No doubt I've mentioned before that I'm not a tidy person. My apartment is a mess (my husband and son seem to take their cue from me), and my mind is also a bit of a shambles. Some people have tidiness in their genes. A place for everything and everything in its place. That was one of my late mother's favourite sayings. Of course, nine years ago, when I had to sort through her belongings and empty the house, before she moved to Donisthorpe Hall (it sounds like a girls' jolly boarding school, but it's actually just a very nice old people's home) I was reminded of my mother's other favourite saying: 'Never throw anything out. One day it might come in handy.'
But I digress.
Now and then I frown at my boxes of papers, photos and manuscripts, the piles of stuff, and - when the sun is shining too brightly - the coating of dust that shrouds every surface, and I despair. Sometimes, if I have lots of energy, I galvanize myself into a short-lived cleaning and throwing-out frenzy. If I'm not feeling too energetic, the sight of all this mess will paralyze me, and I throw myself onto the sofa and close my eyes. I imagine a team of pixies flying in through the window with dusters, brooms and garbage bags. They fling some fairy dust and floor wax around, and when my eyes finally open ... House Almost Beautiful! Perhaps one of them will have even finished writing my novel for me.
Ah yes, imagination is a wonderful thing. It won't scrub out the bathtub or vacuum under the bed, but it will help me write a story. Which brings me back to the shambles that is my mind. Some of you can identify with this problem. The notes are beside the computer. The half-completed re-write is in the document file. The plot ideas for my novel tumble around in my brain like clothes in the dryer. The characters jostle for attention. But other plots and characters also try to attact my attention. What a mess (a creative mess, but still a mess). If only I could re-boot myself.
It took me years to recognize that I have a disability. Just as I have difficulty sorting things out and throwing away what isn't needed in my apartment, I also have that problem with my writing. 'Put it aside,' I say to myself, or 'Throw it away' and 'Don't listen to that other plot that keeps nagging at you.'
Easier said than done. Sometimes the writing and housework problems overlap. Those bits of paper, those notebooks lying around, make most of the mess. Alright, so the dustballs don't help.
Those of you who can focus on the task in hand have my undying admiration. The rest of us get frustrated and overwhelmed. So let's use strategies. We untidies will never have tidy minds, so everything will always take an extra effort. The first thing we have to do is stand up and say, 'My name is -------(say your name) and I am an untidy person.' Acknowledging the problem is half the battle. Self awareness. Most problems can be solved in some way. If you are very young you could ask a parent or a teacher to help you get on track organizing your work, your thoughts, your locker.
A good strategy is to set a goal.
I'm flying off to Los Angeles tomorrow morning, and I'll be back on Wednesday, the day before my birthday. On the Jewish calendar it's also a couple of days before Tu Bishevat - the birthday of trees. A celebration of newness and growth. How appropriate! As soon as I get back I am going to start, one box and one pile of papers at a time. I'll begin with the living room - that's the room that most people see - and I'm going to do one hour of cleaning a day. I am also going to spend one hour every night finishing my work-in-progress. I will ignore all the other stories demanding my attention until the first project is finished. It will take nerves of steel and the strength of ten, but we untidies have to work just that bit harder. It is always worth the effort.
And let's face it, those pixies are never going to do it for us.