Spring is just around the corner and to me that means spring cleaning. I am not a neat person by nature, however I was drawn to Carolyn Koehnline's class (offered through the Chuckanut Writers program) Writing to Clear Clutter, Clearing Clutter to Write. What I learned in the span of three hours has helped dramatically improve my own writing as well as give me more peace of mind in everyday life.
Koehnline taught about the types of clutter and how to combat them through writing. The four types of clutter are physical, mental, emotional, and time. Each one has unique properties and many people will find that one blocks their writing more so than another. However, many of the techniques she spoke about can be applied to fight all four of them.
Physical clutter are the things we excessively gather around ourselves. In Koehnline's words it is “the props we are gathering for a life we are not living.” My writing desk has a tendency to become buried underneath papers, receipts, bills, and whatever else navigates its way there. This means that when I want to sit down to write, I have no space to do it in. At first, it seemed to me, a bit ironic that in order to clear my clutter I needed to write about it. I have found however that making short lists of the things I no longer use, or journaling about keepsakes that I no longer have room for, is an excellent way to make peace with downsizing.
Mental clutter is anything accumulated excessively in the mind. It is those thoughts that make people over analyze and overwhelm themselves. Typically it is my own self judgment that prevents me from sitting down to write. Koehnline speaks about how journaling can help work through some of these thoughts by giving you a place to listen to your own thoughts. Journals are also a space to tune into yourself on a regular basis. This has helped me to overcome the thoughts of perfectionism that plague me when I sit down to write.
Emotional clutter is the extra things that are created and gathered in our hearts. This can be anything from fears un-faced or our perception of how others view us. A technique for fighting against emotional clutter is letter writing. Writing unsent letters to those who have wronged you, or to someone you may need to say good bye to. The point isn't so much in the letter writing, as getting the thoughts and emotions on the page.
The final form of clutter is time clutter, anything extra that is stuffed in our schedules. Koehnline says you need to ask yourself if the activities you are agreeing to do are going to bring you more energy, more joy, or more mindfulness? If not, then it may just be time clutter. Journaling is an excellent way to reduce anxiety and help with decision making, which can be crucial when cutting out time clutter.
My favorite writing technique that Koehnline spoke about is something she calls clustering. In a lot of ways it operates much like a web. You start with a word on the center of the page, and then add words that correlate with that word. From those words, you add more correlating words, which may or may not connect back to the first word. After a while, patterns and common themes begin to emerge. This is an excellent way to get a large amount of information in a small time. I find this useful not only for clearing clutter, but also for planning characters, or plot lines.
Carolyn Koehnline has given me a lot to dwell on and process when it comes to clearing clutter. I find though, that after using some of these techniques for just a few weeks, my writing has improved, I can find my pens, and I am overall a much less frazzled person. For more information on Writing to Clear clutter visit her website www.confrontingclutter.com.
Rebecca at Village Books