed.
Make your writing a priority
This is the same for writing what you love. Writers and creatives in general, all struggle to make time for their craft. When we allow the world (using the term loosely to mean anything outside your priority writing) to make its demands on us, we lose our chance to do that unique writing that only we can bring into the world. Balancing clients’ projects with your own writing is extremely difficult. Until you determine that your own writing is a priority and treat it as such.
I talk about this in The 15-Minute Novelist so won’t go into depth here. But I would encourage you, if you’re struggling to make your own writing project a priority, do it first. When you wake up. Or with your first cup of coffee. Or on your morning commute via subway or bus. Even if it’s just a short segment of time, make your writing a priority. This tells your subconscious, my writing matters. My creativity matters.
And from that point on, your day may be just a little easier.
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