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Spring Cleaning for Writers: 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Space & Style

Spring is not only a time for renewal but also an opportunity for you to rejuvenate your approach to your craft. Say “see ya” to winter's chill, and clear out your space, streamline your process, and revamp your writing style with these five easy ways to improve your space and style!

by Jenna Kalinsky, Founding Director, One Lit Place

Now that spring is finally springing (thank you, goodness, thank you), it’s a wonderful time to metaphorically rake the matted leaves off your garden to let new life push through. These 5 easy spring cleaning steps will help you declutter your writing environment, streamline your tech, and polish your prose. In no time, the burden of last year’s clutter will be gone from your space and writing style, leaving you feeling fresh and excited for the season ahead.

1. Lean Out Your Library

person holding stack of books

Most writers have a fair number of books ranging from a normal amount on a shelf to them taking over every surface, being stacked into towers, or serving as makeshift end tables.

Writers don’t like to get rid of books as a rule—they’re valuable currency and their presence enhances a writer’s psychic connection to the broader community— yet at some point, the visual clutter may become overwhelming. After all, there are only so many old copies of The New Yorker you can use to keep your winter boots’ shape (I know, great hack, right?

You may recall the firestorm that ensued when Marie Kondo dared advise that we streamline our libraries down to 30 books? (That was a doozy).

Still, she was on to something. Leaning out your library in no way devalues the books you clear out or distances you from the ideas they hold. Any book you’ve read is firmly a part of you forever, and having it physically present doesn’t make that any more or less so.

Tip: take a discerning eye to your bookshelf and bid farewell to those titles you've read and won’t read again or know deep down you won’t read and do the following:

  • Pop a few in your local little free library
  • Donate a larger number to your public library
  • Put a box of them in front of your house or building with a sign that says “FREE IDEAS”
  • Sell them to a used bookstore
  • Give them to friends

recycle bin with shredded papers beside magazines

You’ll notice that not on the list is “throw them away/recycle them.” Most writers value writers’ time and intellectual effort deeply, and while this writer in Salon magazine feels throwing books in the trash is perfectly alright, most people would recoil at such a suggestion. 

Try though you might to break down a book into just “paper, ink, and glue” to justify tossing them in the bin, most people would suggest a book could never be seen as merely the sum of its physical parts.

What a freeing feeling it is to give these wonderful ideas and stories to new readers. Plus, making room for new books is exciting. And a leaner library and clearer surfaces will invariably lead to a clearer mind where fresh new ideas have room to unfold.

2. Delete Downloads and Unused Files, Then Back Up Your Hard Drive

It’s all too easy to collect files on your computer you don’t need. In volume, they burden your computer’s processors and can cause your hard drive to become sluggish or even crash.

Tip: Avoid "the blue screen of death" and instead slot 30 minutes into your calendar 1x/month to take a digital broom to your computer and purge all your out-of-date documents, drafts that will never become anything, and Every. Single. Download. (Remember, if you downloaded the file, you will have surely saved it to your hard drive, making it so you now have two copies).

You can also free up space in your Google Drive storage by using Filerev (paid) or Duplicate File Finder (free). These apps help you clean out duplicate files from your Google drive.

Feeling truly ambitious? Take 15 extra minutes to clear out old emails from your mail program, which will also lighten up your computer; do a “search” for all of the sales emails, alerts, and notifications for the lowest hanging fruit and create folders for those messages you can’t bear to toss.

Feeling Backed Up? (No, that’s a good thing!)

Now that you’ve enjoyed the liberating feeling of freeing up storage space, it’s time to back up your hard drive. Make it a regular ritual: brew coffee, put on some jazz, and set about bringing over all your hard-earned work to an external hard drive unit or into a cloud storage solution.

Tip: back up your hard drive 1x/month on the first of each month, minimum. Let the fact that accidents happen, tech glitches arise, and of course The Great Coffee Incident of 2013 be your cautionary tale.

3. Use the Chrome Extension One Tab to Suck All Your Open Internet Tabs into One

The plight of the busy writer is to be confronted daily with an array of open tabs crowding your browser window. Why add to your mental load by constantly having to stare at this undone running to-list?

Tip: Use One Tab, your saving grace. With a single click, this Chrome extension consolidates all your open tabs into a neat list in one tab, freeing up precious mental bandwidth for focused writing and unburdening your computer's processors. Your tabs are still there and accessible, but now they aren’t staring at you, so you can get to them when you get to them. Goodbye tab-induced pressure; hello streamlined productivity.

4. Digitize Loose Papers

stack of white papers against white background

Do you find yourself buried beneath a mountain of loose papers, scribbled notes, and half-finished manuscripts? (Silly question. You’re a writer; of course you do). You’re in luck that it is remarkably easy to digitize your papers nowadays. Invest in a flat-bed scanner or one with a document feeder for larger stacks of letter-size papers. For small papers, utilize one of the many excellent (and free) smartphone apps to easily snap pics and turn them into digital files.

There are lots of great scanning app options such as Adobe Scan, CamScanner, and my favorite, Evernote Scannable–all fantastic and easy-to-use options. 

Not only does digitization declutter your physical space, but it also ensures that your writing is easily accessible and searchable across your devices. Say farewell to paper chaos and hello to your home and office’s surfaces!

5. Spring Clean Your Grammar: an Easy Way to Improve Your Writing Style

red label on white book that says "mistake"

While decluttering your physical and digital spaces is essential, it’s also smart to spring clean your inner house, which is your writing style. How you articulate yourself in person and on the page shows off your command of your tools and indicates what kind of literary boss you are.

Tip: take one grammatical glitch you’re susceptible to because even though it’s grammatically wrong, it’s still part of the common speech, and fix it.

(My suggestion: stop using the ridiculous mixed construction, “the reason … is because” and opt instead for using either:

 

“The reason … ([give the reason]: I am late; my shoes don’t match; manuscripts need 1” margins) is … ([provide explanation]: the bus didn’t come; I couldn’t find matching shoes; larger margins enable us to annotate text.”

Or

 “([give the reason]: I am late; my shoes don’t match; manuscripts need 1” margins) because ([provide explanation]: the bus didn’t come; I couldn’t find matching shoes; larger margins enable us to annotate text”).

 

See, already you have clearer, more concise phrasing!

Additionally, for fun, institute a “literally” tax so every time you use this overused filler adverb, you pay yourself a quarter. After a while, you’ll 

a) be rich!
and
b) enjoy how much more elegant your sentences are.

 

You can change it up every week over the spring, so by summer, your writing and speech will be lean, clean, and articulate.

Use these easy 5 ways to spring clean your writing life and feel so much better!

It’s easy to accumulate physical and digital clutter throughout the year; happens to the best of us. But spring cleaning takes the burden off your space by relieving your sightline and removing distractions. It is also a great time to reset your language use, so your communication is lyrical, correct, and authoritative.

This spring, use these 5 easy ways to clear out the cobwebs and declutter your space, refine your tools, and revitalize your mind. That clean slate will prepare you for feeling lighter, focused, and ready to tackle some incredible writing ahead.

 

several cups of coffee view from above

Part of spring cleaning for a writer is knowing how to maximize your productivity and fast-track your projects to publication and your writing to new levels. We are here to help you write and write with success.

Reach out for a free consultation any time! We love to talk to writers and to help you however you need.

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