Cleaning the Office (and Other Excuses for Not Writing)

Normally, when someone asks for a photo of my office or studio space, I go with this lovely view of my desk:

Keeping the Office Clean

Isn’t it a beautiful, serene workspace? Don’t I live a perfectly perfect life? Don’t you just wish you could be me, typing away in your banker’s chair with the filtered sun warming the succulents on your desk, back cradled by a fluffy, design-magazine pillow?

Let’s step back:

The Truth

There’s the truth; I work in chaos.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending Robin D. Owens’ “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” workshop at Colorado Gold. She spoke about eliminating the negative in our writing environments: adjusting the light, sound, smell, and yes, tidiness of our workspaces. One writer raised her hand and asked, “What if I have to clean my office?”

“You don’t have to clean it. It just has to be comfortable for you.”

“But what if I have to clean my office? What if I can’t possibly write until my office is clean?”

Ah. That’s a different story, isn’t it? Sometimes, nothing seems more important than cleaning the office. Or doing the dishes. Mopping the floor. Scrubbing the toilet.

Owens’ advice? “Use a timer”

I love the timer. It’s easily accessible on the iPhone (just swipe up from the bottom…you don’t even need to unlock the screen), and it’s useful for everything. Uncontrollable urge to clean the office during writing time? Set the timer for 15 minutes. So don’t feel like washing the dinner dishes? You can do anything for 10 minutes. Need to buckle down and get some major work done? 25-minute sprints, with 5-minute breaks in-between. For me, the timer is better than just about any other incentive I can offer myself. Better than Haribo frogs. Though I hate to admit it, it’s more effective than shoes.

Looking at that second photo, I’m feeling the pull to clean my office. The need to clean my office, despite the fact that I have a synopsis that needs writing and 15 chapters that need polishing. This afternoon, I think I’ll set that timer. The office gets 20 minutes. Then, I swear, it’s all about the manuscript.


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