Spring has finally arrived in Northern California. We think. We hope. After record rainfall and cold, a small rise in the mercury has everyone dressed in tanks, shorts and flip flops, which don't hide the goosebumps.
As a child, I remember my mother's spring cleaning every year, though our house was already spotless. The furniture was moved for a thorough dusting and vacuuming, the wooden floors were waxed and polished, the windows cleaned with vinegar and newspaper, the cobwebs removed from attic to basement. She washed every rug, blanket and quilt and draped them on the clothesline to dry in the mottled sunshine. Cabinets were cleaned out and the Contac paper replaced, even under the kitchen sink. The broken, useless and out-of-date were tossed. By the end of the week, the house had a great freshness and exuberance after the long winter.
I would love to continue her tradition (I see merit in it) but I'm lucky to accomplish the basic weekly cleaning that keeps our house livable. If I were to choose one area to freshen, it would be my writing space, and I'm not just talking about my desk. I'm thinking that a good spring cleaning could extend to my writing life, as well.
I'm thinking of the box beneath my desk with the dusty files of just-begun stories I toyed with when I was trying to find my writer voice, as Sharon mentioned in her last post. Or the numerous revisions of the manuscripts that quietly and naturally expired before publication. Copies of revisions for books already published. The resources - now out of date - that I'd gathered for a series I wanted to write, but now realize isn't the direction I want to go.
Copies of old writing magazines. Shelves of books on writing, the writer's life, writer's devotionals, essays on the writing, how to get published, how to market, market guides, dictionaries, thesauruses, pocket dictionaries and thesauruses, word finders, synonym finders, baby names, and even more baby names. An old computer that died in the middle of my last manuscript. Tapes & CDs of writers conference sessions. Binders with worksheets for the tapes & CDs from writers conference sessions.
Why would a person keep all of this stuff, aside from the too-busy life that doesn't allow for much deep cleaning? Does the clutter define me as a writer? I've begun the task of cleaning this out several times, but the job turned out to be overwhelming and I ended by packing it all back in the tubs. Keeping a few indicators of the writer's journey makes great sense. We need to see the progress we've made. But at some point, this clutter can hold a person back. It can whisper, "This is you, now and forever. No freshness can penetrate." It can speak of failures and misguided attempts to define ourselves when we were just wandering and trying to discover who we are.
So, aside from ridding ourselves of the obvious junk, how do we spring clean the writing life? It could begin with something as simple as changing up a subscription from a writing magazine we no longer read cover to cover with something new. Perhaps we begin our writing time composing or reading a poem. Maybe we try submitting an article or personal experience piece to a magazine or story collection, something that has a beginning and end so we can see the results immediately, even if it's never published. Or we begin our autobiographies, keeping the bigger picture of our lives in mind.
We rid ourselves of the negative self-talk that keeps us in doubt of our calling and makes us question the time we sacrifice for it. We treat our writing as a job and reestablish our boundaries. We consider our writing time an appointment we keep with ourselves. No one else needs to know the reason.
With the changes in publishing, we may need to forgo the vision we had of publication and be open to something new, or be willing to change our trajectory altogether. We need to ask for a new vision of our futures as writers from the One who knows the best desired outcomes for us.
Can you think of more ways to spring clean your writing life? I would love to hear!