Spring Cleaning for Writers

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Spring cleaning reveals a lot about how we live and work. It also presents opportunities for freshened prose and strengthened habits. Scrubbing up sentences and clearing dust from your desk may give you a jump-start on the season’s projects.

Catalogue Distractions

Before you get to work clearing out dusty old habits, you have to know which ones actually affect your work and inspiration. Journaling helps you keep track. Even a list with tally marks will do. Write down the habits you suspect hold you back. If you find yourself procrastinating, add the offending activity to the list.

Many habits you put down won’t be bad, but they may be mismanaged. Spend a lot of time on social media? Well, writers benefit from judicial use of Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, so you shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. When do they become a problem? Are you scrolling when you should be writing? Writing in offline mode may help. Even adopting new habits, like writing first drafts by hand in a physical notebook, may help fix the problem.

Distractions may be physical, and that’s where you can really get into the spirit of spring cleaning. Does your cluttered desk make you feel homey and secure, or does it chew at the back of your thoughts? How about those houseplants? A bit of green is great unless you spend writing time staring at the leaves, debating on whether or not they need more sun, water, fertilizer, etc.

On the other hand, a perfectly professional desk may conjure perfectionism and stymie your progress. Judicious additions – fidget spinners for the anxious, colorful pen collections for the restless – may unblock the flow.

Go on a Typo Hunt

Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has mistakes they make so often they’re practically elements of style. Unfortunately, misspelled words, the wrong “your,” and “defiantly” in the place of “definitely” are really just mistakes.

Use the warming weather to harden your resolve, and dig through some old drafts. Break out a green pen and start circling problem spots. When your paper looks like a mossy dalmatian, evaluate the patterns. What do you need to work on? Pick just one or two things to intentionally track as you write this year. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make better, and we all have room for improvement.

Refresh Your Style

Passive voice slips through the cracks, slowing great stories and muddling crisp scenes. Wordy phrases clog up sentences, and needless repetition wearies the reader. These trouble spots aren’t strictly errors. They still hurt your writing.

Apply spring cleaning to a single scene – one paragraph at a time. Imagine the publisher said it must be 1/3 shorter. What do you rewrite or remove to keep the narrative’s power and intent? You may be surprised how much fluff grows between crucial words.

What has spring cleaning brought to your writing? Does a clean window bring more light into your writing space, or have you finally realized how many times you wrote “that” without realizing? Share your thoughts with other writers below!

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