Differently Creative

I’ve never been the neatest person in the world. My room used to horrify my mom, who is a very neat person.

“Clean your room!” she’d tell me every once in a while, especially when guests were due to arrive. Or she’d say, “Clean that closet.” The closet was where I stowed a number of projects birthed through my imagination.

This is my desk at home.


Those of you who are neat might be ready to crawl up a wall at the sight of it. Heh heh. Sorry about that. Whenever I’ve worked full-time in an office—usually at a publisher or book packager—my desk was usually the messiest. Piles of books, files, and knickknacks lived on my desk. Many of my neater coworkers had that crawling-up-the wall reaction whenever they looked at my desk. But whenever a supervisor or coworker asked me for anything—a book for a quote; the address of a writer we hired for a project; whatever—I could produce it just like that.

On the day before important clients were due to visit, one of my supervisors would declare a cleanup day. (Are you sensing a pattern here? Yep? Just like Mom.) I would have to return books to the office library and dump my knickknacks in a convenient drawer—only to pull them back out when the clients left.

There’s a method to my messiness. You see, I’ve often had to work under extremely tight deadlines. Like having to produce a book in a month. All of the resources required for the project needed to be at hand. That way, I could do the job quickly, without having to get up and constantly search for whatever was needed.

As a freelancer, I’ve had to juggle multiple projects also. Which usually means stopping one project and starting another, before returning to the first project. Which also means more and more things get piled up on my desk (like the sharks I’m crocheting [see below], which are on top of my writing journal).

Another aspect to my cluttered desk is my love of color. Cheerful, colorful objects always make me feel better. Which is why I love daisies, especially Gerbera daisies.


A number of people have asked me over the years, “Why can’t you keep your desk neat?” My answer to them is, “Does it really have to be?”

A piled-up desk is not the image I usually see in magazine articles featuring a writer’s workspace. I usually see beautiful wooden desks with everything in its place. But what you see in this post is my space. I don’t want to pretend that it’s different from what I’ve shown here.

The bin of DVDs and blu-rays (and the occasional skein of yarn) that sits next to my desk

I don’t think of myself as more or less creative than someone with a pristine desk. I think of myself as “differently creative.”

How about you? What does your creative space look like? Is it messy? Neat? In between?

Photos by L. Marie with the exception of the gerbera daisy image, which came from freeimages.com, and the Tyra Banks finger snap gif, which came from pic2fly.com.

28 thoughts on “Differently Creative

    • Ha ha! I know, Jill. 🙂 I’ll have to tell Mom that I found some supporters for her on the blog. Actually, she reads it, so she’ll know.

      I thought of you as I wrote this post. 🙂

  1. Some people need perfect organization and some people function better in a visible mess. I say visible because it isn’t a mess that requires hunting for stuff that you lost. I was one of those office workers who was neat, but only because I tended to be placed in a cubicle that was on the ‘boss path’. Higher ups always walked by me, so I needed to appear organized. Not to mention I was the only person with non-work stuff on his desk like a sphinx statue and some anime figurines that people thought were odd. These days, I don’t know how to explain it. Things are kind of neat, except for my stashes in corners and on shelves. Takes a while to find some writing ideas in the notebooks since there’s so many. Have a bad feeling that I lost some too. I remember jotting down notes for a few stories that I can’t find with the rest of the series. Probably more casualties of the Florida to New York move.

    • I know what you mean by the “boss path,” Charles. In some offices we had an open floor plan–four to five people in one space with a supervisor. So desks were always visible to the boss. There was no hiding behind a wall. But when I left that job and began working at a book packager with tight deadlines all of the time, there was no time for maintaining a neat environment, which for me is always a pretense.

  2. I’m with Jill. I think better when things are very “zen.”

    At the moment, my desk has 9 things on it: phone, pad of paper, pen, computer screen, keyboard, mouse, cup of tea, pencil sharpener, and lamp. But you will find LOTS of color around my desk ~ on the walls!

  3. Mine goes from varying degrees of messy/tidy…bottom line: I have to have a surface to ‘do’ stuff on and if the desk is overly cluttered, then I grab a certain thin & large ‘coffee table’ book to use as a lap desk!
    Looks like your desk is inhabited by its own little community of tiny-sized cheerleaders!

    • I do the same, Laura! In fact, I have a stack of coffee table books handy to use as a lap desk. I should have taken a photo of those, because they are often employed!

      Yes, they are great cheerleaders. Now if only they were good editors. I could really put them to use.

      • Geesh – we do have a lot in common!
        Except your desk-top entourage would tend to make me feel way claustrophobic! HA! (Send the lot to Editing School so they can earn their keep in your cool community!)

  4. I’m exactly like you! My desk at work was always piled high with random stuff, but I could always lay my hand on whatever was required. Admittedly my untidiness around the home is more likely to lead to endless “Where did I put my keys?” conversations though. I’m afraid when everything is too neat and tidy, my mind goes completely blank.

    • Mine too! Also, it’s out of sight, out of mind for me. I once put away a copy of The Three Musketeers. Later, when I didn’t see a copy of it on the bookshelf, I purchased another copy at a used bookstore, only to later discover the first copy. Sigh.

  5. Aha, you are describing my modus operandi. 🙂 I often say messiness is a sign of creativity, but, I like your term “differently creative”. I used to be much, much neater, but, the older I’ve gotten the differently creative I have become, especially whenever I take a project on. Piles seem to grow and reproduce and go forth and multiply . . . The complication is that I live with a very creative man whose projects often overtake what I haven’t already overtaken. 🙂
    OK – I’m going to straighten a pile right now . . .

  6. Thank you! I LOVE your honesty. I tend toward the neater side BUT – if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. So when I’m working on something, it all needs to be nearby. Right now, I’m preparing to give a creativity workshop so I have 8 books, two notebooks, two pencils, one pen and some sticknotes surrounding me. (That’s not including my snack!) Margo Rabb in a recent lecture I attended on protecting your creative life quoted the mother of her best friend: “A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.” If it works for you – then have at it!

  7. My desk is a horrific mess and I waste a lot of time looking for stuff. Like you, I’m always juggling multiple projects, and now that I’m teaching, student papers have added exponentially to the chaos.

  8. I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t like to live in a space that looks too chaotic; nor do I feel comfortable in a space that looks sterile. House plants and family pictures help that way. (We all have different concepts of what is chaotic and what is sterile.)

    I do like to have things close at hand–books, notebooks, pens and pencils, cough drops, my Kindle, hand lotion. Why put them away when I use them all the time? Then there are the things I leave out because I’m afraid I’ll forget to do something with them–the mail I don’t have time for or can’t figure out what to do with, the music CD I bought and haven’t listened to all the way through yet. Worst of all, are the things I just haven’t gotten around to putting away. If I leave them there too long, I’ll won’t see them anymore, and then my space will begin to feel chaotic and I’ll have to clean house.

    • I do the same, Nicki. I have lotion by my desk, along with a box of tissue. And I have a stack of mail that I don’t have time for. That was helpful, especially with tax season upon us.

  9. I think you’re disorganized organized… there’s definitely a method to your ‘madness’ and you know where everything is in the pile 🙂

    I tend to need everything kept in its place to write. Even when I’m working with several books and other materials, I tend to have things all over the place… but neatly arranged 🙂 Something about clutter bothers me. It could be the way I was raised and my perfectionist tendencies. But I’ve been learning to relax 🙂

  10. When I’m working on a project, I love to fill my desk and office floor with books. Feels as if I’m surrounded by friends. But I do tidy when the project is done.

  11. My father had several signs in his workshop. One of them was, “A clean, uncluttered desk is a sign of a sick mind.” I live by that. It drives my husband crazy but, like you, I can find anything quickly in those piles. I refer to it as Organized Chaos.

    • I need an Organized Chaos sign. 🙂 Maybe I’ll make one. Currently, I have crocheted sunflowers taking up residence on my desk. They’ll be distributed soon. For now, I’m enjoying their colors.

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