Why I’ve tided up my office
I’ve taken a week off from my day-job and used quite a bit of it to give my study a thorough sort-out. I’m probably going to be moving into a shared office at work shortly. There’ll be less space for books so I’m making space here so that I can bring back all of my books form the office.
I find quite often that anyway if I’m in the office the books I want are at home and if I’m at home the books I want are in the office. So this is a good strategy anyway. Besides, we’re going to have more contact hours with students so that the office becomes a space that we use for small snatches of time between lectures. We’ll all be located quite closely together so some of that spare time will be used for meetings, both formal and informal. There’ll only be time and brain space for quick bursts of admin work. The studious desk-work will be completed in my study at home.
Why this was such a big job this time
When we moved her just under five years ago we left a house we’d lived in for twenty-six years. Everything got a thorough sort-out and the new house started nice and neat and tidy. Not so my study, however. I was living in two locations with a 239 mile commute twice a week. I was using everything and also having to move from two homes into one. Everything found shelf-space. It never felt very satisfying though, apart from the desk and workstation itself.
What I’ve done
I’ve cleared eight bookshelves. I’ve room for one more bookcase should I need it. I’ve filled one green bin with paper for recycling and have as much again to go in once the paper bin is emptied next week. I’ve archived some records I really need to keep. I’ve found one more shelf for one of the bookcases.
The same amount of paper is unlikely to accumulate again – most things come electronically these days – bank accounts, utility bills, publishing contracts and even rejections slips.
What I’ve let go of
I’ve kept all of my publishing contracts but I’ve ditched the rejection slips. I even found some for a book that was rejected twenty-five times and has since been published, gone out of print, edited and republished as an e-book. There were some “good” rejections but in many cases I’ve moved beyond those.
I’ve also let go of some good feed-back from the various competitions, especially those of the Winchester Annual Writers’ Conference. I frequently came second or highly commended – in fact that happened in every competition I entered – but I never came first. The feedback was really useful at the time but I would give myself harsher criticism now. I’ve moved on as a writer.
I’d kept some hard-copies of good reviews. I’d rather have good reviews or links to them on my website these days. I’ve kept a couple to transfer and then even that paper will be dumped.
I kept some old handwritten beginnings of stories and articles. I was such an amateur back then. Even where the idea is basically good and I might want to develop it at some time I’m better off starting from scratch. Besides, I can’t read my writing anyway.
I found some notes from workshops I’d given. Well, I’ve still got electronic copies of all of those and anyway I tend to adjust slightly for each class. I move on as a teacher, too. Plus the paper has actually become old.
So, I’ve moved on to a study that’s a good deal pleasanter and will be easier to control if I now do a “spring-clean” once a year.
I’ve certainly moved on enough as a writer that I can feel safe discarding evidence of earlier work though one or two touches remain to remind me of who I am.
I’m also moving on to becoming an academic who does much of her research away from the physical form of the university. That seems absolutely right and anyway is good preparation for retirement - something that will happen within the next three years.
Am I getting there? I think so. I had two pieces of news this week that seemed to confirm that. The early work mentioned above seems very naïve now though was taken seriously at the time.
I’m keeping the focus simple form now on. I want to write something like David Almond’s Skellig or Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. These are books that say a lot and that I could read more than once though I have a couple of shelves of books waiting to be read.
Money isn’t the issue though it would be good to have enough money so that one doesn’t have to worry about it any more.
Yes, getting there but still some way to go.
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