I actually forgot I left my desk in this state yesterday. I was searching for the missing piece to my Turkish rug … because I had “repaired” a rip in our leather sofa and suddenly had a bright idea about fixing the rug, too. And so I searched in the first logical place, did not find the missing piece, and, as usual, got distracted by bits of saved paper. I sorted some and exiled others to the recycling box, including numerous baby announcements. Then I forgot what I was doing and went upstairs, abandoning my work space.
This runs counter to the feelings I was having this morning while working in glorious sunlight on our balcony. I was thinking about my colleague C, who has the most orderly life I know. She is in her office or teaching from 9 to 5 every day, except for Fridays when she leaves a bit early to go to happy hour at our favorite bar. Her office is tidy, her desk is clean, and the atmosphere there exudes efficiency and work. I used to think if I could have her office space, I would write a lot more. But then I got to know myself a little better over the last few years.
Every time I get that nostalgic longing for tidiness and organization, it is swiftly changed into distracted clutter. It is simply how I work – from piles of stuff sitting in front of me to remind me of what I was previously thinking or doing. The same is true for my laptop desktop. I’m writing in Chrome right now with 16 tabs open. I shut at least 5 or 6 of them earlier today, but each one is open to a page that I want to revisit. Each book in this mountain of papers on my desk has pages I want to revisit. I stop, pause, contemplate the pile, and remember something for my research. That happens more often than me actually picking up the book and flipping to a certain page. Just having the text there is enough to jog my thoughts. Again, I need my stuff in front of me to remind me of what I’m doing and to simultaneously distract me from what I’m doing and to lead me into something else I’m not supposed to be doing. It’s a crooked path, but it has gotten me into a reasonably productive academic life.
That said, I now am confronted with the desire to procrastinate my academic writing to continue sorting the crap on my desk. A few items I couldn’t bear to toss out yesterday today were immediately jettisoned into the recycling box.
Order in my chaos, chaos in my order, clutter in my mind leads to order in my writing, tangled in my head but neatly laid out on the page.