Episode 4: Take Care

Take care of your things. Devote time to tidying the place where you write most often. Good writing requires inspiration; great writing requires a fastidious mind.

I’m not saying pick up your crap just for the sake of me telling you to. I’m saying, learn to become someone who cultivates a space, recognizes the importance of environment, and has an appreciation for order. A writer who sorts his pens can also sort through scenes, finding gems, cutting slough (like fat from a hog). A writer who equips herself with the tools of the trade (stapler, good printer, highlighters, a quality monitor and comfortable chair), she is a writer who knows what it’s like to study objects on a landscape and understand which ones are necessary and should be kept around.

Like one would pages, paragraphs, scenes, lines, clauses, words.

I find it hard to think of the writer revising his own work into good order on his own who isn’t also careful and particular, at least at times, in how he arranges his closet and drawers.

“What a Socratean tone! How dare you, sir?” a voice bellows. “Show us your drafts! I wager they are not half as regimented as you insist we make ours.”

I unscroll my scrolls for no man who isn’t himself scrupulous.

If it is not your nature to make careful arrangement of your things, don’t worry, it can be learned. (And, too, I hear you folks shouting Bukowski and Poe, Celine and Burroughs, from the back, men of ransacked minds and perhaps slovenly habits.) Fear not, because here I am now with snappy advice. One way to bring rigor to your writing is to do other activities that you enjoy. If you are a writer, for example, who also likes needlework, or golf, spend time pursuing improvement in it. There should be something else in your life (a writer’s life) from which you’ve learned the benefits of applying method and following steps, not mention working hard with care.

Writing has these things: writing and revising. Many writers profess to know that but don’t actually take part in both, and it’s they who will languish when the deadline comes or the dream of the published novel remains unrealized.

Now we are getting grave indeed.

Sprightly, then: bring to the page, and to your precious writing time and your beautiful writing space, the care that a proud laborer takes in even the simplest chore. A lot of what you see in a presentable place is care, and that’s true even of shabby digs, which you can imagine, are easily improved by a stout table with a levelly spread tablecloth. Make your space a little more like this than it already is. Keep it that way, to the extent possible, and let it become a habit.