by Tamara Passey
Does this outfit make me...feel joy?
When was the last time you asked yourself that question?
Well, if you've been reading Marie Kondo's best-selling book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up," (enter to win a free kindle copy here) then maybe you have been asking yourself that very question. She tells her readers to hold every piece of clothing they own and ask, "Does this spark joy?"
I'd been itching to clean out my closet. Over nine years in the same house can contribute to some pesky clutter. Her mandatory rule of gathering every item of clothing and piling it in one place didn't even sound like work--this is what I need! A system! But the question is what I, well, questioned.
Since when did I expect clothes to spark joy? Could I expect a t-shirt from Old Navy or a blazer from my tax-preparer days to spark something as lofty as joy in my soul? Not that I didn't have standards for my wardrobe--I'm sure liking the clothes I brought home from the store had something to do with the purchase, but four or five shirts into the process and I could see just how far my standards had fallen. I'd hold a piece and think, "but this is the only thing that matches the gray skirt," or "this was such a deal." Better yet, "At some point I will find the right pants to go with this Chaps navy-and-white-polka-dot-dress-shirt." Joy? Where did that fit into the equation?
I persevered and began to find clothes that did, in fact, bring a smile to my face and an immediate, "oh I am keeping this," to my mind. And by the end of the day (okay two days) I had stacks of clothes for Goodwill, more room than I'd ever had in my closet, and clothes that I could honestly say I looked forward to wearing.
But what could any of this do for my writing? My creative energy? That question was what started this journey in the first place. An off-hand comment at the end of a writer's group meeting, a fellow writer said, "my sister told me about this book and if I can get my house in order, maybe I can get my writing to follow." Ooohh, the sound of that was so inviting! A house in order so it's occupant could be free to write in a blissful state of "a place for everything and everything in it's place!" Sign me up!
Two weeks later, I'd read the book (mostly) and started the process (because I'm impulsive). Didn't matter that it was the middle of December and the holiday was fast approaching. I tackled clothes and moved right into books and though I was having the time of my life, I hadn't been spending much time writing. I had to ask if I'd found another brilliant way to procrastinate the finishing of my sequel. What could all this gathering, sorting, and purging really do for my writing if I wasn't writing?
But something was happening. How many times can you ask yourself if something in your life sparks joy without it seeping into your psyche, taking up residence? At what point do you wonder if what you are about to make for dinner sparks joy, if your workout at the gym (the same one you've been doing for ten weeks straight) sparks joy? I'm telling you--it gets to you.
In a joy-sparking good way.
So one day doing the dishes, I asked myself why I hadn't been writing? Why wasn't I making the time for it in the same way I was making time for clutter-clearing and package-wrapping. And the question I'd been afraid of asking just bubbled right up: did my story spark joy?
I wasn't afraid of the question as much as I was of the answer. If it didn't spark joy, I didn't want to have to throw it away. But here is what I realized. A story has parts. And I discovered the story did spark joy, but some parts of it, not so much. The good news, I could change those parts.
Pretty soon the dishwasher was loaded and I had found the indispensable "magic" every author needs to keep writing a story--enthusiasm. By asking that simple question of myself, I came upon the very feeling that got me started down the writing path in the first place, the excitement over an idea and saying within myself "I want to tell this story."
I'm still in the tidying process. The paper category. Yes, I have a lot of paper (I'm a writer, think journals, writing notebooks, and lists galore.) And yes, I am asking if this paper, or that scrap, sparks joy. And no, it isn't easy at all. But it's working. And with every item I decide to keep, my creative energy grows. Trust me, the joy is worth it.