Sunday, January 8, 2012
Get Organized This Year!
My semester -- both as a teacher and a grad student -- starts tomorrow. As exciting as a new semester can be, like a blank page of possibilities and opportunities, it can also be a little stressful. For me, I think a lot of that stress comes from the unknown. What will my students be like? Will I be able to give them the time and attention they deserve? What about my own studies--will I be able to keep up without feeling overwhelmed? Will I manage to carve out enough time to write? And read? And spend time with my friends and loved ones?
One of my writing friends likes to say, "The dirty dishes never seem so important as when I am struggling to write." I know what she means -- when facing the blank page or empty Word document, or when I'm 200 words into my writing for the day and already feeling as empty as my car's gasoline tank, it seems like anything else would be more appealing than staying there in front of my computer screen typing or pressing my pen again and again to the notebook page. When that time comes, and the dirty dishes call, it is best to ignore them. Stay put. Butt-in-chair. Keep writing. In Ron Carlson Writes a Story, he urges that this is when the magic happens -- when you push through the distractions and stay there in the story.
But, after my writing time is over for the day, I'm going to attack those dirty dishes. When I get home, instead of collapsing immediately on the couch, I'm going to take ten seconds to hang up my jacket, put away all the groceries, place my keys in that little dish by the door so I can find them the next day. This year, I am going to get -- and stay -- organized. That is the gift I am giving myself to cut back on stress, to make an already busy semester less hectic than it needs to be.
When my surroundings are neat and free of clutter, my mind feels less cluttered, too. I feel calmer. And the funny thing is, once you get organized, it is easier to stay organized -- it just takes a few minutes every day to keep that way. And really, how much harder is it for me to file that important paper away in my file cabinet than to set it on the kitchen table, where it will continue to take up my mental space before getting lost or buried underneath other stuff, eluding me when I am frantically looking for it weeks later? Answer: actually a heck of a lot easier to just file it away from the get-go.
Today, in between working on my novel, going to the gym, and preparing my lesson plans for the week, I am going to take half an hour to clean out my backpack and purse. I am going to sort through the papers scattered on my desk and kitchen table. I am going to make a list for the grocery store instead of winging it and forgetting something I need.
I am going to get organized, and stay that way!