As I sit at my desk, I can see five coffee mugs or jam jars filled with various pens, pencils, paintbrushes, and crayons; three notebooks half-filled with project ideas and dreams; two sticky-note pads; a scattering of pencil shavings; a baby monitor (she’s still sleeping!); half a dozen tubes of watercolour paint; my computer (on which I’m typing); and a pair of glasses I never wear (I’m convinced my eyes have improved).
I don’t need all these things. In fact, I rarely use half of them. But the fact that they are there, right at my finger-tips, gives me the sense that I could use them, if I were inspired.
If I were inspired...
You see, that’s the operative hope. I desperately need all the clutter on my desk because if it isn’t there, it makes work too difficult. I would have to find the exact pen in the zen-style storage container on my shelf. I would have to search for the perfect shade of blue pencil in the pencil case. I might waste five minutes rummaging through an immaculate storage container to find my favourite "hake" brush for watercolour washes. And in that five minutes, the fleeting, diaphanous idea that had been floating through my mind might have disappeared forever.
But, if my desk is cluttered, or even messy, then everything is ready... just in case.
My desktop clutter is a kind of superstition. If it’s not there, I’m not sure I can make anything.
So, I work with projects layered upon projects. They are piled on my desk, like some sort of sedimentary settlement of creativity. They are a river delta of thoughts; grains of sand upon grains of sand forming an unsteady marsh for me to wade through.
Even the floor is part of my geography of inspiration. Scattered at my feet are: my scanner, my wacom drawing tablet (still plugged into my computer, with the cord snaking off the desk to the floor, just in case), three more notebooks, a binder full of archived lists and ideas, a ream of printer paper, a half-finished book, my garbage can (newly acquired, now at least there isn't any trash on the floor), and several large pads of Fabriano watercolour paper.
In this mess I have my best ideas.
In this mess I feel comfortable.
I think I'm pretty good at keeping our house clean and clutter free. I've read the decluttering manifesto by Marie Kondo. I regularly donate items to the local charity shop. I keep to a rigorous weekly cleaning schedule. I make sure little-one's toys are organized and stowed away at the end of each day...
So, even though I sometimes dream of having the perfect zen-like studio space, full of organized storage, white walls, and calming house plants lining the window sill.
In reality I have happy mess; a happy creative mess.