The Marie Kondo Method for Writers

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Kate Luongo Community Engagement Coordinator

Ever since watching the new Netflix show, “Tidying up with Marie Kondo,” I have become somewhat obsessed with seeking order. Perhaps only because of her meditative tongue, I have found peace within the realm of tidiness. Kondo’s method consists of six steps:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first.
  4. Tidy by category — not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

Even though I have not yet mastered the art of folding and organizing my dorm room, I am finding myself applying Kondo’s theory to other aspects of my life.

As a writer, my life is often overspilling with an abundance of words. Words that make me think, create, and occasionally even seek satisfaction. My words. Their words. Your words. Journals. Texts from friends. The latest Sarah Dessen novel. Sometimes, my mind starts to feel like a hoarder’s closet. Yes, I suppose I am a word hoarder.

However, inspired by Marie Kondo, and her six step solution, I have decided to approach my love of words with a new strategy. I call it, the Marie Kondo Method for Writers.

“Yes, I suppose I am a word hoarder.” 

1). Commit yourself to writing

Find a time and place that works best for you you to write. That means, while you are writing you are only writing. No social media or Netflix binging (even of Marie Kondo, herself). Pause the growing grocery list. Stop thinking about what you are going to eat for dinner. You are here at your desk, library, favorite coffee shop or tree, for one purpose: to write. And you are going to do it. Take a moment to bless this opportunity.

2). Imagine your ideal finished project

Perhaps, it is a paperback romance novel or poetry compilation  you are envisioning atop that shelf of books, a memoir published in a literary magazine, or a letter to someone important. Whatever it is, close your eyes and picture that you are holding this accomplishment with both hands. Feel the spine, smell the ink. But do be careful to not get a paper cut.  

3). Edit old drafts first

Before you begin this new project, think about your previous unfinished drafts:  A subject that gave you an intense case of writer’s block or a plot you determined was going nowhere. Look at these words. Thank them for what they taught you such as the important lesson that not everyone can write the next Stephen King thriller. And move forward.

4). Write by Genre not by Vocation

To apply this rule of categorizing we must think about all of the different forms of writing we do. As people, we are writing emails, text messages, and making lists; as students, we are writing research papers, and literary analysis essays; and as artists we are writing prose and poems. It is important to separate the mundane tasks of pencil with the creative ones, and not to generalize the activity of writing as a whole. Focus on one subject at a time, in order to achieve that beautiful flow of thoughts.  

5). Write with order

This is hardly to say that one must complete the introduction before the end. After all, we as writers are not chronological people, so there’s no saying that our words must be put down in such fashion. However, despite the haphazard nature of our minds, let the pen be your guide. Create a story map or bullet journal to help recognize where your words are going. With this in mind, you will write with greater purpose.

“Despite the haphazard nature of our minds, let the pen be your guide.” 

6). Ask yourself if it sparks potential

It is ok to spend hours, days, even weeks on certain words which never reach completion. We all do it. One moment, we feel truly brilliant, blinded by the tantalizing potential of that new poem. But if it is no longer inspiring you to write, it might be time to retire these specific words, and find new ones. Picture Marie Kondo herself, asking you in that soothing voice “Do these words spark potential?”

It must be wonderful to live a tidy lifestyle (I wouldn’t know – yet, at least). However, writers of the world, let us repurpose Kondo’s masterful serenity in our own craft. With clear space, our creative thoughts will thrive.

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