Creativity is Messy Business

Not to take anything away from the people and companies helping us organize our spaces, but in my experience, too much organization is death to creativity.

The professional organizer suggests we clear the desktop, file all papers, categorize, minimize and eradicate clutter.

That works well in every other space in my home. My bathroom towels are folded, toiletries put away. My bed is made, clothes hung in the closet. No dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. No newspapers strewn around the family room.

Yes, I feel serene when my writing space is neat. What I don’t feel is creative. When projects are tucked into their folders, lists consolidated, scraps of sticky notes tossed, and inspiring items I like to touch and look at hidden away, my mind is as blank as my desk.

Everything’s in play

Documents containing writing drafts, research, inspiration, editing tips, projects, and so on fill my computer desktop. My ideas cross-pollinate other projects. I swear they get together while I’m sleeping and generate even more connections. They jog my creativity like magic orbs bouncing around my mind, easy to grab onto. They contain snippets from blogs I follow or information on upcoming contests or conferences, and drafts of dialogue for the mystery I’m working on. Everything’s in play. But once they’re properly filed on the C drive my thread is severed. I’m at a loss about where to begin.

A disorderly mind is better than a blank mind

Here’s an example of how it works for me. I read the book, Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon. Inspired, I went to my art workspace in the garage and started playing with words and pictures I’d gathered from magazines. That led to redoing my bulletin board to incorporate energizing ocean scenes. That gave me an idea for a new collage booklet using favorite lines from poetic fiction I’ve written in my writing group. I tossed around some images and papers and gathered colored pens and other supplies. Then an idea for my blog came to me so I left that mess and went back to my office, pulled out my yellow tablet and started writing.

Your thoughts?

The wonderful blogs I follow allow me to connect and communicate with so many creative people. I’d love to hear about your creative process.

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6 thoughts on “Creativity is Messy Business

  1. I saw a documentary that said the same thing. Creative minds flourish in an unorganized environment (at least that’s what I tell my husband 😉 )

  2. Great post! And I hope you do that piece you described combining collage and writing that you’ve done in your wonderful group. (I want to see that!) Sometimes the act of organizing my art space gets my creative juices going. Organized chaos, though, not everything off the table and out of sight — because I have to be able to see all my supplies and inspirational pieces in order to do anything. I loved that Austin Kleon book!

  3. Thanks, Julie! I’ve seen your art space and there’s nothing like it. Your zillions of materials are organized in such a way that anyone visiting wants to dive in and create.

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