Creative Chaos?!?!

I took this picture yesterday ….

Home Office Desk
What?! I can’t hear you over the noise on my desk…

I’d love to tell you it was a few minutes of messiness, but that would be a BIG, FAT, l.i.e.

Can you relate?

Or, are you shrieking as you look at the cacophony that threatens to swallow my desk in its discord?

One day last week, as 1st period was getting underway, one of my HS students suddenly proclaimed, “You must be really organized in your home office!”  Another student enthusiastically agreed, “Yea!!”

I don’t remember what spurred this revelation, but it was clear in that moment that my students have met Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and don’t even know it.  🙂

They (my students, not Jekyll and Hyde) know I’m a blogger/writer, have a home office, and don’t have kiddos under foot.  They also know our classroom is organized; everything has its place and everything is labeled.

I smiled and thought, “If only you knew!” Before I could fess up, morning announcements began. *Saved by the Pledge of Allegiance. Phew!

Truth is, my classroom and my home office are polar opposites. It would be easy to think the spaces belong to two different people. Enter Jekyll and Hyde….

It’s kind of weird, really.

Or is it??

I’m pretty sure I get the whole J/H thing….

At home, my creativity gets to run rampant … and it shows. I often say my home office space (aka my Creative Space) is a reflection of my mind…. Holy Messy, Batman!!!!  A gazillion ideas compete for my attention. Constantly. Relentlessly. Ruthlessly.


Piles of books, magazines, and newspapers – on my desk, on the floor, on a table, on shelves, on each other!

But Wait...

Sticky notes hang precariously from most surfaces – of quotes overheard, lists to do, and ideas in progress.  A 4′ x 5′ whiteboard covered with scribbled notes – snippets of ideas waiting to be developed – hangs above my desk – for inspiration and to not forget(!)  Did I mention all this STUFF in my head contributes (I think) to my forgetfulness.  Sigh…..

Then …. there are the half-finished projects of all sorts – writing, crafts, school-related, gifts, you name it.

My husband, a neatnik, has become comfortably numb to the situation, no doubt his coping mechanism.  😉

So, what’s up with this messiness?  In my surfing, ummm…..  reading on this and that, I’ve run across a few things…

Creativity is chaotic, so say some.

Seems several have quoted John Briggs and F. David Peat from their book, Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, in which they suggest, “Chaos is evolving from a scientific theory into a cultural metaphor. As a metaphor it allows us to query some of our most cherished assumptions and encourages us to ask fresh questions about reality.”

Well, it’s clear my reality involves piles of ideas, still under construction.  I find comfort in the messiness.  Usually.

In the academic arena, there’s talk [here] that suggests, “Tidiness and academic work just don’t go together…” an idea explained by the piles of books, articles, and student papers often found in college profs’ offices.



So why are my spaces so different?  My answer, in a recent post, is [here].  Short version?  Structure gives my high school students (and me) stability in our learning environment.  Our writing is messy. Our thinking is messy. But our classroom is organized…. so WE can be messy.  Win-win.  They are, after all, teenagers, and well, messy.  Their teacher-mom helps them put things in order…

Want to know more?  Check out this great article over at Fast Company.  Several of my favorite ‘creatives’ talk about connecting the dots, visually explained by cartoonist Hugh MacLeod, aka The Napkin Guy.  Definitely check him out!

Turns out ~ all those piles, unfinished projects, snippets, and bookmarked sites are my dots. They are my flow, as I disappear into my writing world for hours on end, content and focused, blissful inside the messy chaos.

Mostly, they’ll stay scattered throughout my space, but every now and again, my brain yearns for quiet and order…. and all the dots must line up neatly and wait their turn.
Are you creatively chaotic?

Or do you prefer the organization described by Roy Peter Clark (one of my favorite writing instructors) in Writing Tools

Writing Tools

Save String, he advises (#44).

While he suggests this system for larger projects, I immediately saw its usefulness for gathering all writing ideas when I first read his book. It speaks to my organized side to help connect all those dots…. maybe in the future I’ll adopt that approach more often?


But for now, who’s with me?
Messy or methodical?  Where do you fall?