Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tidy or Messy?



Someone once told me they had read a study that said people are more creative if their surroundings are neat and tidy. I think I might have to test that out in another lifetime.

I like to keep my house in good order. I’m not obsessively tidy, mind you, but I do like to clean up when things start to get out of hand. I like to have enough order so that I can find things when I need them. It makes me anxious if my house gets too messy. So how come that doesn’t hold true in my workspace? It’s a disaster area. Occasionally I can’t stand he disorder anymore, so I go into a frenzy and clean up my space. Good, right? Not really. Ten minutes after I sit down to work, it’s messy again. It’s like magic. I get out an article I need to read for my WIP, and when I’m done, it falls where it may. I print out something and fling it wherever it lands. I get a phone call or an email and make notes and then lay the note down “wherever.”

Right now on my desk I have two partially drunk bottles of water that have been there for weeks. I have old notes to myself, a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology that I took out a few weeks ago to look up something and never put back. Half-read books, bookmarks, a half-finished crossword puzzle, pencils with no lead, receipts from my last conference that I have yet to file…



What’s going on? My best self believes that a messy desk is a sign of a messy brain. But tell that to the imp who doesn’t put things back. I’ve come to the conclusion that as tidy as the rest of my house is, my study is never going to measure up.

Since this has been going on for a long time, I have a suspicion that there must be a reason for it. I’d like to think that the messy desk signals that my mind is creating order out of the chaos of ideas that tumble around in my head. But maybe I’m just lazy.

I’m curious to know how others handle this. In many polls, you’ll find that half of respondents do things one way, half do it another way—and sometimes they are passionate about their of doing things. Best example I know is the divide between plotters and pantsers.


So I’m taking an informal poll here. Is your desk tidy or messy? And why?

16 comments:

Sheila York said...

You call that messy? You don't want to see what my office looks like. I'm a world-class clutterer. I make notes and then they end up with a hundred other things I have to take care of, all piled on the desk. I wish I knew why.

VP Chandler said...

I don't have a desk. I have a small recliner in my bedroom where I sit and write on my laptop. Of course I'm surrounded by notes and books. Today within reach are Lonesome Dove, The Good Old Boys, and The Little Brown Handbook. There are times during writing when I can't sit still. I physically have to move to find the right words! When that happens, I place my laptop on top of my bureau. It's the perfect height for standing and writing. Now that place is a mess!
I guess I think of the whole notion of clean vs clutter, in regards to creativity, a bit irrelevant. I have it clean enough to where I can block out the world. Other than that, when creativity and imagination take over, I don't even notice.

kk said...

My desk and writer's lair both seem to have survived a tornado...just barely.

kk said...

My desk and writer's lair both seem to have survived a tornado...just barely.

Terry said...

I'm surprised at the number of people who are telling me that don't have a desk. V.P. Chandler, I think you hit the right point when you said you block out the world. That's what matters to creativity.

Judy Alter said...

Sometimes one way; sometimes another. I work better if I keep things filed and out of sight. Sometimes I make it a point to straighten late at night. Am I OCD?

Sally Carpenter said...

Tidy. I can't stand clutter. Same goes for the rest of the house. I can't think in a mess.

Nancy Adams said...

Messy! And I’m a pantser. Any connection? (Fodder for yet another poll!)

Nancy Raven Smith said...

Messy. I also am a panster.

Barb Goffman said...

Messy. I work better when it's tidy. Alas it's unusually that way. And why? Because the desk isn't big enough to accommodate everything on it. I need a bigger desk.

Terry said...

Okay, you two Nancys, maybe we are on to something...except I'm a hybrid panther/plotter and messy. I suspect that most of the tidy desks are also plotters.

Terry said...

Barb, I think I need two desks. But then they would probably both be messy.

lisaljohnljc said...

I agree with VP Chandler. I have a desk. Bought it about a year ago at a yard sale for about $30.00 caz it fits into the corner in a sort of V shape. Very cool!
Never use it!!!!
right now, I'm sitting in a fold out beach chair, laptop in lap, staring at the desk that never gets used. Don't really know why. But I too have to move sometimes, lots of times actually, to let the creative juice flow.

Weird? Maybe. But hey, I'm a writer!

Bill Crider said...

Messy. Really, really messy.

Terry said...

Bill, I wouldn't have guessed that.

Patricia Stoltey said...

So messy, Terry, I can't begin to describe it. Lately I've been trying to tidy up but progress is very, very slow.