In a recent post on my site, I talked about writing simply and how changes in my real life (exploring minimalism) caused changes in my writing and editing.
About a year ago I started to follow blogs like Becoming Minimalist and Be More with Less. While in my younger days I was somewhat of a spendthrift, I fell in love with living more simply and the benefits it brought (namely, being able to write for a living instead of working at a job I hated). While I was comfortable with the concepts of simple living and had drastically changed my spending habits over the years, I wasn’t as familiar with minimalism.
In fact, like many people, the word brought to mind images of all-white living spaces with maybe a single bowl for decoration. I abhor clutter but an aesthetic like that was too stark for me. Luckily, I learned, there were lots and lots of different ways to “do” minimalism. At its core minimalism simply means cutting out the extraneous to focus on the priorities.
Embarking on a minimalist clothing experiment last year left me with just under 40 pieces of clothes in my closet. (Note: I don’t count pajamas/loungewear/workout stuff here.) 40 pieces is still a lot but compared to how my closet looked before, it was practically bare. I donated bags of clothes and some accessories to Goodwill. And when I next opened my closet door, I caught my breath. Instead of feeling empty, the area felt spacious. I liked it!
Fast forward one year: While a few items have crept back into my closet, putting me over the original number, I’m weeding through once again and keeping only what I like, actually wear, and pieces that work well together. I’m fascinated by capsule wardrobes and love to see how creative people can get in putting together so many outfits from so few items.
But what does all of this have to do with writing?
I learned a few important lessons from having a pared-down, capsule wardrobe that relate to writing. I’ll share them here in hopes that they might resonate with you. Feel free to add your own comments or questions below.
Lesson #1: More isn’t better. When we have a ton of stuff in our closets it makes sense that we’d have more options, right? Not necessarily. Oftentimes our closets are filled with clothes that don’t fit anymore, don’t feel good, have stains, or are buried behind other pieces and get lost in the shuffle.
It’s the same with our writing. You don’t to go on a week-long retreat to write a book. You don’t even need a four-hour window of writing time. You can do it in small pieces. In fact, making the habit of writing in small chunks of time is a wonderful way to make progress on your goals without feeling overwhelmed.
Lesson #2: Know what you love and stick with it. You’ve probably heard that statistic—we wear 20 percent of our clothing 80 percent of the time. When building a capsule wardrobe it’s easy to start thinking, “well, but what if I decide I need to change it up? What if I become a speaker and need this suit? What if I decide—even though I’ve never worn it once—that this scarf really is made for me?”
We all basically have a style: we love comfort and live in jeans and t-shirts. Or we enjoy going glam and like to rock spiky heels and leather bomber jackets. Or we feel more capable in a power suit. You know what you love in writing, too. Better to focus your energy and time on a handful of pieces, pouring your heart and soul into these, than writing a little bit of everything just to cover the bases. If you like writing short stories, keep it up! If you prefer to work on a full-length manuscript, focus your time there.
Lesson #3: Prioritize your clothes (and writing). When you have less in your closet, you tend to take better care of it. And when you love everything hanging there, it’s easier to get yourself pulled together in the morning.
Likewise with writing. You know what writing makes your heart thump more loudly and your fingers nearly shiver in excitement. But too often we allow the “must do’s” to crowd out that little, creative voice pleading for playtime. Make your own writing a priority. Do it first, before any other writing/job/career/family responsibilities for the day if at all possible. Stay in bed and type or write away if need be. Just get in that priority writing time as part of your regular morning routine. It’s important. And it’s a way to show yourself and others that writing matters.
*** J.P. Choquette writes novels in 15 minutes a day from her home office in Vermont. She’d love to share a free 7 Ways to Find Time to Write guide with you—it’s free when you sign up for her writing newsletter. It comes out twice a month and is packed with information, inspiration and education to empower writers.