How Becoming a Minimalist Made Me A Better Writer

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I am not a tidy person. My natural state is a hurricane or forgetfulness, lost items, and either over or under scheduling. My mother, my teachers and my relatives all tried to help me cope with my natural tendencies. I at last embraced the planner in college. But I still had a problem- planners do not organize your sock drawer. They don't keep you from losing your phone for two months and then finding it in the pocket of a dress you haven't worn in forever because you have tons of clothes. It doesn't keep you from repeatedly buying sticky notes because your under the impression you don't have any left, and then finding a mountain of them stashed in your office supplies tub which was buried under your spare computer cords. I could remember that I needed to go to the doctor at 2 pm on Tuesday but was still late because I couldn't find my wallet, keys or glasses.

...we probably had even more stuff, and I was going to have to try and keep track of it all. It was scary.

One day the fall my junior year of college Kailen and I went to look at an apartment we were thinking of renting out for the coming summer when we were married. The apartment was currently occupied by some people we knew from school. It wasn't a large apartment, and they were both school teachers so the had their fare share of school materials and papers to grade stashed around. It was clean, and relatively neat, but it was full. Very full. Which I exclaimed in some surprise. I believe I said “so much stuff!” I am not the queen of tact. I'm sorry you two, you are not slobs or packrats. I was just realizing that between what Kailen had and what I had, we probably had even more stuff, and I was going to have to try and keep track of it all. It was scary.

We moved into the apartment, and I was right. We had way more stuff. It was not pretty, and it wasn't organized. At that same time, I became enamored of the idea of a tiny house on wheels. Eventually I got Kailen on board with the idea. I started looking at our house with tiny-house eyes. Did I really need two sets of dishes? How much fabric did I actually need? What's with all these christmas ornaments?

We never got the house on wheels, but I sure got rid of a lot of stuff. It solved my organization problem pretty well. It's easy to keep things organized when there's not much to organize. We became dedicated minimalists. It was one of the best thing that ever happened to my writing.

 

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that since becoming minimalist I wrote my first book that I think is good enough to be sent out into the world.


Being minimalist saves us time and money, making it easier to be full time artists. I feel like every one of my possessions makes a tiny buzzing noise in my head, requiring a tiny bit of my attention. The more things I have the louder the noise, the more of my attention is chipped away. It's hard to write when your stuff is talking to you. However it's the subtleties of minimalism that have had the biggest influence on my writing though. Minimalism spread from my possessions to how I approach writing. Too many words is as bad as too much stuff. I can look at my writing and cut out words and chapters and characters without feeling loss, having practiced getting rid of things that were “precious” over and over in real life. I look at my stories and think “what is essential for the plot?” not “how many of my cool ideas can I get in here?” Minimalism shifted my focus from what I wanted from my writing, to what was needed to make a good story. When I don't look to my writing to make me feel happy or validated, it's fun. I don't think it's any coincidence that since becoming minimalist I wrote my first book that I think is good enough to be sent out into the world.