Monday, January 05, 2009



A young man who was having great trouble finishing tasks and meeting any of his creative goals lamented, “I am so disorganized! I have papers everywhere. I can’t keep anything straight. I write a sentence and then it vanishes among all the other fragments and litter that surround me. What can I do to get better organized!” A very successful writer overheard the young man and said, “Come with me.” He took him to his place and showed him his study. It was an astoundingly disorganized- looking space, with piles of books on the floor, stacks of paper everywhere, and a desk so littered that it was hard to spot the phone, the computer, and even the lamp.

The successful writer said, “See?” “What am I seeing?” the young man groaned. “I only see a mess worse than my own mess! What is the lesson?” “The lesson is that organization has nothing to do with externals,” the writer replied. “Your room can look exactly like this and still you be perfectly organized. What can’t look like this is your mind! If you want organization, get a grip on your mind and not on the externals of organization. Many tidy spaces mask chaotic minds!—and many disorderly spaces like this one reflect a man busily creating.” The young man hung his head. After a long moment he said, “But I still think that organizing my space is essential.” “And you will be saying that until the end of time, and never getting any results,” the successful writer replied. “Tidy your mind first!—and then see whether your desk really needs organizing.”

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Morgan Mandel said...

Well, now I fell a lot better. Who has time for cleaning anyway!

Morgan Mandel

Lois J. de Vries said...

Those of us who prefer to work in an orderly environment CAN have the best of both worlds --- I learned to spend not more than 10 minutes per day cleaning up the mess. This didn't work until I actually set a timer and stopped as soon as it rang. My workspace was tidy within one week.

Now I know that, whenever stuff starts piling up again, it won't take an extraordinary effort to restore it.

Since my workspace occupies one end of our living room, it's on view at all times. While I've HAD to work in the middle of a mess from time to time, for me, a tidy workspace is essential to my mental health and ability to function.

Chester Campbell said...

Interesting piece, Eric. I think my mind is fairly well organized, but my office looks like the Hesperus. I clean it up now and then when I lose something important. However, most of the time there doesn't seem to be much important stuff lying around.