I Can’t Work With Clean

By Gail Johnson

Are you a planner or a free-spirit? Organized or messy? Plotter or pantser?

Now, you may be wondering what my questions have to do with organizing your writing. Well, for starters, one man’s idea of organization is another man’s idea of a mess. And the more you know about yourself, the more productive your life will be.

For example, in the movie, Yours, Mine & Ours, Rene Russo plays Helen North, a free-spirited artist. Dennis Quaid plays Naval officer, Frank Beardsley, who runs a tight ship. When they decide to marry, worlds collide as Quaid tries to change his wife’s messy ways.

I can't work with clean. I have a deadline

I’m a mixture of both characters. When it comes to my house and yard, I’m a militaristic planner with a to-do list longer than my arm. I get a tick when something is out of place. And when I’m unable to clean or rake… Mama ain’t happy!

On the other hand, when it comes to writing, I’m one of the worst organizers around. I’ve written on restaurant napkins, oil filter box tops—it was all hubby had in the truck, at the time—and the bottom of my shoe. Yep, with my favorite pen.

A Pilot G-2 05 gel pen and a composition book are my choice instruments for the first chapters. Using longhand puts the writing side of me in control. While at the computer, the mouthy critic and finicky editor take over.

Also, writing longhand allows me to write all over the house and the yard.  Personally, when my body is in motion, my brain is in motion. Writing is easy. My characters talk a mile a minute and their words fill the empty pages.


Eventually, I have a good idea where the story is going. Then and only then, do I sit down at a computer. And even then, I don’t hide my notes in documents. Yes, I know about Evernote, Onenote, Who note and all those other notes. But if “I” put my notes in a document, I tend to forget about them. I “need” to see them, at all times. And that makes for a messy desk!

The same goes for my office. I have papers scattered from one end of the room to the other. I have a write-on board for lyrics and a plotting board for scenes. At first glance, one would think it is a mess, but I tell you there is a method to my madness.

Steve MartinThe point I’m trying to make is this: we will drive ourselves nuts trying to be something we’re not. Furthermore, we will waste more time trying to conform to an idea rather than spending time writing. We need to understand what works best for us, and then do it.

Show up. Set longer times to write, shorter times for social media. Set a word count. Spend quiet time listening to characters. But most of all, write!

When we create a personalized plan, our stories will come together. And before long, we’ll be looking at a completed manuscript.

Click to tweet: I can’t work with clean. I have a deadline.

Writing Prompt

Now, for all you mystery lovers. This one’s for you. See if you can finish the writing prompt with three words. Can’t wait to read your comments!

Bakery closed today.


30 thoughts on “I Can’t Work With Clean

  1. I’m into controlled chaos myself, but you’re absolutely right; it takes all types. I keep just enough clutter to keep things flowing. (And off the point but for the record: the original “Yours, Mine, and Ours” is the best 😉 Lucille Ball ❤ forever. 🙂

  2. Jennifer, I agree with you on the original movie! I love Lucille Ball. But for the sake of the post, I liked the clutter scene in the remake! Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer. Glad to meet a kindred spirit! ☺

  3. Gail, I enjoyed reading about your writing habits. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one surrounded by scraps of paper.
    Here’s my mystery-writer-three-words: Funeral’s at noon.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

  4. Amen! Stay true to yourself! Awesome post, Gail. Happy Tuesday! Oh, and…
    Bakery closed today. Baby came early. 💜

  5. A simple oversight when the order was placed. Somehow that item was skipped! The flour, yeast, and dried fruit arrived, but the sacks of sugar weren’t there!

  6. I am much the same way, but living in a small apartment when I started writing, I began taping my notes onto a wall instead of buying a board that wouldn’t fit. Even though I’ve bought a house, I still plan on using the wall, though I may invest in a board too.
    Bakery closed today. Hopefully open tomorrow.

  7. Your wall idea is a great one! I know several people who post sticky notes to walls. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. “Hopefully open tomorrow” makes me wonder what is taking place between today and tomorrow. Good job!

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