Vacating the “Cluttered Desk”


“I see my mind as a cluttered desk.” —Me, not too long ago.

In case you didn’t know, I just came back from a week-long Alaska cruise. My wife Shelly and I visited Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria, British Columbia, and then back to Seattle. It was something that I had to talk my wife into, especially since we don’t normally spend that kind of money on vacations. But she had wanted to go on a cruise for as long as I knew her, and after 41 years of marriage to me, she deserved it. I deserved it.

Space was at a premium on this trip, and since both of us were trying to rid ourselves of obligations, I left my laptop behind. But I did take a yellow pad and pens with me, something that I used exactly one time on the trip. The second day of the cruise, I was still trying to sort things out, and I sat down and wrote down illuminated statements like, “What’s the purpose of vacation anyway?”

You see, I’ve been struggling. If you’ve been reading my blogs lately, you might have sensed it. I had a particularly stressful school year, and I looked forward to the summer starting so that I could relieve myself of that stress. But I couldn’t seem to free up my brain. Hence the statement at the top of this entry. “A cluttered desk” is probably the best way to describe how I felt about my inability to get creative. I had ideas–lots of ideas–for books that I wanted to work on, but I couldn’t seem to get past the first page. Part of it was that my obligations continued after school ended; I agreed to edit a book that promptly got more complicated with each passing day.

I’ve often chided Shelly for being a workaholic, but it was me who was the first one to check emails when we got into port and Internet and phone service were reestablished. And so it was her turn to chide me. I soon realized she was right and shut down my phones for the rest of the trip.

I learned that obligations are often self inflicted, at least they are for me. Sure there are things that you can’t get away from. But there are a lot of things you can. If you don’t have enough time in the day to write, play, exercise or do whatever your muse calls for you to do, take a hard look at the other ways you’re spending that day. Chances are, you can do without some of the things on your list.

A trip to Alaska helped me sort things out. I’m not all better, but I’m getting there. Hopefully, the creative stuff will follow soon.

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