Monday, April 26, 2010

What's This Pile For?




I'm currently reading a book about writer's block that has taken quite a different direction than I expected. The author discusses (sometimes in confusing detail) how our brain works and the implications on the creative process. Especially fascinating are the discussions of right brain versus left brain and the struggles between the two. A couple of sections really highlighted some patterns I've seen in my own life, but one in particular was spot on.

Creative types tend to be "pilers".

He says that creative people tend to make piles of items they use all the time or feel they'll need to come back to. One reason is because if we can't see it, then it doesn't exist (to a certain extent). I can't tell you how true this is for me! Though I try to keep them neat, I have several piles on my desk, and have had to resort to file holders that are out in the open, because if I put something away, I forget about it.

This same reason is part of the source of my "plotter" mentality. It isn't just that I have to know where I'm going. I write things down as I think of them, because if I don't, I'll forget it (same thing with my To Do list). When I first started writing I had piles of paper, scraps and napkins where I'd written down ideas. The organizer in me insisted this all had to be neater, so I started organizing in a notebook... and thus a plotter was born.

The author says this is a problem because though we pile things around us so we can keep track of them, the clutter distracts us when we're trying to write. We sit down to type and "see" all the stuff we should work on besides our books. His solution for his desk was an open filing system so he could see the files, but not the mess itself. I guess my own filing system and plotting notebooks are a similar solution, though I still have piles that need to be dealt with.

So what about y'all? Are you a "piler" or "neat and tidy"?

Angel

The Playfriends will all be attending our local writing chapter's 13th Annual Romance Readers Luncheon on May 15th in Huntsville, AL. If you live in the Tennessee Valley, this is a wonderful event! Registration deadline is May 1st.

20 comments:

PM's Mother said...

This explains it! I am definitely creative because I have piles of stuff all around me...books to read, catalogs that I might wish to order from, laundry to be done, dishes in the sink to be washed and so on.

Before I retired my desk at work had a pile here, a pile there and a pile everywhere. In fact it was so piled up that I posted two signs over my desk -- "A Clean Desk Is The Sign of A Sick Mind" and "Neat People Don't Make The Exciting Discoveries I Do". I wonder if these signs would work on my front door?

Instigator said...

I have piles of stuff everywhere. At home. At the office. On my desk. Behind my desk. Beside my bed. It drives Zilla crazy. But they are all there for a reason.

Instigator

Joseph Parker said...

I pile until my obsessive cumpulsive disorder can't stand it anymore. It is not always my OCD. Sometimes I find myself under the influence of the mental illness of others.

I only have two neurons left, one right hemisphere, one left. When they don't agree, I experience 'writers block' and will try to wear the editor hat. As long as one is talking BS and the other listens, creativity flows.

Pile it on.

Playground Monitor said...

I'm sort of a combination. My office has piles but the rest of my apartment is neat and tidy. Split personality, perhaps?

LOL Joe! I think you have more than two neurons left. You can't sing and play the piano as beautifully as you do with only two.

Smarty Pants said...

I struggle with this. It's one reason I hate paper and almost never print anything out. I drown in it. I put it in piles so it isn't scattered all over, but yes, it's a distraction. I prefer digital piles I can't see. I make notes in my phone and computer instead of sticky notes or notebooks because paper just makes me crazy. It's funny though because as a writer people are always giving me journal and pens and office supplies and I don't use them. I don't even print out my ms unless I really need a heavy proofread.

Hate paper.

Jean said...

My desk tends to be messier than the rest of the house, which is pretty neat most of the time. I have thought it ironic that the place I spend most of my time is messier--given that I do not like clutter. This is food for thought. I have tried putting things in desk drawers but it might as well be in outer space.

catslady said...

That seems to make sense. If I try to clean things up, it goes right back to how it was in no time at all. Although I'm not a writer, I've always been interested in all sorts of creative arts. Of my two daughters, one is neat and the other not and the one that isn't is going to collge for graphic design and the arts lol. Same with my sister, she is a neat freak and doesn't have a creative bone in her body lol.

catslady said...

That seems to make sense. If I try to clean things up, it goes right back to how it was in no time at all. Although I'm not a writer, I've always been interested in all sorts of creative arts. Of my two daughters, one is neat and the other not and the one that isn't is going to collge for graphic design and the arts lol. Same with my sister, she is a neat freak and doesn't have a creative bone in her body lol.

Angel said...

Joseph, Amen!!! If I can just get my neurons to "talk", I'll be in good shape. :) Its just getting rid of the interference that's the problem!

Angel

Problem Child said...

Oh, I'm a piler. Lots and lots of piles. But I can rarely find anything in them. ~sigh~

It's funny, the first thing I do after finishing a book (or any other project) is clean off my desk and sort out the piles...

Problem Child said...

LOL Joseph -- but at least you still have two. My mom swears that Counselor Shelley and I only have one brain cell left between us and we have to share it.

Angel said...

SP, that's weird! But now that I think about it, its very you. You are a techie person. But see, I love paper! It took me 5 books to learn how to write directly onto the computer instead of writing it out longhand first. I still prefer to read for edits on paper. If I make a "note" on my phone, I have to remember to go look at it! (or set an alarm) Whereas the day planner sitting on the counter calls to me each time I walk past it. :)

Give me a pen and paper and I'll doodle, make lists, write... Drama Queen is fascinated because during church or a workshop I'll doodle by coloring in all the letters that have circles in them, like Bs and Ds. I just love the "feel" of pen on paper. Okay, now I'm weird...

P.S. You can give me back the notepads if you don't want them. :)

Angel

Angel said...

Jean, the file thing really does help. Now I'm down to 1 major pile on my desk. The rest of the "stuff" is placed strategically on the desk to that it's neat, but I can still see it.

Angel

Angel said...

See, catslady, that seems to be a pretty good sample. :)

Angel

Angel said...

PC, I have a specific method to my madness. I've always been the type to be a little messy, until I reach maximum messy capacity. Then I want it all cleaned up, and cleaned up good! So to me it makes sense to use the time between books to straighten all the piles.

The other thing I've learned about myself is when the urge to clean comes over me, I better go with it. I'll clean to the detriment of doing anything else, but when I'm done, EVERYTHING is clean! And once the feeling leaves, you couldn't get me to clean unless I knew for a fact that company was comin'. :)

Angel

Christine said...

Piler who must create order before she can start working again. I am very visual--but if the place is too cluttered, I shut down mentally.

I like to get rid of stuff that clutters my view--but I love my lists.

My husband is huge piler--he's a physicist and his math books and physics books and notes and science poop is all over the house. He had more than one pile for sure. I just ask him to keep the piles to a minimum where I have to sit.

:-)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I'm a piler, but I'm getting better. I'm finally getting my office files somewhat organized, and there's a system in place which helps me a lot.

But, the thing I've discovered in Word recently is the Notebook layout. Since I have a 24" screen, I open my WIP on one side and the Notes file on the other. The notebook layout has tabs, so I can do one for plot stuff, one for hero, one for heroine, and one for photos. I love importing the photos in. The book I just finished was the first one I'd done that with. I had pics of Russia everywhere. It was very helpful, and when the book is over, it goes away.

I make a folder, title it Book 5 or 6 or whatever, then I make the WIP file, the Notes file, and a Discard file. When I get revisions, I copy the WIP file over, rename it with Rev1 (please not 2 or 3, LOL!) in the title, and go from there. It's helped cut done on piles of paper that are work related, but I still have other piles I'm working on.

Kathy said...

Piler! I've got piles of online classes everywhere. I tell the DH I want a filing cabinet so I can sort them, but he says there isn't any room to put one in the study. "I can find room," I say. The piles drive me crazy, only because research seductively calls to me from them. But because I can't tell what's in the pile, I never look for it. Arrrrr!!!!

I need a filing cabinet!

Christine said...

Kathy: I have one and just need to move it downstairs to my closet--have I? Nope. But I do have one--right now all my current MS/WIPS are in the copy paper boxes and wrapped in elastic bands.

M.V.Freeman said...

I admit, I'm a piler..if its out of my sight, I'm done with it. *sigh*