You know, when I read articles about Feng Shui and other high-minded schools of thought that tell me I would be so much more productive and spiritually unencumbered if I’d clean off my desk, I want to agree. Really I do. My house, in general, is picked up but my kitchen counter and the desk in my office are a perpetual mess! I tell myself that “when I finish this book, I’ll clean up my desk”— and I do. Sort of.


But then I begin another book, and by the time I’ve been cranking out pages for a few hours the clutter has already crept back.


I really don’t understand this. I’m neatly dressed (in public, anyway), color-coordinated, and I’m generally considered well organized to the point that I’ve never missed a book deadline and I’ve never, ever had an overdue library book. But when it comes to my work space, where I spend the largest portion of my days, I can’t seem to remain neat and tidy. And my kitchen counter? A disaster area. Everything lands there and gets shuffled around for weeks, until we have company and I clear it off to avoid acute embarrassment.


Needless to say, I really love the Einstein quote, above, and the idea that a messy desk is a sign of genius. When I look at photos of desks that belonged to Mark Twain, Steve Jobs, and other guys who have rocked the world, I’m proud to have something in common with them! My husband just shakes his head. He’s an auditor. His desk is pristine. Just sayin’.


As I look at this photo of my desk, which I just snapped, I think I deserve an award for being a very colorful creative genius, don’t you? Color sparks my imagination. It also keeps me awake. So, left to right, what are you looking at that I can’t seem to work without?


My Mac and keyboard, of course—and sticky notes reminding me of deadlines for renewing my website domains, sending blog posts, etc. Peppermint Chapstick and a tube of hand lotion, because writing can dehydrate you—and beside my printer there’s my glass of iced tea, too. The yellow sheet with the green and orange cross-outs? My weekly schedule of page quotas for the book I just finished—and on the other side of the printer tray is my list of book deadlines running from now through January of 2017. How would I possibly remember all that stuff if I didn’t have it taped to my desk as a constant reminder of when my work is due?


There’s also a hen-scratched list of potential titles for the books in my upcoming new Simple Gifts series, because I’ll be noodling with those until I decide which ones are exactly right. Under that is a newsletter from a writer friend. The yellow steno pad is where I scribbled the quotes I might use for this blog post. The calculator just helped me do a long line of subtractions from my checkbook—which balances to the penny, thank you. Beneath that is a page of research notes about the eye-popping Amish emergency fund each church district keeps in a secret place (not a regular bank)…fodder for the villain of that Simple Gifts series.


Those folders and spiral notebooks hold the notes for two of my ongoing Amish series—character name lists, synopses, story calendars, town maps, and other info I check pretty frequently. At the bottom of that heap lies the draft copy of the book I just finished for my new Harlequin Love Inspired series, printed on pink draft paper. It’s time to put that away because I’ll be starting a new draft soon—except if my editor wants to call and ask some questions about certain pages/chapters, I prefer to leaf through the paper copy instead of scrolling through the doc on my computer.


The mouse pad you see is a Mary Engelbreit design of a girl holding a clipboard, declaring “I’m In Charge Here.” That would be me to a T—and it’s colorful, too. I have Mary Engelbreit prints on all of my office walls and, hmmm…Mary’s designs are very detailed and multi-layered to the point of looking almost cluttered. Mary and I surely must be kindred spirits.


I see the connection now between my messy desk and my disaster-area kitchen countertop, too: I love to cook and concoct new recipes, so the kitchen is my secondary area of creative endeavor. (Or, OK, maybe I’m just too interested in doing other things and don’t get around to cleaning it . . . because the recipes and cookbooks are on the opposite side of the room, neatly lining the wall. Go figure.)


So now you’ve seen my desk, the place where I’ve created more than 11 complete books plus the proposals for 5 more, just since I moved to Minnesota three years ago. That’s a lot of pages I’ve written and dozens of characters I’ve created! Entire worlds might crumble if I put away my notebooks or threw out those odd slips of paper I’ve scribbled ideas on.


Just to be on the safe side, I think I won’t be cleaning up my desk any time soon. Why mess with success . . . even if it’s a mess?

Posted by Charlotte Hubbard

Filed as: Miscellaneous, books, creativity, the writer's life, writing tips