I enjoy freshening up for spring. Ridding the yard of fallen branches from big trees tossed to the ground from winter’s wicked winds, eventually dropping mulch and planting a garden, and clearing the garage of stored-up junk, are all nearly enjoyable. It’s about renewal, about starting fresh and restored.
My first project is the shed.
A winter’s worth of hunkering down inside had led to a disheveled workspace. Books piled, accumulated dust, a kind of staleness had fallen around the place. I wished for a more minimalist desk space, fewer stacked books, and room for the mind to open up. It had begun to feel small inside.
I moved the bookshelves to one wall, added a small crate in the corner to put the coffee maker on and keep it off my desk, placed another piece of art on the wall, moving it from the floor. I dusted and cleaned around the window, and moved the sitting chair and lifted the rug to broom away the last two seasons. I dusted the shelves and rearranged books, taking some back inside the house.
This was not an overwhelming job, not one with much effort. But it was needed.
It seems a simple metaphor, almost embarrassingly elementary, but yet it fits. I needed this spring cleaning for more than the physical space where I work. I also needed a mental spring cleaning, a readjustment for my writing mind. Starts and stops on a new project have been a clunky ride. I think I know where I’m going, generally, and my mostly daily writing takes me there. But yet I needed a mental dusting, to knock down some cobwebs, and to sweep away accumulated debris.
It’s also about focus.
I have a new book coming out this spring; I’m still promoting and writing and speaking about my most recent novel. I’m teaching at the college. My son will be married in spring. I have travel planned to New York and later to Spain. There is a lot on my plate. And my writing—working on a new novel, editing a memoir manuscript, and experimenting with some poetry—is a bit of a heavy load.
Henry Miller wrote, “I work on one thing at a time until finished.” This spring I need to listen to Henry. (More on Miller in a coming post.)
I’ve been attempting to mediate often, finding a mindfulness of singular purpose, to slow down, to re-center, to artistically declutter. But although that appears to be beneficial at times, when it comes to writing, I often still feel mentally tangled. I believe the spring cleaning of the shed is the beginning of the anti-chaos.
The pop culture guru of tidiness, Marie Kondo wrote, “When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.”
She is on to something.
So, I clean and I straighten, and I tidy up. And I prepare for a new examination of the inner state and a new season of writing.