I was inspired by blogging friend Natalia Sylvester’s post this week—she wrote about how a change in setting (of her desk) and new meaningful decorating (of her new area) might inspire her stories. It was a great post, and I was especially intrigued with the photo of paper that she hung near her desk. Her husband took the photo a few years ago, as a part of a series focusing on seeing everyday objects differently.
Natalia’s post not only inspired me, but it also made me realize what a mess my own writing space is (was). In fact, my entire office, study, work area, is (was) such a mess that I couldn’t sit at my desk anymore. Part of the problem is that we have three work areas in that room. One is for household paperwork, one is my work area, and one is MEH’s (My Engineer Husband). A few years ago MEH was laid off, and while he looked for a job (he found one within a few short months, thank goodness) he really spread out in that room. And nothing really ever got cleaned up after that.
The room was a mess. You’ll have to take my word for it because there’s no way I was about to take a photo of it. It was so much of a mess that I wrote anywhere but in there. I had desk avoidance, big time. For one thing, there was paper everywhere. I’m just saying. Natalia’s husband could’ve had a real field day taking photos of paper (of all kinds) in that room. Then last week we started having problems with our Internet connection. It was slow. Very slow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting the paper was slowing it down. If only it could be that simple, right? But the timing seemed more than coincidental—for another reason. I wanted to clean up my space and the Time Warner guy was going to come and check out the connection (on a Sunday no less!), and I wasn’t even sure he could get to the wall socket or wiring. So it was necessary to clean up. The paper, the dust, the everything.
So it was that yesterday—for about six hours—MEH and I made the office/study our project. We cleaned and threw out and cleaned some more. We put a lot of stuff away, threw out more, and boxed things up. And while we cleaned, I realized something. I have a real problem with paper.
I’m thinking this must be a common problem for us writers. If you’re like me, you print out copies of your manuscripts to edit, to proof, to give to other writers to read as beta drafts. This means you (and by you, I mean I) have reams of paper waiting to be printed. You also have reams of printed-upon paper waiting to be disposed of. And, to add to the problem, I (for one) am unwilling to put any of my fiction in recycling—being one of those paranoid people who is afraid someone may accidentally see it (okay, I admit it, I’m afraid there’s someone sitting in the recycling bin for the soul purpose of stealing MY fiction.). Anyway, regardless of the reason, I have stacks and stacks of paper waiting to be shredded and some waiting to be recycled, and I also have storage boxes full of manuscripts “in the drawer” along with notes and background information I’ve used to write those books—about seven books worth (not counting one picture book and two early readers). You don’t have to do the math, I’ll tell you: I have six storage boxes full of paper.
And I have to be honest, I’m just not sure how to keep up anymore. I have a very small paper shredder. And it takes a long time to shred a 400-page manuscript—or five copies that have been returned by beta readers. These stack up. I’ve isolated the recycling/shredding to one corner, but it’s going to take a while to shred things. (I realize you can hire companies to shred documents, but this again requires me to trust someone with my work.)
The long and short of it is that although the room looks a lot better, it’s not exactly the décor I was going for—what with the stacks and stacks of paper to come to terms with and the storage boxes everywhere. Maybe I need to designate that room as the office/storage closet and just move my office to the next room over–the dining room—and I can sit in there with my back to the office. Then, to paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind: “I can worry about the paper another time…after all tomorrow is another day.”
Do you have this same problem? How do you dispose of your paper? Are you paranoid (like I am)? Any suggestions or tips (I didn’t mention in the post, but we also have filing cabinets, but they are filled with household papers)?