With these days of summer vacation (not to mention extreme heat), I've logged some pretty good hours at my writing desk.
And though I am a neat-freak in other areas of my life (go ahead, ask me how I organize my t-shirt drawer... but know that the answer might take a while) my writing desk tends to be rather messy.
To be clear, it isn't empty pizza box and sticky coffee ring messy (I couldn't deal with that). But it is paper-absolutely-everywhere messy. And I like it that way.
There are many authors I know who prefer to have a bulletin board over their desk or a white board or simply a large, clear wall surface on which to paste sticky notes. Some folks have elaborate systems on their computer to keep track of thoughts, ideas, storylines, and character development.
However, I prefer lots of little pieces of paper. I have a legal pad (white, not yellow paper), a medium size scratch pad, a large stack of those hotel notepads (I won't reveal my source), and index cards. I like to jot notes to myself about a scene I'm thinking of, or an essay I want to write when I'm through the novel draft, or something I don't want to forget to go back and fix, or some topic that I need to research. Right now, I'm working on a rough draft and there are notes everywhere.
Even stranger, what I like to do with these notes is, mostly, ignore them. I write them and scatter them on my desk. Then I go back to drafting. Sometimes I read them when I get stuck, but mostly I ignore them. I'd like to say I have a system and when I finish a day's work, I read through all the notes and collate them, blah, blah. But I don't. They sit there until I finish the draft, at which point, I scoop them all up, paper clip them, and stick them in manila envelope and file them along with the handwritten draft.
It is the case that when I am in the revision process, my notes are much more organized. Then, I usually post a coherent list of things to do and keep in mind and I tape it at eye-level on the wall. (Even then, I usually tape up a blank sheet or two for random thoughts and notes.)
So why do I continue this practice? I don't know that it helps me produce a better draft, but I do know that it helps me keep peace of mind. Once I write something down, my brain reads that as "taken care of." Sure, there's danger to this: if I actually need to do something and I write it down, then I need to keep that piece of paper handy and do that thing. However, when I'm writing a rough draft, mostly what I need to do is... write the rough draft! I don't need to worry about the extraneous questions and thoughts: that's what revision is for.
In short, while my practice keeps my desk cluttered, it keeps my mind pleasantly clean.