Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Something old, something new... by Cathy Ace

Life: You’ve just read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” and you’re getting ready to clean up your writing space/office. What things “spark joy” and what would you get rid of? Do you keep old drafts of stories/novels, e-versions, paper? Copies of your books, others’ books? Knickknacks? Etc.

OK, I’ll be open here – I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book, nor shall I ever. Tidying up is anathema to me. The photo of my office below was taken when it was tidy (ie: when I’d just finished decorating it!) and I dare not show you what it looks like now. I use the “stratification” method of filing – and I really do know where, in the layers that confront me every day, I have put just what I need. And can always find it…given long enough! So – I am not a “less is more” person. At. All. 

Neat and tidy. The lamp's name is "Constance" - she's a 1970s plaster version of a 1930s gal!
If I were to set about tidying up my office, I know I would end up getting rid of very little – I’d be more likely to move piles around the house, tucking them into corners where they can wait until I need them again. I keep every printed draft of every book, in a labelled bag for each book, in a huge cupboard. I also pop in all the reference materials I collected for that book, as well as odd notes I made etc. They will remain where they are until…well, I’m not sure when, but certainly for years. I still have the first draft copy of the first book I ever wrote – a textbook about marketing communications planning I wrote back in 1994, as well as floppy disks (yes, I KNOW!!) containing all the files for every training course I ever wrote (and there were a LOT of those) and every training manual I ever wrote (ditto) when I ran my training company through the 1980s and 1990s. I even have hard copies of the brochures I wrote when I worked at an advertising and PR agency in the 1980s. It all gives me joy when I come upon it – because that was such a big part of my life at the time.

As for the d├ęcor in my office? The walls are covered with prints, some of which have been hanging on my various walls since the 1970s, and have followed me from Swansea, to Cardiff, to London, to Canada. 

The shelves? Well, I have a collection of mementos I bought myself as each of my novels was published. 

July 2011 (in my tidy office!), with the contract for my 1st book, and my 1st "book memento"...a cast iron snail. You'll have to read The Corpse with the Silver Tongue to find out why that's a good memento for the book!

They all stay…as will the statue of Hotei, the god of happiness, which was a gift I requested for my seventeenth birthday, and was given by my parents. He's joined by a piece of granite from the quarry where they created the obelisk for Queen Hatshepsut that's in the temple complex at Karnak, Luxor...I picked it up and brought it home with me on one of my many trips to Egypt.
Buddhist god, and Egyptian granite
He’ll always be with me, as will the mask of a young Dionysus…given to me by friends when I left Nice after a three-month sojourn in 1994…I don’t know why they thought this would be something close to my heart. LOL!

My little Dionysus, with some of my paternal grandmother's china

The paintings my late-father did of our home, and special places in Wales will also not be moved.

All painted by Dad, of places that mean a great deal to me...the Brecon Beacons (just where we used to camp in tiny little pup-tents), the alley at our house in Swansea and Three Cliffs Bay in Gower, Wales

Nor will the china my paternal grandmother had on her shelves back in the 1930s and 1940s – including the Clarice Cliff coffee service she gave to Mum and Dad (previously loved!) for their wedding in the 1950s, and the Clarice Cliff jug my other grandmother had on her sideboard for decades. 
Both of my late grandmothers had a thing for Clarice Cliff china - thank goodness! Must be where I get it from!
As you can see, I’m certainly not going to end up with a sterile space. I like to be surrounded by mementos from my life, and all the living I have done. They spur me on to dream for the future – because there’s a lot more living yet to come, and new challenges around every corner. 

The paperwork can be stored out of site, to clear my two desks, I suppose, but the rest? Let me look at it, and keep being inspired by it. Thank you. 

If you'd like to find out a bit more about me, and my work, you can do so by clicking here.  



Paul D. Marks said...

Cathy, did you come up with the term "stratification method"? Either way, I love it. That's my method, too. Everything's a mess of piles...but I know where everything is within the strata.

Cathy Ace said...

LOL, Paul - I'm not certain I invented the term (though I'm pretty sure I didn't invent the technique!)but it describes my method to a tee! Happy to know I'm not the only one :-)

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I'm with you, Cathy; I can always find it … given long enough.

James W. Ziskin said...

I, too, can always find it. But it’s always in the last place I look. ;-)

Cathy Ace said...

Oh my, it sounds as though we're all a bit similar in this respect...digging through piles of stuff to find the nugget we need...a bit like the editing process, right? LOL!

Frank Zafiro said...

Love the items in your space that have such memory significance... powerful.

Cathy Ace said...

I don't like to dwell in the past, but do think it can be a useful touchstone for today, and tomorrow, Frank. :-)

Susan C Shea said...

No one's mentioned dusting all their great knickknacks. Is it because we have simply given up, or are some of you lucky enough to have a patient person who does that for you? My picture frames, Bali carvings, small mobiles, etc are looking rather neglected right now and Marie might wrongly think that's because they don't give me joy!

Cathy Ace said...

Oh Susan, how dare you use a word like "d***ing" on this blog??? LOL!!! My dust collection is a highly prized part of my stratification process, and of my knickknacks ;-)

Frank Zafiro said...

I don't dust. I occasionally must excavate, however.