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Where do you write, and why does it matter
By Linda Dessau - 09/19/2004 - 11:43 PM EDT

Take a look around you right now. Look away from the computer screen and scan around – the surface of your desk or table. Now scan farther to look at the rest of the room. Close your eyes and imagine the rooms you can’t see from here, particularly the space where you most often work on your songs. Take a deep breath and really take in the image. What’s the impact?

If you’re like me, a reformed pack rat and clutter-magnet (and I think many creative people are), you might even find it difficult to breathe - almost like the piles, mess, unwanted and un-useable items are taking up air. Well, they are!

Clutter, essentially anything you don’t need, use or love, affects your songwriting on many levels. In your workspace, it’s messy and makes it harder to find and use what you need to get your work done. In your schedule, it creates chaos and a feeling of a lack of time. In your mind, it clogs the pathway to your intuition and feeds fear and self-doubt.

In your heart, it blocks out love and peace by hanging onto negative emotions from the past. In your body, it weighs you down by making it harder to take care of yourself and harder to hear the messages your body sends you. In your relationships, it clouds your communication and affects your ability to give and receive.

This article will give you come clues for how to spot clutter in your life, and tips on how to begin clearing it out.

Do you have physical clutter?

  1. Do you spend a lot of time looking for things when you’re trying to work?

  2. Do you feel uninspired, or even dragged down, by what you see around you in your workspace?

  3. Does the clutter distract you by reminding you of things you need to do (broken things that need to be fixed, half-finished projects, unanswered mail, unpaid bills)?

  4. Are there things in your workspace that you haven’t looked at in years?

  5. Does anything in your workspace remind you of unpleasant experiences?

Creative energy needs space. While some of the artists I spoke to when writing my book, "The Creativity Interviews", seemed to thrive in chaos and busy-ness, most equated creative flow with a peaceful serenity surrounded by open time and open space.

An interesting aside is that sometimes we do our best writing when we're away from our workspace - riding on trains, sitting in cafés or surrounded by nature.

Do you have time clutter?

On any given day:

  1. Are there many things you did that you didn’t enjoy doing?

  2. Are there many things you did that you didn’t need to do?

  3. Are there many things you did that didn’t do you any good (maybe even did you harm)?

The clutter in our schedules can lead to a chaotic life while things just seem to “happen” to us.

Do you have mental clutter?

  1. Are you distracted by thoughts while you’re trying to write?

  2. Do you criticize yourself in your own mind?

  3. Do you spend time re-playing conversations or events?

  4. Do you spend time speculating about future events?

Sometimes the chatter in our minds is constant and difficult to decipher. Other times there are the same boorish and loud messages over and over again – messages like “You can’t do it!”, or, “You’re no good!”. All of them are distracting and make it much more difficult to hear our muse.

Do you have emotional clutter?

  1. Do you “brood” about arguments long after they’ve happened?

  2. Do you hold grudges?

  3. Do you spend a lot of time focusing on the things in your life that you don’t like?

Emotional clutter stems from the same pack-rat habit of not wanting to let go. Instead of hanging onto an old sweater missing a button, it’s hanging onto an old emotion. Once an emotion is over, it’s over, unless we choose to hang onto it. That’s a powerful ability we have – to either stay enraged, sad or anxious over something that happened three days ago, or three YEARS ago, or let go and give ourselves the freedom of acceptance and positive emotions.

Do you have relationship clutter?

  1. Is there someone in your address book that you’d like to let go of?

  2. Do you find it hard to concentrate and listen intently to people?

  3. Do you find it hard to be open to what other people are offering you (i.e. the appreciation of your audience or a compliment from a friend)?

  4. Do you find it difficult to freely give (i.e. to perform without being preoccupied with your own thoughts)?

  5. Do you say “yes” to everything that’s asked of you?

Sometimes we hold on to broken relationships for the same reasons we hold on to broken things: because we think they can be fixed (and that we’re actually going to take the steps to fix them), and because they’re familiar and safe.

The clutter in the rest of your life blocks your communication – it’s just too hard to listen with your whole heart when there are layers of clutter in the way. This affects your inner listening as well – your ability to tune into your intuition, your “muse”. Stage fright is a BIG form of clutter (which we may cover in future article and/or discuss on the forum).

Is clutter impacting your health?

  1. Are you “too busy” to exercise?

  2. Is fast food easier because you can’t find your kitchen counter?

  3. Do you exhaust yourself with a busy day and then putter around trying to “wind down” until late in the evening?

  4. Do you not notice (or pretend not to notice) symptoms of illness or injury until they’re so severe that you have to take drastic measures?

  5. Do you have a hard time falling asleep because your mind is whirling around or your emotions are surging?

If we’re surrounded by clutter and chaos, things like eating vegetables or walking around the block just don’t seem do-able or important. And yet if we don’t take care of our bodies everything else becomes much, much harder and can lead to fatigue, illness, trouble concentrating, pain, addiction and weight problems.

Tips for Clearing the Clutter

1. If you’re serious about tackling your physical clutter, I recommend the book, “Clear your clutter with Feng Shui”, by Karen Kingston. She has wonderful ideas for clearing your clutter and also helps you to have a much deeper awareness of how the clutter got into your life in the first place.

2. One simple method to get the physical clutter out is to create three piles (boxes are helpful), labeled: Give away, Throw away and Put away. You can add other categories if you like (i.e. recycling, repair).

3. To quiet down your mental clutter, try writing. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends writing three full pages every morning. Find your own method – write to do lists, poems, lists of everyone you’re mad at, talk back to your inner critic, write about whatever’s swirling around in your head. You can also write down questions for your muse – help with a particular verse or a request for general inspiration.

4. To deal with your time clutter, just say “NO”. This is a muscle that might need some exercising. Put yourself and your creative pursuits first – just because you’re at home, that doesn’t mean you have to be available.

5. If emotional clutter has your heart tied up in knots, practice letting go. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning what they’ve done. It means freeing yourself and being open to positive emotional experiences.

6. To improve your relationship with your audience and combat relationship clutter, think about what they’re hoping to get from your performance – maybe to be transported by the music, to be inspired, to have their feelings put into words, to be soothed, to be “rocked”, to be energized or to be cradled. You have an enormous power to give them these gifts. Try focusing on that instead and letting go of self-judgment.

Let’s keep this conversation going! I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and experiences about clutter and how it affects your songwriting and the rest of your life. Email or come and join (or start!) a conversation on the Soul Writing Forum.

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