Need a writing boost?
Great! Because it’s that time of year again! Spring Cleaning! But what does spring cleaning for writers mean exactly?
The same thing it does for a good house scrubbing: Hard work, dedication, an aim to make your life better, and refreshing results.
So let’s get down to it with Vanilla Grass’s 5 Dirty Tips for Cleaning up Your Writing Life:
Tip #1: Declutter Your Files
Be honest… what does your files folder look like?
Or maybe this?
It’s a virtual closet, after all. And I know I’m not the only writer who occasionally abuses the privilege of being able to shut the computer down so I don’t have to look at the mess.
But that’s no way to treat your darlings, is it?
Decluttering your files — or going through them one by one to remind yourself what’s in each document and grouping them into like folders while deleting the ones that truly were nothing — is a great way to remind yourself what’s in your vault.
Did you have a phenomenal idea that you threw in a google doc and then forgot about as other manuscripts and work documents piled on top?
Or what about that manuscript you were 2% away from finishing that fell below blog post articles and church lessons?
Roll up your sleeves, stretch your fingers, and get poking. Not only will you feel better when all your documents are neatly scaffolded into manageable folders, you’ll have fodder for your next project and feel super accomplished!
Tip #2: Clean Out Your Obligations
I put this one after Tip: Declutter Your Files because I wanted to make sure you knew what you had in your backlog.
This Spring Cleaning Tip for Writers is best done with a pencil and paper, or open file document, or listicle app on your phone. Whatever you use to help order your life.
Now, the best way to approach this, I find, is to just brain vomit for a minute. And what I mean by that lovely imagery is to just let your brain put whatever it needs to down on paper.
A purge, if you will.
Because if you start to prioritize as you go, you’ll miss out on some priorities and obligations that feel lesser, or may discount perfectly valid desires for the sake of importance.
Once you have your lovely brain smeared over a document you can then start to rearrange them in order of importance. While you’re doing this, take special care to make note of things you really want to do. The ones that bring you joy or carry with them a lot of excitement. Give them a smiley face or an asterisk. Whatever happy appendage that will remind you they matter for your sanity.
Likewise, make special note of anything you really don’t want to do. Put a dash by these to remind you they are there. Some of these, say going to the dentist for a gnarly toothache or meeting with your child’s teacher to hear once again how disruptive they were in class, are not always avoidable. But some of them are.
For instance, if you decided to be super ambitious over the last while and signed yourself up as president for every writing group and club you could find and started a blog and had health issues to boot, some of those grand endeavors may now have a hyphen by them. If that’s the case, consider letting a few go and inserting a smiley priority in its place.
Your everything will thank you. Especially your writing!
Now double-check your list. Do you have enough smileys on there? Did you include making time for writing? If you’re feeling overburdened and stressed, were you able to find some things to eliminate to bring stability and sanity back to your life?
On to Spring Cleaning for Writers Tip #3:
Tip #3: Clear Out Space
Literally, and figuratively.
And by that I mean take time to take stock of your writing habits. Where do you sit when you write? When do you find time to shove it in? And how often are you in the right mindset for it?
This is one of the tips I struggle to balance. I think, if I sit on the couch to write in the spare moments between when one of my kids asks me something and another is yelling, on and on in a vicious cycle, I’ll get something done!
But that mommy guilt (or daddy or spouse or grandma or best friend or employee or boss guilt) tells me that if I set aside a time, place, and mental block for my writing I’m being selfish.
And yet, twenty minutes behind a closed door where I tell the kids to bugger off unless they’re bleeding or on fire, lets me accomplish 1000% more than if I were fighting for time on the couch.
It also helps separate paper time from people time.
I once heard an editor at a local conference say that she switches her font depending on which mode she’s in. Writing mode? Let’s use Times New Roman. Editing mode? Switch it to Arial. This allows her to shift mindsets and really focus on the task at hand.
So how do you make finding a good writing workspace actionable? Ask yourself:
- Is there a more secluded place I could write?
- Is there a time of day I can block out (guilt-free!) to focus on my writing?
- Are there steps I can take before I write to eliminate interruptions?
- Is there anything I can do to make my writing space more inducive to creativity?
Even making adjustments for one of these will help improve your writing a ton! And why shouldn’t you?
Writing is a piece of our hearts, our souls. Doesn’t your heart deserve a little attention, too?Carolyn Hoffert
Tip # 4: Scrub Away the Guilt
I’m sure you knew this was coming based on the last tip, but it’s important for writers to remember.
SO important, in fact, that I’m going to give it its own blockquote. Behold:
And I’ll sign my name to that quote under threat of a tarantula-ridden death.
Writing is an amazing way to spend your time. And while writing (as with anything) can be done in excess (despite popular belief), squirreling away some precious time to spend on it is a noble endeavor.
Is the guilt-fed monster in your head telling me to shut my pretty little mouth?
Then let me give you 3 reasons why you shouldn’t feel guilty about writing:
- Writing is a creative process. And according to this super smart psychologist with an absurdly long name, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, creativity is “a central source of meaning in our lives … most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the results of creativity … [and] when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.” (Boo yah.)
- Writing (and reading) creates perspective and empathy.
- Writing can fortify mental strength (along with these other 6 reasons from Forbes about how having productive alone time is good for the soul.)
Good! Now use this chance to spring clean the heck out of any lingering guilt you may have about spending time on your passion.
Then move on to our final Spring Cleaning Tip for Writers.
Tip #5: Get Back to Writing
Because a lot of spring cleaning is just greasing those elbows and getting to it.
No more putting off to tomorrow what can be done today. And that for sure includes sitting down and typing words out. Sometimes all we need to get back in the swing of things is a kick in the pants. And now that you’ve cleaned up your files, your schedule, your space, and your mindset, there should be nothing stopping you!
But to help this Writing Tip feel a little more achievable, try these 4 steps to get back to writing:
- Set aside time today. Whether it’s shoved in the only tiny crack available while you wait at the doctor’s office, or you are able to set an hour aside after the kids (and/or spouse) go to bed. Not sure how to work it into your schedule? Take a look at this post on how to fit writing time into any busy day.
- Be thinking about what you want to accomplish as you do your mindless tasks for the day so when the time comes, you’re ready. This includes menial chores and the walks to the water cooler. Driving, too, provided you aren’t doing that completely mindless…
- Blacklist any negativity or distractions when you sit down to write. This goes back to the space you worked to make in Spring Cleaning for Writers Tip #4. For some writers, this even means disabling the internet, but you don’t have to hole up in a shanty outside a ghost town to get your writing done. Just know your limits and prepare.
- Take a deep breath and go! Even if it’s just gibberish or the worst poem ever created on heaven and earth. Fear of failure is not an option. Neither is getting nothing done. And if you’ve been stuck lately, make sure to check out our article on how to vanquish writer’s block.
And that’s it!
Spring Cleaning for Writers completed!
Pat yourself on the back and go get a smoothie, friend, you’re amazing.