I am not, by nature, a tidy person. Evidence of this in the form of a photo of my college dorm room exists, and while it’s funny, it’s also too embarrassing to ever post on a throwback Thursday. Clothes, stuffed animals, magazines, shoes, donut boxes, textbooks, and more are strewn like an explosion had gone off. And even though I make more of an effort to put things in their place and tidy up the apartment on a regular basis, I can’t help notice that small piles accumulate when I’m not looking: the four different pair of shoes that sit by the front door where I kicked each of them off when I came home, the pile of mail to be shredded, the spices that I used on last night’s dinner still sitting on the kitchen counter. collective clutter, I’d call it.
My writing style seems to mirror this. The table where I write is strewn about with notes on my current work in project, timelines of when everybody was born, character summaries, descriptions of the curriculum of the college major from the school that one of my characters attended (Princeton, if you’re curious. I’ve always had a thing for Princeton.) There’s also my notebook, my calendar, and a sheath of handwritten pages, and, unrelated to the project but also on the table: a sewing pattern, some fruit, a roll of crime scene tape, and a highlighter. The same chaotic post-explosion-like mess as my dorm room twenty-some years ago.
Here’s where this all gets interesting to me. When I write a story, I write from beginning to end. Start to finish. Logically, neatly. Sure, things change in the editing process, but my process feels like I’m paving a road each day so that I can take another step forward. Very focused. And I can’t help wonder, can a natural inclination toward messiness translate into clean writing?
I have friends who swear by certain writing software that helps them organize their notes and their scenes. I’ve tried to be neater during my process. I’ve tried index cards and wall charts and Post-Its, and none of it worked like the explosion-on-my-desk approach.
So now, I’m curious: are you messy in life and messy in your writing? Or neat in one but not the other? Can you make a comparison between the way you live and the way you write?