Spring is here and, as my kids would say, it’s a vibe. In a season of rebirth, there’s new wisdom to be found in the old routines of cleaning out our cabin fever—in our homes and on the page.
Here’s our guide to spring cleaning for writers, in seven simple steps.
Dust off an old idea.
If you’re like me, you have at least a few random “ideas” files, and you’re always adding to them. But how often do you open them up and spend some time in there, just for the sake of looking around?
Sometimes the best “new” ideas come from looking more closely at something that caught your eye or came to mind a long time ago, when you weren’t quite ready for it. When you didn’t know what to do with it yet—and now, magically, you do.
Open the windows.
What about your writing life is feeling cooped up or growing stuffy and stagnant? Maybe it’s your routine, and it would do you good to take your notebook or laptop outside. Or maybe it’s time to finally pull that half-finished story out of the drawer and let it breathe.
When’s the last time you decluttered your files (digital and paper), desktop (on your laptop screen and your actual desk), and inbox? How long has it been since you emptied the trash?
Especially when it comes to our hard drives, where we can amass old Word documents in perpetuity:
It takes discipline to clean out what we no longer need. But whenever I make the time, I’m glad I did.
Just like on the top shelves and bottom corners of my real-life closet, I find things I forgot I had, I’m reminded of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come, and I’m forced to think about what I want to make room for on my desk and in my mind.
Check expiration dates.
In writing as in the kitchen, we can’t expect top-notch results if we don’t keep our ingredients fresh. Spices lose potency over time; baking supplies grow stale or lose their rising power. How long has it been since you learned a new trick in a writing workshop, or did an exercise just for the sake of the craft? The best writers know it’s important to keep learning—and keep those pantries restocked.
Remember that blog post you never posted before you got busy and let your domain lapse? Maybe you could pitch it as a guest post to a more established blog instead. How about that scene you had to cut from the book you published, because it just didn’t fit? Maybe it could become a bonus for your newsletter subscribers. And that long email you wrote that made your book club laugh and laugh—could it become the basis for an essay?
What content are you sitting on that could be repurposed with very little additional effort? Sometimes spring cleaning isn’t about throwing things away, but about using what we already have more wisely.
Tidy up your sentences.
The fastest, most efficient way to do it? Look for the easy offenders: I’m talking about your crutch words. Everyone has them: Put our handy “Avoid These Crutch Words” infographic to work with a little help from the find-and-replace function, and your prose will be cleaned up in no time.
Be honest about what “sparks joy.”
You, too, can employ the Marie Kondo method made famous in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We writers aren’t under any obligation to save everything—not even for ourselves. When it comes to a story or a concept or a query letter that just isn’t working, it’s okay to let go. If you feel dread every time you look at that folder on your desktop, maybe it doesn’t belong there anymore. You’re not giving up: You’re making room for what sparks joy instead.
After all, spring is here. And there’s a lot of joy in that.