How can you organize your life as a writer so you can spend more time writing?
What’s the best way to manage writing alongside other projects?
Why is it so hard to balance the act of writing with the day-to-day demands of life?
I think you’ll agree most writers have to achieve more than write every day–we have to do things like plan our research, market our writing, find a quiet place to work.
The question is:
Can you do all of this without losing your mind?
In this post, I’ll give you five organizational tips for more organized writing.
1. Capture Your Ideas Like Roald Dahl
Inspiration is nice, but it’s not much fun if you’re facing a deadline and you can’t think of anything to write.
Organize your way around this problem by getting ideas out of your head and writing them down in a safe and accessible place.
My favorite story about a writer who wrote things down involves the children’s author, Roald Dahl.
One day, Dahl was stuck in traffic. Suddenly, he thought of a breakthrough for a story he was working on. Having no notepad or pen, he grew afraid he’d forget his idea before getting home.
Dahl got out of the car and with his finger, he wrote the word “chocolate” into the dirt on his vehicle. This act was enough for Dahl to remember his idea, and later it became Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
He later said:
You work it out and play around with it. You doodle… you make notes… it grows, it grows… – Roald Dahl
Today, it’s easier than ever to keep a portable notebook for recording ideas on the go. You can use digital tools, like an app on your smartphone, or you can buy a small notebook that fits in your pocket.
2. Take Charge of Your Unruly Research
As a serious writer, part of your job description is to read outside of your comfort zone and research the next thing.
The Kindle makes research easy because you can highlight and annotate the important parts you go.
Here’s the best part:
Using the Kindle Cloud Reader, you can search books and find your annotations faster than if you were thumbing through an old paperback.
Evernote is great for non-fiction writers too. This app enables you to tag articles with terms like ‘ideas’, ‘fiction’, ‘copywriting’ and whatever else comes to find.
When I need to find a note about a particular topic, I search Evernote using the relevant tag (voilà: instant personal library).
3. Get A Room of One’s Own
Virginia Woolf wrote:
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
A warm and quiet room with a desk, a chair and a computer or a pen and notepad is enough for most, but I also recommend using a whiteboard and hanging this next to where you work.
This whiteboard will help you visualize your ideas and brainstorm.
When you’re finished writing for the day, take five minutes to clean your desk and workspace and to prepare your writing room for the following day’s work.
This habit primes your subconsciousness to work on your project even when you’re resting.
Wait, I don’t have space for a writing room!
You don’t need to go out and rent a larger apartment or buy a bigger house.
A room of one’s own is as much a metaphor for having a place where you can go each day to write as it is about a physical location that you own.
This could be your car, a coffee shop or even the park.
For example, when the short story writer and poet Raymond Carver was starting off, he often wrote his drafts alone in his car.
He told the Paris Review:
I used to go out and sit in the car and try to write something on a pad on my knee. – Raymond Carver
4. Own Your Writing Tools, Don’t Let Them Own You
Today’s digital writing tools may be powerful, but (if you’re like me) you can easily spend more time looking for the perfect set up than writing.
I try to remind myself Shakespeare and Tolstoy did just fine without a computer or the internet.
Your digital writing tools should support your writing, and they are almost always less important than turning up and doing the work.
In Tribes, Seth Godin writes:
“The tactics are irrelevant, and the technology will always be changing. The essential lesson is that every day it gets easier to tighten the relationships you have with the people who choose to follow you.”
It’s good practice to use only as many tools as you need and to concentrate on improving your craft and building relationships with your readers.
That said, Scrivener is the ideal software programme for managing complicated or multiple writing projects. It enables you to organize the chapters or sections of your book using a drag and drop interface.
Want to know the best part?
You can use Scrivener to create various versions of your book for almost all of the major online writing stores.
Mary Jaksch provides an introductory lesson to Scrivener, while I’ve written an Ultimate Guide To Using Scrivener for Blogging.
5. Attend to Your Published Work
If you’re having trouble keeping track of your work, create a master list of all your writing projects. This master list will provide you an at-a-glance overview of everything you are writing.
You can keep this list in Evernote, write it on a whiteboard or pin a paper-based version of this list next to where you write.
If you’ve entered several different writing competitions, save the submitted versions of your stories in a dedicated folder in your computer.
It takes time to hear back from the organizers of competitions but if your story is rejected, you’ll be able to pick-up from where you left off and rework the latest version.
If you’ve written for different magazines, set up a page on your website and link to your best work around the web.
More of your visitors will be able to find your stories, and this will show them you’re a serious or professional writer.
If you’ve written a book, keep the images, book cover and marketing materials of your book in the same place as the book itself. This way, if you have to make changes to your work, you won’t have to waste time searching your computer for these assets.
Now Spend Your Creative Energy Wisely
Organizing your writing life doesn’t have to be a frustrating chore.
If research is time-consuming, have a trusted system for managing your notes and ideas. Remember, your writing environment should be conducive to your work. And you should pick the right tools for your craft, but only as many as you need.
Finally, at the end of every writing project, spend a few minutes filing your work so you can find what you need, when you need it.
Here’s the kicker:
Take care of the day-to-day demands of being a writer, and you will spend less time worrying about how you’re going to write and more of your creative energy filling the blank page.
What tips do you have for organizing your writing life? Please share below.