war on the rocks

Entry 64: Decluttering

March 13, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the 64th installment in Van Jackson’s daily writing journal, “Nuke Your Darlings,” which tracks his six-month battle to write a new book on North Korea. Will he meet his deadline?

I spent a bunch of time cleaning and re-organizing my office today, which I literally never do. I don’t like things to be too organized because when I file journal articles and books away, I feel like the ideas I associate with them get a bit lost.

So my office is covered with post-it notes with scribble on them, half-read journal articles with scribble on them, and books splayed open on a random page with scribble on them. Putting any of that stuff away is like giving up on it. Maybe I’m exaggerating but that’s my fear.

But the mess is getting out of control. Also, since I moved in last year I’ve done nothing to the office. The desk is too big for the space, and I have boxes of papers and tchotchkes belonging to the guy that occupied the office before me. I need a redo, so I’m tearing out everything but the bookshelves and computer and starting over. Hopefully a Scandinavian feel. I’m not a decorator so we’ll see how this goes.

Despite trying to declutter and reorganize my space, I was able to write for about three straight hours, which translated into a little over 1,000 words. Really good progress.

I’m anxious to get this book done, and am just grinding and grinding to get the words on paper as quickly and accurately as possible. In my more focused moments I go back and kluge together different building blocks into narratives that make sense and support my larger argument.


Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks and an associate editor of the Texas National Security Review. He is also a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and the Defence & Strategy Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies.