Tidier Writing Sparks Joy

How Marie Kondo’s signature method can enliven your writing process

cover photo from konmari.com

Imagine this situation, or, if you’re in my case, relive last week: you’re under deadline to complete a piece. Source material and research notes lie strewn across your desk, and you’re pouring through the emails you’ve gotten from your client repeatedly redefining what they want. Writing paralysis begins.

What would happen if Marie Kondo appeared on your shoulder politely asking to help? I know I would be more than a little happy to see her. In her Netflix series “Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo,” Kondo helps people put their lives back together through the simple act of organizing their homes. The same principles can bring structure and new life to our writing processes. Let’s explore how to use the KonMari Method™ (Kondo’s signature tidying method) to tidy our thoughts and create a piece of joy.

  • Commit to tidying: Set the intention and let go of thoughts of deadlines. Deadlines may create the panic writers need to push ahead on a piece, but in this case, the anxiety is not helpful. Tidying thoughts takes time and effort but will pay off in a quality finished product. 
  • Imagine your ideal lifestyle: Think of “lifestyle” as a perfect piece. Carefully consider what your client wants and what you want to give them. For example, do you want something with a clear focus and grounding details or something that will push them to think in a different way?
  • Finish discarding first: Move through your notes and focus on the insights and facts that bring you joy. The type of content that inspires you will help you create something that inspires others. Intentionally let go of everything else.
  • Tidy by category: In Kondo’s show, she has clients begin tidying by dumping all of their clothes in a pile before sorting through them instead of going room by room, drawer by drawer. The same principle can apply to writing. Gather all your notes, interview highlights, and client communication and dump them on the “floor” of your notebook (or Word document). Then decide what to keep and what to discard.
  • Follow the right order: Start with what is easiest, such as basic definitions and principles, and then move on to analysis.
  • Ask yourself if it sparks joy: Although your piece will likely end up published under another name, you are the mastermind behind how the content is unified and presented. As the writer, you need to focus on the details that inspire you to get the piece to its ideal state. Trust your writer’s sense during the tidying process.

Now that you’ve allowed yourself time to sort through your notes and emails, keeping what inspires you, it is time to write. You will be able to move ahead with a clear and happy mind and produce the piece you envisioned. I know the Kondo on your shoulder will get that sparkle in her eye when she watches you succeed. 

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