"PicHello! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog about writing. Today, I pose a question, "Messy Desk, Pristine Prose?" or, "Does your writing environment help you or hurt you?"

I recently saw a picture of a writer at work. Everything about her desk and surroundings was streamlined and clean. Not a pencil out of place, not a book up-ended. There were no sticky notes affixed to the computer screen, and no cork bulletin board groaning with mock-ups of book covers, flyers, and a scribbled-upon calendar. Even this writer's shirt looked as if it had just been ironed!

If this is you, I say, "Bravo!" or "Brava!" How you do it, I know not, but my proverbial hat is off to you for being so tidy.

As for me and my workspace…well…not so much.

Oh, please understand, I can find everything I need. In files on piles for miles. Nohing is dirty or smudged or ripped or torn, but everything looks, well, "in process." And, you know what? I like it this way.

When I'm working, I thrive in an environment that looks like it's working, too. I seem to have an affinity for visual reminders – the scribblings on the tiniest scrap of a Post-It note can forever be imprinted on my mind and come in hand at exactly the right moment. Color-coded folders call to mind if something inside is adminstrative or creative. And various notebooks with floral or patterned covers contain specific subject matter.

To the outside observer, all of this might seem unnerving. I understand that, for many, the workplace needs to be "just so."  Recently I was at a doctor's appointment, and the physician spent several minutes rearranging the ophthalmologist's lenses so their stems were facing in the same direction ("They were offending my OCD," the doctor told me as I watched.) So, yes, I get neatness.

I just naturally don't DO neatness, at least not while I'm working.

Unless, of course, it is within my manuscripts or my internal organization. Then, I strive for utter clarity. So, specific projects have their own files,and these files have their place. Content within manuscripts is well-ordered and follows, one fact upon another, so that the beginning, middle, and end make sense individually and collectively. Those scribbled-over legal pads order my thoughts, and the Post-Its stack up just so to show the most important information first.

To look at my living room and kitchen, and then see my office, a person might surmise that different individuals inhabit them. The person with the desk overflowing couldn't possible be the same person whose magazines perch neatly on a coffee table near a neat and carefully-arranged kitchen.

Ah! But, they are! And this, too helps my writing. I can go from the scene of much creativity to a domestic locale that helps me relax, rest, and revive.

It's taken me ages to understand and become comfortable with the appearance of my "writing lair." Even now, in the back of my mind, I hear a voice say, "Pick up your room." (don't we all?!) But, I have come to realize that environment for the working writer is very important. We need to feel at home when we work, whether in a corner of the family room, at the kitchen table, or in a crowded cafe. If we support our need for the "just so" physical writing space, we can be more free with our imaginations. We just might turn out better work!

When my work-in-progress is over, edited, and accepted, I go full circle. I gather my papers, notes, and file folders,and tuck them away. I sweep clear remnants of the just-published piece. I record contact information I've collected, and update my email address lists. Before I know it, my office looks like the rest of my home – neat, tidy, clean…and just waiting for the next project to explode in a happy chaos of paper and possiblities!

Blessings to you in Our Lord, Jesus Christ!



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