The benefits (?!) of messy desks

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an article on messy desks written by David Burkus…

I’ve long advocated that writers clear their desks before writing. I hold this feeling so strongly that even looking at the photo, above, gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Is this simply procrastination, taken to world-class levels? (i.e.: I’m so busy cleaning my desk, I’m unable to write?) For me, no. I’m perfectly happy sweeping everything on top of my desk into a box (look — it takes mere seconds!) to calm myself. I just like everything to look neat and tidy before I start writing.

But a recent article in Forbes, by David Burkus, is making me re-think my position. Reporting on an experiment published in the Journal Psychological Science, Burkus says:

 If you need a creative insight or breakthrough idea, that same tidy office could be stifling your creative thinking.

Researchers discovered that people working in disorderly environments seemed better able to break free of tradition, gain fresh insights and produce more creative thinking. (Orderly environments, on the other hand, encouraged conventional thought and playing it safe.)

Interestingly, however, (or am I grasping at straws here?) he made the point that even while clean desks might appear to stifle creativity, there are times when they offer benefits. As Berkus puts it: “Who knows how much more Einstein could have accomplished had he known when to empty his desk and when to leave it cluttered?” 

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