Spring is here and several of my writing clients (and I) are cleaning house—literally and figuratively. Spring is a time of renewal, budding life—and fresh ideas! It is a time to honor yourself and what you want. Getting rid of what you no longer use, need, or love creates opportunities for growth and for new experiences, and allows you to receive whatever is ready to come through you and take shape in the world. Clutter clearing creates both physical and psychological space, as well as clarity and focus.
Take a look at your writing space. Is it like the space of one of my client’s, so littered with her kids’ paperwork and other paraphernalia that her writing room had—without her realizing it—turned into “Mom Central”? If so, I encourage you to do what she did: remove everything from your writing space that does not nourish your creative work. Keeping things sparse and simple gives your imagination plenty of room to dance, jump, leap, and play! Think of your writing space as a playground. Or a sanctuary. Or whatever other kind of space makes you want to spend time there. Your writing space doesn’t have to be big (I once set up my desk in a closet; I took off the door and voila—I’d created a room!), but it should be welcoming.
When writers feel stuck, I inquire about not only their writing spaces, but their living spaces as well. One client said piles of laundry got her down, which made her feel like she didn’t want to write. Other chores, such as picking the kids up from school, and then having to cook dinner had the same effect on her. “It’s not what you do,” I told her, “but how you do it.” Ask “how” questions, such as how can I enjoy these chores?
A couple weeks ago I tackled the file cabinet in my office, which I’d wanted to clear for a decade! I’d always imagined this would be an arduous task. But before going to sleep one Saturday night, I asked myself, How can I turn this into an enjoyable activity?I awoke inspired Sunday morning, lit incense and a candle, and set a clear intention to remain calm and peaceful. I worked while my family slept, enjoying the silence and solitude, and as I tossed, moved, shifted, and rearranged files—and discovered a few lost gems!—I felt lighter, freer, and happier than I’d felt in a long time.
This is what clearing clutter has to do with writing: contrary to popular belief that the best writing comes from tortured artistic souls, I’d argue that the best work comes from psychic spaciousness, which is greatly impacted by our physical surroundings. Pay attention to your living and work spaces. They affect you in ways you may not always be aware of. Bring the same exquisite, loving care to your home and office that you’d bring to a your newborn baby. Your writing deserves this—and so does your life! Create whatever rituals, thoughts, or habits help you clear your space so that what’s ready to be born through you flows to and through you!
Postscript: I shared this writing with my client and student, Jen Dohr, because her clutter-clearing success was a primary inspiration for this post. She also sent me both of the pictures for this post—the one on top, which shows her new workspace and the one below, which shows what her workspace looked like before she decided to honor it, herself, and her writing. Jen, a wonderful writer, offered to share what this experience was like for her, so stay tuned. Jen’s story is coming soon!
Seven Tips for Creative Self-expression
1. Engage in your creative work/play every day, even if it’s only for fifteen or twenty minutes. Give yourself over to it. Have fun. Imagine, dare, and dream!
2. Create without an agenda. Do it for yourself. Ask not what your work can do for you; ask what you can do for your creative work/play.
3. Don’t argue with inner gremlins. These include any thoughts that deflate, discourage, or prevent you from acting on your creative impulses. If you write what your gremlins say in quotation marks and doodle pictures of them in your journal, you’ll release them (weakening their pull on you) and at the same time, you may also realize how off-course and ridiculous their fearful chatter is—which means you won’t identify with it or confuse what they say with the truth about who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing.
4. Surround yourself with friends and mentors who support your creative work and life. Coaches are great—and I’m not saying that because I happen to be one. I work with a life coach and a writing coach, and their support, knowledge, and guidance has helped me accomplish more than I ever dreamed possible.
5. Appreciate and give thanks for what you’ve got here and now. Notice the love, wealth, beauty, and gifts that surround you.
6. Forget about what anybody else thinks of you or your work. Keep honing your craft. Become a master. Allow yourself to be transformed by your creative work. Open your heart as wide as you can—and then stretch it wider. Years ago I cut a heart out of red construction paper and on it, in bold letters, I wrote the words, “Open for Business.” Every day I went into my office to write, I’d see that heart and it gave me the courage I needed to sit my butt down in my chair and write.
7. Stay out of our own way. You are a channel. Let what needs to come through you do so with grace and ease. This requires faith and trust in the creative process—and in yourself. It is not your place to judge. It’s your “job” to create, which you do whether you are conscious of doing so or not. So why not create what your soul longs to bring into this world—for your good and for the good of everyone around you!
What is your soul longing to create? A book? A dance? A song? A poem? Whatever it is, I’d love to hear about it! Will you share your creative dream here? If not, write it down in a journal, on your laptop, or on a yellow legal pad. Putting your ideas into print helps you clarify and commit to them. Being clear about what you want to create, saying it out loud, and also sharing it with others is a powerful way to honor yourself and your dreams!