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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Clearing the Books Freed My Writing

Clearing the books helped me write.
Photo credit | EKHumphrey

In previous installments about the writing life, I’ve bemoaned periodically clearing a messy desk. Along my way to becoming a productive writer, magazines of defunct magazines grew to sizes larger than a small child. Returned homework from my children has piled high, no matter how quickly we tried to recycle the papers. I've reviewed and kept many fabulous writing craft books and bought many others.
With the new year, my family and I were looking to reduce our clutter…and stay on top of it. In the fall, I spent one weekend paring down two filing cabinets to one. I tossed outdated clips or paperwork. Another weekend was spent clearing out an attic bursting at its seams. The attic decluttering included coaxing a reluctant child into relinquishing containers and containers of clothes filled with several pairs of full-length pants that had long ago become unwilling capri pants.
Such clearing of clutter has had a freeing feeling to my family. Children, previously unwilling to clean up after themselves, became more willing to straighten up. At one point, my youngest was even enticed to empty the dishwasher. By. Herself. (Of course, now she won’t let us forget about it.)
In many ways, I thought my clearing out was done. Somewhere in all my leisure time, I ran across a statement I’ll paraphrase: Once you know how to write, you don’t need a book to tell you how to write.

I peered at my bookshelves overflowing with books on the writing craft. It was my version of the pants that had become unwilling capris.
I have yet to inhabit a dedicated office for writing, so my books spill out of every nook and cranny throughout our cozy home…contributing to the household clutter. In past years, I’ve been focused on reading this latest craft book or that. Placed among those mountains of precious books of craft are the books that friends and family have recommended or gifted. Many of these had been overwhelmed by the appearance of productive writing and the craft books attesting to the productivity.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, in fact, these how-to-write books had been blocking me from making writing progress.

I turned the table on myself and spent nearly a day clearing my clutter. Yes, nearly a day, locating and packing up more than three boxes of craft books or research books for works-in-progress that are currently in a holding pattern.

I'm putting the boxes aside and, hopefully, I will be able to unpack them in a dedicated office space one day soon.
In the meantime, I’m embracing the clutter-free spaces, stretching out and writing in my recently uncovered notebook.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a clutter-free writer, editor, and teacher. Her free guide, Harmonizing: Find and Communicate to Your Audience, helps health and wellness professionals communicate with their potential clients.


  1. Big decluttering at my house this month. It is freeing!

  2. I hate clutter and it's hard not to have it when you are a writer and a mom!


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