When I realized I had a solid date and plan of action for becoming vegan, but no deadlines or real plan for how I would achieve my writing goals, I took a long look at myself in the mirror, wiped the pizza grease off my mouth and said, Minelli, your priorities are fucked. It’s easy to claim the title as a writer, but what happens next? How do you land that writing job or actually finish that collection of poems you’ve been harping on about for so long? I’m a naturally disorganized person, but when I took my “temporary” hiatus from college it wasn’t long before I found that I could not carry on this way and expect to get anywhere in writing, professional or otherwise.
I’ve had more on my plate writing-wise with trying to post more frequently and taking on a few projects. I’m working with two illustrator friends and my husband (who’s a 3D modeler) to create a small videogame, and I am writing the content and story. I am also finally (finally) editing Melancholia in Molasses for my creative writing class that recommences at the end of the month. It’s been so long since I’ve touched my 5500+ word count story and there’s still so much that needs to be done. Outside of those more elective activities, I have been working on my professional writing; refining my resume, applying for freelance writing jobs, writing proposals and cover letters left right and center. It’s impossible to get through anything without some pre-planning.
Staying organized saves time so you’re more productive and able to stay on top of different projects. Fiction writers have to organize outlines and find writing time outside of their day jobs; while freelance writers have to be on top of their schedules, clients, research, and due dates. Here is a list of organizational tips (and helpful links) to prioritize your writing life like the boss you’re trying to be.
Cleanliness is next to productiveness
Did you know productive writers are God’s favorite children? Clean that desk or dining table (or the bed you use as a table) so you have a de-cluttered space to write and you will be highly favored. Oh, you don’t have a designated place to write? It’s better to be a Starbucks cliche than have no place to write at all.
Set a large goal, then establish small steps to achieve it
You can’t become a novelist and freelance writer extraordinaire without a (realistic) plan to get there. Set smaller goals to achieve larger ones so you can measure progress and stay motivated.
Writing a long story? Establish daily word count goals and log how many you complete.
Looking for writing jobs? Establish a weekly goal of how many you will apply to, then send out proposals/resumes daily to break application time into manageable sessions. No one likes spending hours searching jobs and emailing resumes (unless you’re a resume writer, bless your soul if you are).
Get all of you work in one place
Organize as much of your work as you can electronically and take advantage of apps like Evernote or Google Drive. These apps are great for planning stories and articles, taking notes, planning your schedule, saving images, and everything is automatically synced to your electronic devices. This means you will never have to wait until you get to your home or office to find out information for a client, or the details of a story you’re writing. I personally prefer Google but know many people like Evernote’s interface and ability to save articles and images with their original links and references.
Set a schedule (AND stick with it)
Life does not need to look like a planner and mine often doesn’t, but when you’re a freelance writer it’s good if your life resembles some of the rigidity of pre-scheduled days. I’m hardly a fan of them, but if you expect to get a job writing you might as well start acting as if you’re doing it already (my ideal workplace is cat friendly and pant-free, so that is the work environment I perpetuate at home). For creative writers, use your schedule to plan writing around your work schedule.
Do more creative/time consuming projects first
Unless you have something that needs to be done right away or a meeting that has to be attended, start off with the more creative tasks. Our brains are the most alert in the morning so it’s a good opportunity to tap into those creative juices before they’re all drained from other activities. If you don’t work with creative writing, do the harder and more time consuming tasks first rather than leaving them for last – you have to do it regardless, why let it weigh you down at the end of a long day?
Don’t take on every project
You will be tempted to, but if you do you’ll likely take on too much, get burned out, and leave a terrible impression on any clients you’re working with. How productive is it to start a fourth short story when you’ve barely pieced together the second and haven’t revised the first? I know; you’re a writer, you’re broke and motivated, but that practice is not productive. It’s easy to get excited once you get the ball rolling on a story or when the job interviews start rolling in, but the more you do the less time you can spend doing one thing very well.
Take care of yourself, too
I mentioned acting as if writing is your job (if that’s where you’re trying to take it), but remember it’s not just any job-it’s the job you want. Have you had enough sleep, food, and water? If not you’ll be fatigued and won’t make it past noon without several cups of coffee to help you keep up the work. Remember to take breaks, fifteen minutes to every hour, rather than working like a Hebrew slave for hours in a row. Most of us have day jobs; I work 7am-7pm three days out of the week so do not write (or even think about writing) on those days. I’m off four days in the week and spend three of those days writing from 9-4ish. Work on a write-work-life balance that doesn’t burn your out, hopefully these organizational tips will help along the way.
Here’s to productive work and no burn out! Do you have any tips for getting organized? Let me know in the comments!