Previously published on Amazon, a new version of this title is currently being reviewed by a small press. Updates to follow.
Long before I ever had a laptop, back in the day when I was tapping at keys on a typewriter, I kept various writing notes in a decorative box, the kind you find at a craft store for keeping photos or other treasures in. While I was raising young children and my writing time was limited, it got my creative juices flowing just to take the box out and hold in. I always knew I’d get back to my work-in-progress when I could steal time again and often that was enough to keep me satisfied.
My daughters have grown and moved out, and like Virginia Woolf, I now have A Room of My Own in which to muse and write and pile up essays and book chapters on my laptop. But despite the space and all the technology available to me today, I have not outgrown The Box.
My box has changed in size and type only, having now upgraded to one I found at Staples that fits my 4×6 index cards full of notes, quotes, and ideas. It comes with matching dividers and an adjustable follow block, keeping all cards upright and orderly. If one can fall in love with a box, I surely have.
I store essay and blog ideas, memorable quotes, notes from books I’ve read, and anything else that may inform my writing. For jotting down notes away from home, I simply carry a little green index card holder, one that easily fits into a purse or a book bag. Notes from this can be transferred into the box later.
Why not just store all these notes digitally? Because I often read in bed and want to be able to write on a 4×6 card rather than record info onto my laptop. But mostly because, whether working on an essay, blog or book, I want to be able to move the cards around, rearrange them while I am referring to them, build the piece I am working on. Having so many tangible ‘moving pieces’ to work with gets me to the finished product, the whole thing, in a way that feels so satisfying to me. It’s all part of the creative process.
I see my oldest daughter, now a mother of two babies, struggle to find time to create. I recently reminded her of her art journal, of the importance of getting her ideas down on paper, of not letting them fade away like a poignant dream that can no longer be recalled. Whether in a box, a journal, or digitally, capturing our ideas in a way that we can easily refer to later, is half the fun and half the progress.
Place holders of inspiration. Nuggets of information. Parts of the whole, pieces of projects, even with small pockets of time, bit by bit will bring the dream into focus.
This piece was originally published in Literary Mama: The Sweet Spot of Less
I detest clutter. It feels bad, almost suffocating. Tangible or intangible, it’s all the same to me, space clutter and mind clutter. One leads to the other and a fog sets in that traps precious energy, stalling progress, making forward motion feel like walking through quicksand.
In order to write freely, I need to clear away distractions as much as possible. It takes conscious effort to maintain clarity of space and freedom of mind, and it’s a quest I feel is worthy of writing about. I especially notice how simplifying my environment improves my writing, as if the space in my home invites the muse to come in and move my pen across the page with ease. My mind is open to inspiration, words sweeping through me, uninhibited by too much stuff.
Creativity comes through the empty spaces, the open heart, the uncluttered mind and room. It is in this space that we can get creatively messy.
My three daughters grew up going through their clothing every season, passing down whatever no longer fit. They did it all together and it was a fun time for them, a chore that felt like play. We also made a game out of going through toys, handing them a bag for goodwill and asking them to “find ten things they don’t play with anymore.” Simplifying was a way of life, a joyful way to make room for something new, not necessarily in the material realm.
I get excited for anyone who tells me they’re cleaning out their garage or a closet. I know what it will do to their mind, how the clearing out will invite the flow of something good, something nourishing that finds the opening and begins to trickle in. Call it an obsession or a passion, but I’m harnessing it and letting it manifest into these words, from me to you.
To dive into the stillness, the emptiness, and poke around, is to invite the extraordinary. In the void, we stand a chance of churning out something new. Maybe it won’t happen that moment or that day, but eventually it will burst through as an idea, a creative urge, or the solution to a problem, fresh and stunning.