Clear the Decks to Inspire Creativity

IMAG8601Some people might see tidying up as procrastination to delay starting that new project, but I find that if I’m embarking on a new work I need to clean my workspace, and file away old ideas, old manuscripts.

As Jeff Goins says on his Writer’s blog.

“The mess is not inevitable. It is not cute or idiosyncratic. It is a foe, and it is killing your art.”

I am not a tidy person by nature, so cleaning up is a conscious decision by me to focus on a new work. It’s a symbol of my intent, but it’s also a way of narrowing my field of view – eliminating distractions.

I’m often tempted to leap into a new project, can’t wait to get started, but I find a life planning day is just as important as planning what will happen in my story.

And the two are often interconnected. While I’m decluttering the physical environment around me, I often find it helps to declutter my brain. I’m not a big fan of housework – it’s a necessary evil.

But sometimes the lapping of soapy dishwater around my hands can bring on a wave of new ideas for my new story, can transport me to a different world.



Here are my tips for freeing up your creative space and mind so you can launch whole-heartedly into that new project.

1, Tidy up your creative space and put away the things that aren’t relevant to your new project.

2.  Clear a wall space for your plot planner, or any pictures you might want to display that are relevant to your story..

'Game On' Plot Planner

‘Game On’ Plot Planner

3.  Clear the desktop on your computer – and make a new folder so that everything relating to your new project can be clearly filed away and easily found later. Put a footer on your manuscript that’s the same as the file name – and date it – e.g. ‘May 2015’ and this will help you find it later. It mightn’t seem important now, but if you don’t do this, ten drafts into the story, you could be tearing your hair out.

4. Tidy your house surrounds so you can’t use ‘cleaning up’ as an excuse for procrastination.

5. Take a long walk and clear your mind in readiness to embark on that new project.

6. Eliminate electronic distractions.

7. Eliminate social media distractions.

8. If you find it difficult to work on the computer and not be distracted, then write your first draft long hand. I have started doing this anyway as I find it really helps me to immerse myself in my story.

9. Use ‘Do not disturb’ signs or whatever it takes to let other members of your household know that you are seriously writing :). (It might take them a while to get into the habit of taking this seriously, but it’s worth persevering.)

10. Do not answer the phone  (unless you’re expecting an urgent call) – that’s what we have answering machines for. And people can always ring back. In the days before mobile phones, people had to ‘wait’ for you to respond. You don’t have to respond to everything straight away.

If your current work in progress has stalled or you have writer’s block, you might find that decluttering your work environment can help declutter your mind and get you going again.

I’d love to hear your comments on how you ‘clear the decks’ in preparation for a new project.

Happy writing:)






4 thoughts on “Clear the Decks to Inspire Creativity

  1. Glad to see I’m not the only one who spends hours getting organized. In my case it is a new three ring binder in exactly the right colour (it should, preferably be a different colour than the other project binders, but alas, there are only so many colours out there), separator sheets and matching file folders. All my notes, character sketches, research, etc., get put into the binder and the chapters themselves into the folders.

    I also make sure my last project is finished and put in its drawer. I can’t stand mess or loose ends when I start something new.

    What are you starting new?


  2. You sound very organised, Deb:)

    I’m not actually working on anything new yet. Have a couple of projects to finish off then looking forward to focussing on the manuscript I was researching in Paris.

    Hope your writing is progressing well 🙂


  3. LOL. It’s more like writer OCD. Somehow I firmly believe that if I’m rigidly organized, I’ll have space in my brain and the words (all the right ones, anyway) will come pouring out in a lovely torrent. Why, oh why, doesn’t that happen? (bangs head on wall)

    The writing is slow for now, but will pick up. Also, thanks to Leah Novak, I just got a new idea for the 4th Inspector Blake book. I have put in his notes and he will stay in note form until I finish what I have for now!

    In my spare time, I am reading Agatha Christie’s Notebooks. Interesting; there was a woman not organized, but prolific. Her brain was so busy she wrote four or five stories a year. And the way she makes notes, is often sort of like mine, a dash here and a reminder there. I TRY to keep all my notes for one story in one notebook, but just found I have two books in one notebook. Oh well. At least I know which book it’s in and the binders are organized correctly. I guess it’s all good.

    Hope you have a good writing week.


  4. Hi Deb,

    It’s always so interesting to hear how other writers work. I must admit, I don’t always work the same way for every manuscript. Some I plot more, others not so much. Some seem to take ages, while others flow.

    Great to hear that you have a new idea. Love to hear more about your Inspector Blake books.

    I’ve had a very productive week, thanks.

    Nearly finished a new draft of my YA thriller – always feels like such an achievement when you get to ‘the end’ 🙂

    Happy writing:)


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