How to Marie Kondo Your Writing

Filed in Ask the Editor by on May 23, 2019 0 Comments

Maybe you read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing or you watched her series on Netflix. Either way, you’ve likely heard of the esteemed, Marie Kondo. She’s pretty popular these days for her ability to help families de-clutter and organize their homes. Her intention is to help families keep only the items that spark joy.

While watching the series on Netflix, I wondered if Kondo’s methods for tidying living spaces also applies to writing. Episode after episode, I studied the underlying structures that facilitate change and the emotional responses of the participants. By doing so, I came up with these seven steps that apply to our writing journeys:

Commit to the process.

One of the first things Kondo asks families to do when she arrives is that they commit to the process and see it through. This same step applies when writing. Make and follow through on your commitment to finish your first draft.

Thank yourself.

Kondo believes in thanking each home before getting started on the purging process. She believes it is important to acknowledge and reflect on all the ways the home has served each family. As writers, we tend to beat ourselves up before we lift ourselves up. It’s so important to acknowledge that you created something beautiful out of nothing—you wrote a book! Take the time to thank yourself for achieving such an accomplishment.

Visualize the end result.

Families are asked to envision what their lives will be like after they have decluttered their homes with Kondo’s help. So, take some time to look forward as well. What does the end result for your work look like? What do you want your life as a writer to feel like?

Pull it all out.

Kondo makes my skin crawl every time she has families turn their homes completely upside down on day one. They work through the entire house emptying every drawer and closet in the house and out into the garage. For the writer version of this, you’ll print out your entire manuscript and collect it all in one place.

Determine what sparks joy.

Kondo has each family member hold every item they own and ask themselves if it sparks joy for them or not. If it does spark joy, the owner keeps the item. If it doesn’t spark joy, the owner donates the item. The same can be said for writing. With your printed manuscript, take a pen and circle particular words or sentences you love. Draw an “X” over words and phrases you don’t like. You don’t have to mark every single word with a circle or an “X” but marking those that at least make a big impression on you will go a long way in showing you what sparks joy in your writing and what does not.

Keep and discard.

This is also known as the rewrite and revision stage of your writing process. Now that you know what you do and don’t like in your manuscript, work through those sections to remove what you don’t like and keep what you do like.

Reorganize.

Decluttering isn’t enough, reorganizing and finding better ways to tell our stories is an extremely important part of the writing process. Take the time to sit with your manuscript and study the plot points, characters, story arc and more. Can you reorganize anything to make the story better?

Put it all back together.

After you’ve gone through your extensive rewrite process, start putting your manuscript back together with further revisions. Take your time on this step and appreciate just how much has changed in your story from the onset of your writing to the revision process.

Are you ruthless in your rewriting and revision process or do you need a little inspiration from Marie Kondo? We love hearing how writers approach these stages of writing, so share your experiences below! 

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About the Author ()

Erika Bennett has been a freelance editor for nearly half a decade. Before joining the Xulon team in 2010, she worked with several first time authors who wanted to test the waters of self-publishing. Her aim is to make sure great books find their way into readers' hands.

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