27 Jul

Neat-freak meet Creative: Keep Your Desk Clean but Your Clutter Handy

Clutter desk inspiration quote

Clutter desk inspiration quoteI lied to you. Well, if you’re a recurring reader that is.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how a messy desk is creative. The gist of the story is that having a limited amount of mess on your desk lets you see unexpected stuff and make new neural connections, i.e. generate ideas.

Oh, and I said that smart people have their desks more cluttered.

That last part’s true. The first part is true but there’s a better way.

As mystery and thriller writer Chester D. Campbell said:

I have a small office in the bonus room over the garage with a U-shaped computer desk, a cluttered table, several packed bookshelves.

I read that wrong: cluttered table, clutter table.

If you’ve got a dedicated clutter table then you can have a clean desk for focus and a clutter table beside it for inspiration.

Said and done. I’ve moved all my clutter to a side spot. I now have a clutter-free desk, and a clutter area right next to it. Well, I’ve split my desk with an imaginary line, I don’t actually have the opportunity to add a desk that I can dedicate to clutter right now. That’s saying “my writing doesn’t bring in enough cash to dedicate an entire room to it”. But I’ll keep dreaming.

Come up with solutions, David Farland quoteAnd an interesting thing happened. When I sit down to write there’s nothing to distract me. I’ve go my keyboard, my mouse, my clean desk and my monitor. I even moved my speakers a bit so that there’s nothing in my vision but the monitor and the motion of my fingers on the keys.

It makes it a lot easier to focus on what I’m doing. It’s the physical equivalent of a distraction free writing environment, you know, those computer programs that take over your screen and show you nothing but a cursor, a page and your text. And it has, so far, worked like a charm.

But off to the side, where I can access it by a twist of my head or a flick of my eyes (I’m flicking my eyes around quite a bit – it’s OK to do it but it hurts when they land), I’ve got my clutter. Lots and lots of nice clutter.

I tried stacking it but it became hard to comprehend. I would only see the top page or few pages and then have to dig through the piles to see even the stuff I commonly use. Fortunately my clutter migrates. Great swaths of paper move across the prairies of my glass desk protector, sweeping their mighty leaves over the folds of my imagination, sparking bush fires of though and blowing smoke up my creative wazoo.

Sorry for the purple prose*.

Anyhow, after two weeks of workplace improvement trials I think that I can say that having a dedicated clutter table, or clutter area, actually increases my productivity. Whether it’s something that I’ll be able to stick with remains to be seen.

* I’m not sorry in the least or I would have cut it in post. Take that, Justice League of Good Writing! Up, up, trodden fanfic masses, fight for the Freedom of Purple Prose!

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