Austin Kleon keeps a sign on his wall that says, "When In Doubt, Tidy Up," a quote from Brian Eno. I've read of writers who use tidying as a way to get out of writing, but they might be fooling themselves. Tidying up generates ideas. It might even be writing, as in this scene from The West Wing. Who am I to argue with Austin Kleon, Brian Eno, Toby Ziegler, or Aaron Sorkin?
Saturday mornings I tidy the kitchen and pick up around the house. If I dusted or swept, my wife would think me the sexiest man alive. This morning, I folded some laundry, did a few dishes, and cleared some of my desk, all the while thinking that maybe I should be writing. I haven't written much again this week and have barely posted to the blog. That has me feeling anxious. Tidying up calms me down.
It also has me thinking about writing. I have six ideas in my head and listed on paper. It's too nice a day to spend it all indoors on the computer, but tidying provides a model for the day.
See, I don't concentrate on tidying. I do a bit in the kitchen and when I carry something to the living room, I tidy there. Passing through the dining room to the kitchen, I clear a few things off the table. I would be more efficient and productive if I stayed with one room, but on Saturday mornings I couldn't care less about efficiency or production. There's laundry left to fold, my desk isn't quite clear, and the dining room table is still piled high. But the kitchen is tidy and things are better than when I woke.
I won't compose a novel or long-form nonfiction today. That's not in my plans. I want to get a couple thoughts written down and maybe posted, just to tidy my mind.
This kind of tidying and writing doesn't take long and it feels good. I go at it for a few minutes, moving from room to room, idea to idea, enjoying the process and the progress. I tidy, write, and then maybe run. This is the day I'm after: a little of this and a little of that, with my world feeling a bit tidier as I go.