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Back in elementary school, we had periodic desk inspections. Whenever the teacher would lift the wooden lid of my desk, the contents of the book bin looked shipshape—on the surface. That’s because I’d perfectly arranged my textbooks, pencil box, and other supplies to cover the riot of papers beneath them.

Of course, the teacher would always dig below that neat top layer. Discovering the truth, she’d shoot me a disappointed look, perhaps even record a demerit. Her dismay would motivate me toward neatness for a week or so afterwards, but not much longer. Messiness, it seemed, was my natural state.

Now I know why. Scientific studies have shown that people with messier desks can often be more productive, more creative, and more inspired than people with organized or (egads!) completely cleared desks. (Don’t believe me? Check this out.)

Please don’t get me wrong. If you’re a neatnik, I don’t think I’m any more a genius than you are. (Everybody’s a genius, in their own way. Life demands it.) But I do feel better, now that I have a scientific excuse for my less than tidy workspaces. Not to mention my chaotic headspace, which is a constant whirlwind of happy debris.

I love what I do. But too much of what you love is rarely, if ever, a good thing.

If only a siren would go off in my brain whenever I approached “too much.” Usually I don’t recognize I’ve reached that point until I’m well past it. Exhausted. Unable to keep up. Unable to switch it off.

That’s where I am right now.

So, I’ve just pushed the button on clean-up mode. I’m in the process of measuring every project and every aspect of my creative life against my purpose—“writing across the divides.” Anything inconsistent with that must go, even if I have fun doing it, or am pretty good at it. Just because you can do something, and maybe even enjoy doing it, doesn’t mean you should.

I’m tossing my surplus seeds into the Muse’s breeze, trusting it to carry them to soil that’s better suited to grow them. Maybe they’ll even land in you, without your knowing.


Image credit judepics on Wunderstock (license)

Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.