Where the magic happens (with a fresh coat of zen)

This morning is the first morning I feel well enough to write, after a week of mornings where the fever caused my bones and muscles to crumble under flu aches, and I despaired wondering if I would ever be able to breathe through my nose again.

After a week of days where I was rendered barely able to move, let alone clean my house, I was well enough this morning to survey the damage, and realized how depressing the cycle of being sick actually is. When one feels lousy, the cleaning and dusting goes undone, the clutter piles up (somehow!) and everything is kissed by a not-so-thin layer of dust and dog hair. Which makes one feel even lousier. Thus, the vicious catch-22 of the flu.

This morning, with a renewed frenzied energy bordering on frantic, I tackled the cycle. Eradicating every last residual influenza germ being the ultimate goal, I scoured and dusted and vacuumed for awhile before taking stock of my writing desk. Covered in bric-a-brac, unopened mail from two weeks ago, and the shuffle of papers and notes from my various writing projects, it was overwhelming. There is little wonder I’d been avoiding it, even in the days prior to my bout with the flu.

But this desk was the center of my writing world: where every scene I dreamed up in the shower or plot knot I untangled in the car (hands-free dictation apps, look ’em up!) was documented, flushed out, put to (digital) paper.

It is a white workbench-style table, with a solid metal base and an expansive rectangular surface made from hefty particle board with a white laminate overlay. Basic, plain. Utilitarian. A fresh, clean palette. And so, of course, my first instinct was to cover it with decoration: hand-painted yarn bowls, framed pictures, glass mosaic-tiled vases. Decoration eventually gave way to things: folders, notebooks, pens, more notebooks, fresh stacks of unused post-it pads, post-it notes with various scribbles. Seashells. Business cards. Coffee mugs. And books… so many books. Stacks of books. Four-fifths of the desk surface was books.

Overwhelming.

Today I made a decision: over the past several weeks, and even months, I had been gradually avoiding my workstation because it no longer was conducive to its original purpose… writing. Every time I sat down, I was distracted by things. And the words would slow, and stop. And so I would gravitate to my couch, which of course offered its own set of distractions in the form of the TV remote. Or my bed… which I will posit is a terrible, terrible place to try to write a novel. Or outdoors… this option actually works brilliantly in warmer months, but not so much in January in Minnesota. This flu hiatus acted as a reset; I needed to clear the space, so that the words could come again.

Which is what I did. I scrubbed the surface free of dust, after removing each and every piece of distraction from it. I sat there awhile, letting myself feel the full effect. Slowly, I added a handful of items back, but only the items that contributed to a calm, clean, zen aesthetic:

  • Three live plants, one set in the midst of a mini rock garden to add some texture and sparkle.
  • An artsy poster of text, made by a friend of mine, with an inspirational quote in gold foil print.
  • Three candles: two battery-operated faux candles that give off a gentle warm light, one real scented candle designed to fill the space with the warm fragrance of Snicker-doodle cookies.
  • A hand-painted paperweight I picked up in Tanzania, a polished black stone covered in dainty goldfish.
  • An antique coaster, made from blue hand-blown glass.
  • A head massager (a must-have within arm’s reach, trust me).
  • A crackle-glass votive, full of dried French lavender from my garden.

Lastly, my laptop. And then, reader, the words did come back. Because now I’m sitting here, at my desk, telling you all about it.

writing desk

The lovely end result. No, there is no “before” picture (thank goodness).

Yes, you just read a blog post about how I cleaned my apartment (sorry). But it’s also about how we really should be intentional about honoring the importance of where we write. If we do not allow ourselves the adequate environment in which inspiration and ideas can flourish, we aren’t allowing ourselves the chance to achieve what we want through our writing. This applies equally to creators of art in other mediums, and it all goes back to self-care… as creators we can easily become caught up in the act of creating, and neglect other supportive aspects of sustaining our creative drive. Finding a space that nurtures your craft and sparks your creativity is step one; nurturing that space as well as your craft and creativity is the critical step two.

Take care of your space. Take care of you. And the words will come.

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