As I believe I have mentioned (probably numerous times), I have been mucking out my writing cabin. To give credit where credit is due, the idea of hiring someone to help me came from my Writing Lab friend, Lori, who is going through this process in her entire house, and then from a new book, Minding the Muse, written by the inestimable Priscilla Long.
I have known Priscilla for twenty-five years. This is a woman who knows how to get writing done. In Minding the Muse, she reminded me, yet again, that it is good for creators to have an up-to-date inventory of their work. And, as I have countless times before, I thought, “I can’t.” I had great excuses. I lined them all up and danced them across my journal pages. But there sat “I can’t,” exactly the words that I am always telling other writers that they must not say.
“I can’t” is not a small, harmless phrase. Repeated use of it will damage your creative life, and your life. You can, however, decide to transform it from something you hide behind like a mother’s skirts, to a red flag. When the “I can’t” flag goes up, from now on, that’s your signal to go to work.
Of course I can inventory my work. Of course I can sort through my boxes (and boxes) full of papers (and poems I’ve forgotten I ever drafted). Of course I can be organized. I have arms. My brain is still working. If I have a bad habit of letting things get away from me, it is just a habit. I can change a habit.
I have mucked out before, but never as fully as I needed to. I tried to content myself with a stack of boxes and bins tucked in the corner. Since leaving my college office, since my mom’s illness escalated, things have gotten much, much worse. The so-lovely writing cabin had become a place of unrestful distractions.
So, not knowing where or how to start (feeling — I have to admit — paralyzed), I asked Lori for a referral to her professional organizer, and I emailed her and set up an appointment. In about 7 hours of work, I have made an excellent start. Formerly unlabeled boxes full of mixed papers and notebooks are now sorted into labeled bins (or recycled — lots was recycled). A few books went away, but it was gentle. A whole box of pictures and knick knacks went into storage (for when I have a guest room again some day). I got everything off the floor except a couple boxes of homework to accomplish on my own. It may still look messy to the neatniks among you, but it’s a big change for me to know where everything is. What felt impossible now feels possible.