Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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November 5, 2014

“Nesting” for Writers

photo credit: DocJ96 via photopin cc

photo credit: DocJ96 via photopin cc

First, I have a confession. I had another post planned. Then life happened. You know, that moment when you look around at the clutter in the house and think it would just be easier to move? Or stare at your email and have that momentary, “if my computer ‘crashed’ right now, and I got a new one, would any of these emails matter?” Or look at the TBR pile and wonder if you should just put a piece of wood on top and call it a coffee table?

For me, that happens every year around this time. Some people get Spring Fever, I get Fall Nesting. And. I. Have. To. De-clutter.

Yup, I’m doing it at home. Room by room. Everything comes out and only select things go back. This is one of those times I’m happy my husband bought that SUV. Hello, city dump! And I have an appointment for a charity organization to come pick up clothes and toys and small electronics. See ya!

But I’m also doing it with my writing. And this might just be the best de-cluttering operation of all.

Most of us have multiple accounts—professional and personal. It’s easy to let emails pile up (or maybe that’s just me) in the in-box and that can become a very distracting clutter.

I have multiple accounts—my “professional” writing one, two for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and two personal accounts. I’m an email pack rat. Really. One of the personal accounts has emails dating back to 2004 (yeah, I gasped at that one too) and my professional account has emails back to 2011.

Email triage! I sort by sender then delete the obvious ones. Do I really need 32 saved emails from Pottery Barn? Why am I keeping 68 emails with new twitter followers from 2013? What’s the point of having 227 emails from a yahoo group I haven’t been involved with in over a year? Will I really read the discussion from an online workshop that took place three years ago?

(Told you I had a problem.)

Delete. Delete. File. Delete.

Blogs and newsletters
So many awesome blogs, so many fabulous writers to follow. But not all remain relevant and not all need to drop into your inbox.

For example, a few are from my “previous” life in the space industry. I’m still a die-hard space junkie so a few I’ll keep just because. But really, do I need the announcements from companies I haven’t kept up with in almost three years?

There were blogs and newsletters I signed up for early in my writing career. A few I still refer to, but not all. Some are just not relevant for whatever reason. Those are a quick unsubscribe.

I’ve also noticed a few newsletters dumping into my account lately that I didn’t subscribe to. Not only is that a major faux pas by the owner of that newsletter, but it pretty much ensures I’ll be unsubscribing, unfollowing, unliking that person.

I’ve been a bit lazy with my twitter account over the last year, I admit. It’s one of the things that’s fallen through the cracks in the chaos of 2014.

Jenny Hansen wrote a great post last December (holy poop, people, that’s 11 months ago! *fingers in ears, lalalalalala, it is not almost the end of the year, lalalalala*) on cleaning out your twitter account.

I’ll be following her advice in the near future. It’s time to update the lists I’ve made and create new ones. Check out who I’m following and why.

This is a tough one. I’m part of two group blogs; founding President of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and as part of that group, also oversee a number of programs and member benefits. I also volunteer at my son’s school and recently agreed to help out with a climbing team event. Add family, house, exercise, and … what am I missing … oh yeah, writing.

Every so often, you need to evaluate where you’re spending your time and whether those activities are in line with your end goal (if you don’t know what the end goal is, declutter those thoughts first). It’s not easy to say no and some of us have a harder time with that than others. But stretching yourself too thin doesn’t do anyone any good either.

Are you contributing to a blog that isn’t getting the reach you’d like or that’s taking more time than you have to give? Bow out gracefully and professionally.

Consider your volunteering commitments. If you can’t give the level of commitment that’s expected (by the group—personal or professional—or that you have for yourself), then consider backing away, again, gracefully and professionally.

Are you in a writing group that isn’t giving you the level of support you need? Thank everyone for the knowledge they’ve shared and walk away.

Yes, I’ve been doing that myself. And yes, I’ve agonized over every decision. But you know what, that extra bit of time, the less daunting number of emails, the twitter stream of people I really WANT to keep up with, all equal a less cluttered mind. And that means I can now cozy up to the revisions and shiny new WIP without the distractions. The other decluttering exercise—my office no longer looks like a tree threw up in it. Oh yeah!

Decluttering done, you can now focus on those end goals—remember those?

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m ready to hunker down for the winter and write!

Okay, WITSers, I want to hear from you—are you “tidy” with your emails, twitter accounts, commitments or do you find yourself waking up one day with that “gotta do something about this” feeling?

About Orly

OKL-NewAfter years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet.  When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

You can find her on Twitter at @OrlyKonigLopez or on her website, www.orlykoniglopez.com.

26 comments on ““Nesting” for Writers”

  1. I started with e-mail accounts. Like you, I have several. Most were a quick unsubscribe, some I re-visited the page/organization and assessed whether I wanted to remain in the group. I pared down my Twitter list (which isn't huge by any means). I just don't have time to scroll through the innumerable re-tweets and 'read my book' posts to find tweets from friends/family, etc.
    I've now moved onto my pantry and fridge - Yikes
    Good thing I have my Tupperware lady on speed dial

    1. The pantry!!! That was the first place I attacked. 🙂
      Like you, I stop following people who only tweet promo.

  2. Great to hear how a busy, committed person deals with the accumulation of her interests. It's a struggle for me too, but clutter always gets in the way of creating. I use two clever email tools that are huge orgazational timesavers: Unroll.me and Other InBox. I also have a big closet.

    1. Thanks for the email organizational tips, Jann. I'll have to look into those.
      We had a big closet when we moved in ... it doesn't look as big anymore. 😉

      1. Big closets do have a way of filling up. And as a side note, my day of decluttering continues with the aid of a few new apps to help delete old files from my filled-up iMac. Not the most creative way to spend the day, but encouraging for tomorrow's output!

  3. I really, really need to do this - starting with my office - writing area. It's so hard to let go of things that were once important, e.g. the media training manuals I used with clients - 20 years ago. Yikes! I know, I know - If they haven't asked for them in all this time and I haven't looked at them even once, how likely is it they ever will? You're inspiring me.

    1. Oh Carol!!! I had that same discussion with myself the other day. Media kits, marketing brochures, direct mail campaigns, ads ... all from 20 years ago. Really?

      Okay, okay ... I'll toss mine if you toss yours. 😉

  4. I also got through regular periods of decluttering like this. I live with two people who save EVERYTHING (and often for the 6-year-old that means trash he picked up in a parking lot and simply must add to his "collection") so it's often a frustrating exercise. But I can get rid of my old stuff, and I definitely try to keep a clean inbox. If my emails start inching off the screen and a scroll bar appears, I get hives.

    1. I bow to your ability to keep the inbox to one screen. Oh man!!!!!!
      The 9 year old's room is up for this weekend. He's nervous (and I think he's started moving things to other rooms so they won't get tossed ... I'm on to him!). 😉

  5. Orly, one word. Just a whisper, like a secret handshake. Uncomplicate. Sounds like you're doing it. Hey, we did it this week! 🙂 As for the Twitter thing, I did that the other week. Really evaluated who I was following and broke every single one into a list. Now I see the content I want to see. Twitter now is a serious tool that's working for me. Hope it'll work for you too.

    1. Your Twitter cleaning inspired me, Kerry. 🙂
      And yes, we made a big dent in the uncomplicate plan. More to come!!

  6. I really liked this post, Orly--and considering that I read after JUST staring at my office in shock and horror, well...you certainly have excellent timing! I'm in the same boat--desperately need to declutter and organize (my mind, my home, my email), and I'm glad you've started in on it. I hope to follow, especially since I'm writing this from the couch in the family room because there's so much unfilled stuff in that office (so pretty! so new! so unused!) I can't seem to find any peace. I've just started the trying out the practice of morning pages (http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/). Between that and your post today, well. Talk about a good kick in the butt. 🙂 Good luck--sounds like you're on your way!

    1. Ouuu, morning pages. I was going to do morning exercise before the house woke up and the day got away from me. Notice the "was going to"? Anywhoo, sounds like we both need that kick in the butt. 😉

      1. Hee. How 'bout I try it and let you know how it goes. 😉 I have to get up that early anyway to write--I'm hoping this will be a good way to clear my head so I'm actually productive while I have the chance. Again, I'll let you know. Consistency ain't this writer's strong suit.

  7. Oh boy - you and I are on the same wave length. For the last little while, I have been asking myself why I do the things I do. Sometimes the answer "someone needs help" is an okay reason, but more often than not it can't be the reason.

    You and Donald Maass are rocking my philosophical foundation today - great post.

    1. No surprise we're on the same wave length. 😉
      But holy wow ... to ride that wave with Donald Maass. I could just hug you for that boost. 🙂

      What you said about the answer being "someone needs help" is okay, struck home for me. The problem is that we're often too quick to offer help when someone else needs it and ignore helping ourselves. That can't be okay.

  8. Orly, my "helper gene" is super well-developed and I've had to learn to ignore that part of me. I do my help from my dining room table, where my family and writing are close by. If I can't help from there, I usually don't help.

    That's just what I decided for the time she is small. I don't travel very much anymore.

    Everyone has to make that one decisive change, small or large, that helps them keep their sanity. Good for you on your de-clutter. I'm much more of a clutter-ignorer than a de-clutterer, and I admire y'all. 🙂

  9. I'm in de-cluttering mode, too. Marie Kondo is all over the place with her de-cluttering techniques and organization tips. If it's not absolutely vital to my life, out it goes, physically or electronically.

      1. Limited storage space has taught me that I don't really need every gadget, every book, etc on the planet. I'm definitely becoming a minimalist.

  10. Okay, hate me. I'm incapable of working if stuff is a mess, so I have very little clutter. I'm organized. If I haven't needed it in a year, I don't need it (and yes, I've had to go rebuy stuff from time to time, but not as often as you'd think).

    If it makes you feel any better, I married the Chaos of the Universe. When we moved this year, I had to pry the old college texts (from 1972) out of his hands.


  11. I, too, have started decluttering my office today (and started doing Morning Pages three days ago). There must be something in the air. If my desk is cluttered, so is my mind (or maybe it's the other way around). Anyway, once the desk is clear again and the office set up the way I want it, I know my mind will sigh in relief and begin functioning again. (I hope!)

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