Monday, January 27, 2014

In Favor Of Disorder

By Carla Foote

Like everyone else, I cleaned my office on the first weekend in January, sorting, filing, recycling, shredding and generally creating a clean environment for my work. I am a fan of clean spaces and organization.
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It only took until Monday afternoon of my first day in my clean office to feel like I was grasping for ideas and creative energy. My productive morning of editing and scheduling content morphed into an afternoon devoid of ideas. A problem that order couldn't solve.

So I took a break from work to exercise and do a couple of errands, and all of a sudden I had more creative energy. While I was walking my brain was hopping around to various ideas related to my recent reading. When I got into the car for my errands, the random ideas coalesced into better ideas. I jotted notes on a gas receipt so I wouldn't lose the thoughts. My afternoon provided energy that the clean office couldn't.

As my brain was mulling over the relationship between organization and creativity, or the divergence between those two concepts, I wondered about true geniuses. People like Einstein. A picture of him popped into my head. On the outside, he looked pretty disorganized - the hair definitely gave that impression. I googled a picture of his desk - definitely disorder there.

Perhaps our quest for organization is actually squelching our creativity. The more I thought about this, the more I realized it might be true.

Breakthroughs and great ideas come from divergent thinking. Otherwise, checklists and project management would have solved all the world's problems already. A bit of irony here, because I teach workshops in project management, and I do believe in systematic processes and a smooth schedule. But within the overall plan, we need space for creativity to flourish, or our outcomes will be boring and repetitive. Even the nature of God speaks to both system and open-ended, as we see the order of God's creation and the unpredictable work of the Spirit.

I wrote this blog post early in January, but I held it to the end of the month, because those of you who love organization might not have believed my plea for a bit of disorder, especially right after you spent all that time getting everything in order. Now
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I feel ready to share, because you have tried order for a month, and maybe you are craving some creativity.

Maybe February will be a better month for creative energy, because our desks are
now a little less organized, there are sticky notes with ideas stuck to our monitors, and there is a chocolate holiday smack-dab in the middle of the month. Something definitely lacking in January.  

Carla Foote recently gave up the structure of an editorial job with a ministry for freelance work. She is the blog manager for FullFill and also works with a variety of clients at She is always seeking the best way to meld creativity and order. She alternates time at her desk with time outdoors.

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