Minimalism Helps Writing

Maybe it sounds a little crazy when I claim minimalism helps writing. If you follow my Facebook page, you may have wondered why a writer would post her daily discards for the Minimalism Game. If you haven’t waved a dismissive hand at the screen, thanks for sticking around. Find out how this minimalism stuff made me a better writer and, I dare say, a better person.

The Process

I actually probably did complete a month of the game before we moved. Just one of many piles of donations.

The Minimalism Game starts on the first of a month. On the first day, you get rid of one item, on the second day, two items, third day, three, and so on. At the start, it was easy. (Should you try this yourself, do not be tempted to go hog-wild in these first days. You’ll regret it.) By mid-month, the easy stuff was gone. I had to start digging into things I’d avoided. By the end, I cursed myself for getting rid of so much before we moved, for not doing the game before moving, for not doing it in February instead. I cursed a lot.

But I also cleared a lot. I don’t know how many trash bags I filled, but it was at least two large ones. Best of all, I filled the back of our Mazda  (seats down) for a donation trip. I’m pleased with the results and proud of myself for getting through it, but…

It Was Hard

So much of the stuff I’d accumulated fell into the “someday” category. Someday I’ll make a t-shirt quilt for each of the kids, someday I’ll put together beautiful scrapbooks, someday I’ll send this card. Not only did I discard physical items, I let go of dreams where I made people happy and made beautiful things. I also came across “someday” items long expired, like cards intended for my grandma.

Ghosts hid in some unopened boxes–negative memories, bitter dreams. While those were easy to discard, they were hard to confront. Minimizing made me face some ugly truths, but now I’m not reminded anymore.

Sing It With Me Now… Memories…

While some memories revisited weren’t so pleasant, many were. Old baby clothes reminded me of kissing the top of a downy head. School papers with colored foil stars stirred the same pride as the day they came home. Scribble drawings of unknown subjects made just for me warmed my heart.

But most I hadn’t seen since the day they went in the box.

Most was only for me, because my kids don’t remember and don’t care about school papers and bad drawings. My emotions were keeping them. The clothes could help other children, yet I hoarded them in boxes. Yes, they brought back memories, but I needed another way to recall those memories and give the physical items to people who would make better use of them.

How Minimalism Helps Writing

I didn’t start the game to help my writing, but it was a pleasant side effect. Here are the key points:

  • Less Stuff = Less To Do = More Time For Writing

I don’t have as many clothes and dishes to wash, furniture to dust, projects to do, clutter to organize.

  • More Mental Space

As a world-class worrier, not having a list of works in progress to last several lifetimes eases my mind. Carrying the guilt of money spent and expectations unmet weighed heavily. As I minimize, my mind has room to do more things, like make stories. Less stress means more creativity.

  • An empty space is so appealing to me, but it echoes too much, and I’m too old to sit on the floor all the time.

    Clear Physical Space Is Soothing

On a related note, looking up from my desk and always seeing something else to do was distracting. Being bored and lacking stimulation is shown to foster creativity. A clear space is like a fresh idea Petri dish.

  • Important Things Are Easier To Find

Reference books are no longer packed in a box under a ton of other boxes. The outline note cards for my novel aren’t buried in a container with expired credit cards. Extra pens aren’t mixed with other pens I don’t like using. Sticky notes are all together. Organizing is much easier when there isn’t a mountain of stuff.

  • A Lighter Heart

I don’t operate well as the stereotypical tortured artist. That is who I was when wallowing in could-have-beens and too many commitments.

Halfway through January, the month I did the Minimalism Game, I set a regular writing schedule and stuck to it but for one planned day off and two sick days (all legitimate) this month. Minimizing isn’t a magic pill, but it is a good way for me to focus on what’s important.

Even if the Minimalism Game sounds like too much, I invite you to check out The Minimalists. I started with the podcast last summer and went from there. My work is not done.


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