How to Get Organized Without Dowsing Your Creative Fire

by | Apr 9, 2009

Creative Fire
If you have never struggled with getting organized, de-cluttering, setting priorities, and staying focused, you can skip this article.
But if the very idea of getting organized makes you queasy, if you agonize over the trade off between creativity and order, read on.
Fear of Dowsing the Creative Fire

The most common objection I hear about getting organized, planning, and de-cluttering is that it limits creativity.
Some of us can even prove (we think) that getting rid of clutter and making detailed plans causes a creative stall. We’ve cleaned our offices or studios and massaged our calendars only to freeze when we face the empty work table or blank screen.
Soon, Life starts throwing things at us and we can go back to reacting. We conclude that chaos fuels our creative fires, and we’re right.
But there’s a huge difference between the fire in a fire pit and a wildfire. Understanding that difference is the key to being both really organized and really creative.

The Nature of Fire

It is the nature of fire to consume all available fuel. Left to its own devices, a fire will burn until the fuel is gone.
The same is true of our creative fires. They consume all available fuel (stimulation, inspiration, raw materials, new ideas) until the fuel is removed or depleted.
When either kind of fire burns out of control, its power to transform and enlighten turns destructive.
It’s All About the Fuel
Most wildfires start from burn piles. The fire is fueled by debris (chosen fuel) until a spark flies into a dry shrub (random fuel). In moments, the burn pile turns into a wildfire.
Your creative fire burns the same way. The fuel in this case can be books, trinkets, email, phone calls, sticky notes, even dust bunnies.
To begin working on a project (light the fire), you have to choose fuel. And unless you have a way to sort and store fuel sources, that can be the beginning and end of creating.
Clutter is like the dry shrub near a burn pile. It’s fuel just waiting to be consumed by your creative fire.
And when that happens, you are at the mercy of a fire that no longer serves your intention.
Organization Is Managing Fuel
To create with intention, we need to manage the amount and kind of fuel that goes into the fire. That means systematically organizing and storing fuel sources so that they are both readily available and removed from the center of the fire.
Look around your work space. Imagine that everything you see is a source of fuel.
Is this a safe place to build a fire?
The Critical Importance of the Fire Pit
It’s not enough to organize and store fuel sources. To harness the energy of the fire, you need to contain it.
That’s the function of a fire pit.
A fire pit provides enough space (but not too much) for the fire to reach the intended size. That means not only accommodating fuel, but also oxygen.
A fire pit also provides a barrier sufficient to keep sparks in and stray fuel sources out. The barrier also stores heat, making the energy of the fire available long after it has burned down.
Look at your work space. How efective is this fire pit? Is it big enough to accommodate what you are creating? Is there a way for the energy (inspiration, momentum) of your creative process to be stored so it is available when you need it?

Only You Can Prevent Wildfires

Your creative fire is a precious resource. Your ability to create the results you want in your life and work depend on how skillfully you tend the fire.
But there’s a huge difference between the fire in a fire pit and a wildfire. Use the difference to create order and you’ll never have to sacrifice creativity for organization or vice versa.