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    What Cleaning a Closet Taught Me About Writing

    I cleaned out a closet today. Hardly earth-shattering news, but boy, it needed it. I put away clothes that I won't need to wear again until next October or November (I hope). Bundled up some articles for charity that I've outgrown in more ways than one, and saved others with the hope that maybe, just maybe, I'll fit into them again someday. Found a few items I'd forgotten I even owned.

    Then I sorted through things I'd simply thrown onto the closet floor over the last year, out of sight, out of mind, and discovered that most of them could simply be thrown away completely.

    Finally, I rehung the remaining garments according to category--business suits, dresses, "play" clothes--and organized my shoes. Stood back and admired the fruits of my labor. Took a moment to enjoy that fleeting, but pleasurable, sense of accomplishment that we so seldom get to experience in our busy lives.

    It made me wonder why it is that we tend to put off the very things that would make us feel good about ourselves. It took me maybe an hour to straighten out a closet mess that was months in the making, with a result that will bring me satisfaction every time I open the door for months to come. Why had I put it off for so long?

    The fact is, I don't really know. Despite all I've read about procrastination, and all I've written about overcoming it, I find myself facing it again and again, a foe that I can never quite defeat, at least not for long.

    And maybe that's the point. The thing about procrastination, the challenge of it, is that it can never be conquered completely. Perhaps, like housework, we are meant to confront it on a regular basis, tackle it, and get past it. At first, this might seem like a daunting, discouraging reality. The upside is, we get to experience that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when we overcome it, not just once, but over and over again.

    The same holds true every time we finish the first draft of an article, story, chapter, or whatever. Whenever we jump the hurdle of the blank screen or page and let our thoughts, feelings, observations and discoveries take shape in the form of written words, it's like diving into that messy closet. Sometimes, we find gems and hidden truths that we never even knew we possessed. Other times, we may need to file a piece of writing away until the season for it is right, or in the hope that maybe, just maybe, we'll be better able to finish it another day. Some writing we may choose to give away freely, to Web sites, ezines and print publications thirsting for content; still other writing attempts may justifiably wind up in the wastepaper basket, beyond salvaging.

    Eventually, though, with your persistence, some order will emerge from the chaos, and you will have something to show for your efforts. When that happens, resist the temptation to move on to your next project until you have taken some time to celebrate the completion of *this* one. Stand back, and revel in the wonderful sensations that accompany having completed a piece of work. The memory of how marvelous it feels to finish a piece of work may turn out to be just the motivation you need to tackle your next "closet."

    Copyright © 2001-2002 Mary Anne Hahn

    Mary Anne Hahn is editor and publisher of "WriteSuccess," the free biweekly ezine of ideas, information and inspiration for writers. To subscribe, writesuccess-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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