Making a Mess is Acceptable and Encouraged

I was talking with a colleague the other day about systems. We narrowed down our thinking about repetitive processes and how they best serve us in our creative lives. My take on this came down to a concept that surprised me.

I have systems so I can be messy.

People who know me even only in passing know I am hyper-organized. A system specialist. A process pundit. A checklist counselor. A spreadsheet sage. (Ok, enough of that.)

I am organized in all things, except when I’m being creative.

I hear that head-scratching and those confused sighs, my friends. You’re saying, “What???” Allow me to explain. I have systems to take my mind off the mundane when I want to be messy. Is that easier?

2014 – Before

I love to cook. I love to ponder an array of recipes, learning what makes an interesting pot roast or vegetable casserole. I rarely follow them. The recipes (a system) are in place to give me ideas on how I want to make – yes – a mess of my own.

Gardening is another of my passions. The blank palette that was our property when we bought it three and a half years ago now blooms with trees, bushes, flowers, vegetables and fruit. The bones were there. I read plant guides (another system) for what was appropriate for our conditions. I had a rough idea in my head of the kind of look I wanted to achieve. Then I got messy, bought what caught my eye, and found a good place for it in our jungle.

2017 – Magic!

I believe that’s why we need systems and processes, to free us to be creative. My rule of thumb is: If I will do something more than once, to repeat a process, I create a system to simplify it the next time. I don’t want to waste precious creative time

figuring out the ‘how’.

I want to DO.

That would probably explain why, even though I plan so many other things, I am a panster in my fiction writing. I don’t want to plot the story. Not only do I find it inhibits my ability to TELL the story, it takes the JOY out of it for me.

I have a spreadsheet (complete with supplies necessary and budgets) for home renovation projects. The checklist for formatting a new book links to a checklist for uploading it to the myriad distribution channels. Holiday meal and gift planning is laid out, with week by week steps and deadlines.

But for fiction writing, I sit down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and see where the characters want to take me today. It’s messy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!


What things do you plan and when do you wing it? Is there a pattern to the systems you build to make your creative life more fun? I’d love to hear from you!

THANK YOU to everyone who has already participated in the READER SURVEY. If you haven’t shared two minutes of your precious time with me, please do! I’d love to hear your answers to my quick questions about why you read fiction and how you find your next great read. CLICK HERE.

About The Author

Yvonne Kohano

Award winner and storycatcher Yvonne Kohano writes contemporary romantic suspense in her Flynn's Crossing series. She is also working on a psychological thriller trilogy, and producing nonfiction books with tips for creative types. In addition to running an indie press, Yvonne loves to cook (dedicated foodie), garden (plantaholic), travel (anywhere), and read and learn (anything). She, her husband and their dogs love their home in the Pacific Northwest. Follow her at and on Facebook and Twitter to learn what tickles her about being a writer.

Comments are closed.