Once upon a time B.C. (before computers), people handled lots of paper. Time management gurus taught “Only Handle It Once”. If you picked up a paper, article, magazine, etc., your were supposed to do something with it, then either file it or toss it. You were not, repeat not, supposed to put it in a pile to deal with later.
As a writer, this can be an especially valuable lesson. Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you’re likely saving stacks of magazines and clipped-out articles, even electronic pieces on your computer. You also may have a pile of books (purchased, or borrowed from the library or friends).
This visual (or even unseen electronic) clutter can sometimes create mental clutter. Just as (hopefully) you wouldn’t leave piles of clothes around, or dirty dishes, just so with piles of paper (or files on your computer that you’ll never get to). Don’t just shuffle the paper around, promising that you’ll get around to it (or is it a round tuit?) someday.
If the reading material is short, read it and do something with it right away—save it or chuck it. If the reading will take longer, deal with it during your “research time”. You have budgeted time for research, haven’t you? Then, systematically (by length, priority, or the like) go through the paper (or electronic) clutter. Again, decide whether it’s treasure or trash, and deal with it.
By going through this material, and not letting it pile up, you may get some fresh writing ideas, and you’ll avoid getting into mental clutter. And think about how good you’ll feel being on top of things!
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