Tag Archives: children

Clutter Blocks My Brain – Or Does It?


Susan-Mermaid-avatarNo, this is not a blog about clutter (sort of). I’ve been reading a lot about clutter this month, however – when I’m not reading yummy romance novels, that is (Jamie Beck’s Worth the Wait  – so good!). It *is* the first of the year, though – and resolutions are made (and broken) every New Year. Mine is all about getting my house under control.

I’ve been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, and it is a fascinating read. And the best part of using her tips, is the number of bags that have already left the house. I can almost see myself gliding through a perfectly organized home. *brief pause* Okay, done with that mirage. But…

I remember a moment, years ago, at the beginning of my writing career, when my friend said to her mother, “Susan is one of those neat freaks. We have to pick everything up before we’re done playing.”

“She has a very small house,” her mother answered. “Small houses require a person to be very picky about being neat, or she will be overwhelmed in no time.”

And I patted myself on the back. I was a tidy person! I could clean the house, top to bottom, in a single day (it was a really small house).  I took care of my family that way. And I wrote while my daughter napped. It wasn’t hard at all!

(Fast forward thirty years….)  

Where did that woman go? Who is this aging writer, with Too Much Stuff in her clutches and Too Many Stories in her brain? My children are grown, I have a big(ger) house, and it’s a mess. I recently read an article about how creative people thrive in disorder and I wonder: how? I’m a creative person and, whenever I sit down to write, I find myself contemplating the clutter around me. I mentally shame myself for not leaping to my feet and cleaning it all up. Then, I tell myself, I could write in peace, loving the house I’m living in and having freedom to spin my glorious tales (which would immediately make every bestseller list known, and gain me a gazillion dollars).

 Something tells me my fantasy is a lie. Clutter and brain block are separate problems, and it’s blame-shifting to allow myself to delay writing because I’m bothered by the mess around me. I’m either going to write, or I’m not. (And, even as I write this, the devil on my shoulder whispers that cleaning up just the area in front of my would open the floodgates of creativity.)

Where I write, before stuff crawled began to surround me... !

Where I write, before stuff crawled began to surround me… !

 What do you think? Have you ever been stopped dead by clutter? Or do you thrive in it? Do you enjoy settling down to a pristine, tastefully decorated desk? Do you color code your file folders? Or are you a whirlwind of disorder, obsessed with spinning  your tales and too darned bad if the junk doesn’t get picked up – you have stories to write!

Maybe it’s a fantasy I have, that my house will be perfect one day. Maybe I need to write a story about the house that could be perfect. Wait – I already have that story in progress!

Where do *you* like to write the most, and what atmosphere makes you the most productive?




Learning to Keep Your Balance

Did you ever have a moment where a challenge you’ve known of for a long time seemed seemed to suddenly, magically resolve?Susan Mermaid

My lovely, talented, rapscallion son, Skitch, graduated from college two years ago.  He needed five years to complete his studies in engineering.  I was happy to give him that extra year – he chose a very affordable state school and I had (at the time) sufficient funds to help out.  We were thrilled when he was ready to fly the coop, get a job and spread his wings.

squidolin6But the graduation gift…  what to give this only son, who spread himself among so many interests and passions?  He suggested, and hubby liked the idea of, an electric violin.  But the best electric violins cost many thousands of dollars.  They need accessories, expensive ones.  We don’t know anything (much) (nothing) about electric violins.  And even Skitch wasn’t sure which one he might want.  Or how much he would use it.  Did an elementary school viola career equal (merit) the cost of such an expensive instrument?

Plus, the family was now short on cash (thank you, recession).  Our dearest son didn’t press, and the idea was dropped.  His father fretted from time to time, feeling we were being ungenerous.  A graduation gift is customary.  We’d let it slide.  Were we good parents?  Over and over, I assured him that we were, our son loved us unconditionally, and a gift would eventually be discovered, procured and delivered.  And we would forget all about it again for several months.

Last month, I exited CVS with my usual mix of necessary (toilet paper) and unnecessary (lipstick) items.  New York, for once, was enjoying a perfect blend of sunshine and mild weather.  I glanced left and, as usual, and saw the rows of bikes outside the village bike shop.  Bikes.  Surely, after all this time… Could it be so easy?

My request was simple:  bike for 25-year old man.  Needs more than a sidewalk cruiser, but not that $2000 cliff jumper over there.  No tricks, or challenging courses, no big drops.   Young man in question still gets crazy ideas, so it needs to be able to take a beating.  And he still lives in a college town, so any lock or cable needs to be able to survive that caliber of thief.


Forty minutes later, I was texting my son with questions and sending photos.  Two weeks after that, we arrived at his apartment with a bike, carrier, helmet, tire pump and (most important) a gnarly cable lock.  Since then, he’s gone riding several times a week, hoping to build up enough mileage to cycle-commute to work and back.

Happy boy, happy and relieved father, brilliant mom.  Thus, the saga of “what do we get Skitch for graduation?” closes.

Which brings me to the real topic today:  how many grand plans for our writing have we made that go unattended?  How many minor disappointments do we harbor?  In some ways we allow ourselves to construct these disappointments, all on our own, simply by allowing the time or opportunity to slip past.  Okay, circumstance occassionally visits them upon us and we watch, helpless, as all our lovely plans are shattered.  The editor or agent request gone stale.  The rejection that continues to sting and fester.  The rewrite that goes so badly we give up – and can’t forgive ourselves, even when we know it was for the best.  Or, the story that’s dry, parched, neglected and, sadly, left alone (thank you, dearest husband for that addition). Sometimes we allow ourselves a little moan but, mostly, we let ourselves “live poor.”

In Skitch’s case, the lack of knowledge, compounded by lack of money bred the lack of gift – a kind of “living poor” that wouldn’t let go.  We don’t have the money for a violin.  We don’t know how to buy a violin.  Hubby let this fester and I tried, very hard, not to absorb his disappointment as my own.  I had to believe that one day we would be able to solve the problem.

Enter Bikeway!  I do have the money for a bike, Skitch already knows how to ride a bike, I can afford a bike!  Once I had the Smaller Gift idea it happened.  I even used my new “live with the money you have” mantra and paid cash.  Well, debit card, but it really was “cash.”  My bank account knows the truth…

Having gone through this now, I want to bring this lesson to my writing.  Enough disappointment with what I have not accomplished.  More celebrating the tiny steps.  The finished (begun) paragraphs, pages, outlines, scrawled notes, gathered ideas.

This journey as a writer is a process of discovery all its own.  The more I know about my writing, the more I try (and fail), the better I know myself.  How can I mine this newly realized (lesson) (discovery) knowledge of “small victories” and use it to conquer “living poor?”

What would you do with this discovery?