March 28, 2019

Advice: For Writing or Beyond

Man jumping on a beach at sunset with text: Joy: Finding Advice that Works for Us

I’m going to keep this post short (no, really!) because I’m sick. Worse? Everyone in my family is sick, like pass-out-for-half-the-day sick. There’s no one left to take care of anyone, and we’re on our last orange juice. Fun!

Anyway, I’ve mentioned on social media that getting my new laptop prompted me to commit to a long-overdue spring cleaning. The project started innocently enough with organizing my computer’s files to move them over—but quickly grew from there.

  • First, I had to clean off one side of my desk so I could fit my laptop alongside my monitors and now enjoy three monitors to do work. *grin*
  • But that made the other side of my desk look awful, so—of course—I just had to work on the other side as well.
  • Then I decided that I really should organize the shelves of my desk’s hutch above where I work to have a fully neat workspace.

Days—and much dust—later, I’ve gone through most of my desk, clearing out the crap. I didn’t take a “before” picture, but if you imagine about a foot worth of stacked paperwork and stuff on every horizontal surface, you’d have the right idea. *sigh*

(In my defense, it was an organized kind of disorganization, and I could—and often did—find everything I needed. Also in my defense, my last attempt to organize fell apart after a vacation longer than any I’ve taken since. Hence the backup.)

What does this have to do with writing? With both my virtual and physical organizing projects, I was reminded of advice attributed to Marie Kondo: “Discard everything that does not spark joy.”

Note that I haven’t actually read her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Nor have I watched her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. This isn’t about her method or cleaning in general.

It’s about how that single quote of advice resonated with me far beyond “tidying up.” Some advice just works for us and applies across the various aspects of our lives.

When Advice Works for Us, It Works

I love displaying pretty landscape pictures on my desktop background, and the process of moving my files to my laptop made me face that I had over 800 images in my Background Images folder. Even if the slideshow function swapped the images out every few hours, that would be…uh, let’s not do math with sick brain…a lot of days (weeks? months?). And since I like admiring each image for a day, that many pictures was several years worth—definitely more than I needed.

When advice resonates with us, might it help us in other aspects of our lives too? Click To TweetSo I went through every image and got rid of those that didn’t “spark joy.” It didn’t matter how objectively “good” the picture was—if it didn’t create an “ooo” reaction, I deleted it. The folder is now around 300 images. *snicker*

I applied a similar “How much do I really love this?” question to a pile of vacation mementos on my desk. Sure, some of the ticket stubs and whatnot would be cute if I ever scrapbooked the trips, but how likely am I to do that?

Being sick the last few days has halted my spring cleaning progress, but so far I’m getting rid of several cubic feet of miscellaneous stuff off my desk. (I know!) That’s not counting the cleanup of my computer files. In other words, that one line of advice has helped me, and that’s the point.

Good Advice Can Often Apply Across Our Lives

On the writing side of things, we often talk about getting rid of the parts of our story that bore us. That paragraph (or more?) of backstory or info dump? If we yawn, the reader will yawn. That advice is like the writing version of the Marie Kondo quote.

That said, we’ll often hate our story as we’re writing it, so no, not every sentence will “spark joy.” *grin* But we can take the kernel of truth in that advice and see if it helps us. For writing, Marie’s quote might help us separate the boring from the non-boring or the “might be good” from the “definitely bad.”

Sometimes, advice from one part of our life can apply and be helpful in other parts of our life, whether we’re talking about writing advice, career advice, relationship advice, organizing advice, etc.

Writing advice helping us through procrastination can definitely be applied to other aspects of our lives. Or even advice that isn’t quite right might help us. For example, the advice to “write what we know” might inspire us with a twist to “write what we want to learn” so we’re motivated to learn new things and thus know more.

As with all advice, we should take what works for us and ignore the rest. Just because something works for someone else doesn’t mean it’ll work for us.

So I don’t know if the KonMari method would actually work for me overall, but this one quote has helped me ditch a lot of stuff—computer files, mementos, and general paperwork. For that, Marie Kondo, I thank you. *smile*

What advice really works for you? What makes it work so well for you? Does that advice apply to other aspects of your life? What makes advice more helpful for you? Have you done any spring cleaning?

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Decluttering always works!
Right now I am getting rid of books like ‘Bottom line business writing’ from the 1980s and 1990s. Taking up space in my attic and weighing me down, while being dated and useless.
Clearing clutter is a psychological boost because you are taking control of your surroundings/ possessions instead of letting them rule you.
Sorry to hear of your illness, wishing you a speedy recovery.

Deborah Makarios

My darling, my hamburger? Sounds like the inspiration for the Veggietales song His Cheeseburger! Which I now have playing in my head. Thankyouverymuch.

It isn’t spring here, but today we finally got rid of the things we’d sorted out to go. Of course, when we dropped them off at the charity shop, we had a look around… We came home with four books, a Genus IV Trivial Pursuit set, a pair of gumboots and a mop. (The last two were planned acquisitions, I must add.)

But the urge to clear out remains! I’ve even been doing some long overdue clearing out in the garden. Agapanthus definitely does not spark joy.


It’s all that spring cleaning that made you sick! Hope you feel better soon. If I lived close by, I’d drop off some orange juice and garlic for you. Garlic keeps you from getting a lot of those bugs–probably because it’s a people repellent.

Anyway, I’ve been doing the de-cluttering bit too, getting rid of a lot of old books, some older than your examples there, and lots and lots of paper. I just recycled a Writer’s Market from 2005, and several other out-of-date books. Feel like I lost a hundred pounds.


Oh no, sorry to hear that you were sick! Hope you feel much better now. Wow, my two tables are frankly so small that I can’t clutter them much even if I wanted to. XD I live in a tiny bachelor’s studio in the basement, so I can’t even afford to accumulate clutter because I literally don’t have the space. I would like to get a drying rack for laundry, but that would take up too much room. (Yes, my apartment is THAT small!) I love Marie Condo’s quote, but I apply it more to friendships. There were certain friendships that had gone sour a long time ago, but I left them there because I didn’t have the guts to do anything about them. But recently I pulled up the courage to cut ties with these people, and unfriended them. Wow it was a huge relief to end our relationship with such finality. (Just remembered that they are still my Goodreads friends. Got to clean that up too.) I learned that even if you had many good moments with that friend, and even if they have redeeming qualities or have been kind to you in the past, doesn’t mean you have to stay friends with them. In my case, both these ex-friends made some stupid homophobic / transphobic remarks, and one thing I can’t tolerate are insults to my community. I gave one of these ex-friends a chance to apologize, but she gave me one of those fake, gaslighting apologies.…  — Read More »

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