When you walk into my house, it’s neat. And clean. And tidy. Almost like a builder’s model home, minus the fake food props. Everything’s in its place. Don’t worry. I absolutely don’t judge others whose homes are not like mine. There’s something warm about a lived-in home, and I often wish I could live like that. Nevertheless, I function best in an organized space.
My drawers follow suit. They’re organized. Items tucked in respective trays. Garage shelves, same. Closet, same. Order ensues. Linen closet? Meh. But that’s a different beast altogether. You need to properly fold a fitted sheet to have a tidy closet. Still, the shelves are sorted by linen type. You get the picture. I thrive on order. But when it comes to writing, well, that’s a totally different story.
My writing is messy. Plain and simple. I had no idea it was messy until one day when I was transcribing, I realized 1. I couldn’t read my writing and 2. I couldn’t follow the page’s arrows, cross-outs, and scribbles. While writing, I’m focused on what words I write down rather than what the page looks like. I was horrified when I realized just how messy my writing was. How could I be so disorganized? This isn’t what I do. This isn’t how I function. This isn’t me.
A few days later, while talking with my writing cohorts, I blurted my deep dark secret: I’m a messy writer. A weight was lifted off my shoulders, admitting my guilt. And while confessing what felt like a failure, I realized why I can write messily: No one else sees it. Unless I want them to. I get to share who, if anyone, sees my hot mess. Sure, the same could be said for my drawers and closets, but realistically, other family members see them daily and company at times. As for my writing, I can keep my notebooks closed. Private. Sealed off from the rest of the world.
It was hard to accept I’m a messy writer since it’s in direct contrast to other facets of my life. Still, there’s something liberating about it. I love that I can write without judgment. Without worrying about how it looks. Without worrying it’s chaotic. Furthermore, I know it’ll get cleaned up during revision. Organized. Neat and tidy. Just like I like things to be.
My advice to others writers is this: focus on getting the words down. Avoid getting hung up on how the first draft looks. For that’s what it is––a first attempt to get the story down. It’s not the final product. There will be plenty of time to polish it later. That’s what revision is for. And because I’ve come to terms with my messy process, I’m sharing some example pages. Enjoy the chaos!