Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your own creativity? Or at the other pole, blocked as to what to write next? Whether you’ve got so many ideas you don’t know where to dive in next or whether writer’s block has crippled you, organizing your flow will free you to WRITE.
I’ve been writing for many years. As a published author, I sometimes have to write for several venues at once. At any one time, I can have a couple of articles, a book, a few blog entries, a Sunday message (I’m on a pastoral staff at our church), my journals and novel all going at once. Such a writing schedule would be impossible for me if I did not organize my work and my energy. These two make up my “flow” as a writer. In this post, I’ll deal with organizing my work first.
ORGANIZING MY WORK
In order to be prolific and not go wacky, I’ve had to take steps to better organize my work flow.
For me, inspiration and perspiration work together. Part of the perspiration is organizing. That’s because organizing does not come easy for me. Not that I’m disorganized, I simply flow better by hanging loose. Spontaneity is in my bones. So I have to work hard at organization. That’s why I say it’s part of the perspiration of writing for me.
First, I organize my workspace, assuring that it is clean and orderly. I can’t work in clutter. I begin with a clean, neat space. If it gets cluttered while I work, that’s different. At least I know where everything is. Do yourself a huge favor and order Kathleen Kendall-Tackett’s excellent little book The Well-Ordered Office (it’s there at the top of my “Featured Book” section. See the link “My Store” under “Good Stuff” in the column to the right of this post). Read this and you’ll get all kinds of organizational shortcuts and helps. Once my workspace is organized, inspiration follows close behind.
I keep a Writing Notebook.
I have for many years and it has always rewarded me generously by giving me the right idea at the right time. In my writing notebook I collect ideas, fragments, images, and lines. I date each entry. I note where I am when I write in it (usually the place and state).
I prefer to use my word processor so that later I can electronically search the text. After all, I have over 16,000 words on 70 pages in my most recent notebook. In my most recent journal, I have more like 34,700 on 149 pages. And these are just two of my volumes. I have over twenty volumes, spanning thirty-six plus years of writing. I could never skim through these to find that idea that came to mind last summer in Ocean City. I have to do a “find.” Then I’m there in no time. I also make it a point to record all my ideas in one place. That also helps to keep me compact and organized.
Sometimes, if I’m in the middle of a project or I know that a certain idea fits with something I’m either working on now, or will be soon, I place relevant things in folders labeled with a working title. Then they are neatly lined up in one of those top of the desk file organizers. I only keep on my desk the files of the projects I’m currently at work on.
Body of Writings and Timeline.
The best organizational idea I’ve implemented though is my “Body of Writings and Timeline.” This MS Word document consists of the writing projects I intend to undertake. It is divided into two sections. The first section is the body of writings I want to look back on when my vocation as a writer is fulfilled. I’ve thought through the themes I want to address. I have an idea of what I want to communicate and feel specifically called to write. After I have listed the works, I spend several hours with my calendar and project a timeline. Which project (book, article) will I work on first? What stage do I want to be in by, say, December (Outline, first draft? Send to readers?) Once I’ve constructed my “Body of Writings and the Timeline,” I actually schedule time chunks.
I work best in Blocks of time, with several ongoing projects in the hopper at once. Others swear by writing daily. I’ve tried that, but I’m too much of a people-person. I get distracted too easily.
Working in bigger blocks of time means a lot less rereading of manuscripts as well. If I’m away from the work too long, I’ve got to start reading all over again to find out where I am. Not so with a chunk of time.
My first book project led me to a conference center 400 miles from my home. I wrote there for three weeks. I returned home with the first draft of my first book, the final draft of my novel, and a blog post.
Begin with a well-crafted Outline.
This may sound like English Composition 101 or High School grammar rerun, but it’s true—a well-crafted outline will save you tons of work. It will keep you focused. A good outline can write the book for you. For Pete’s sake . . . give your time to the outline. Don’t begrudge that time. It will pay off in the long run.
Writers Read. Keep current in your field. Keep current in your craft. Organize your reading. What do you need to read first? Second? Line them up to shore-up holes or weak points. Find out what other authors are doing or saying. Especially if you write in a particular field. What’s being done in that field now. Where is the cutting edge of that field. What direction is it likely to go in the next three to five years given the current trends.
Keep the first thing FIRST. Above all, writers WRITE!! Keep on writing, but write smart by organizing first.
Do the hard work of organizing your work and your energy and say “goodbye” to writer’s block and hello to your positive flow. And be the writer that you know you can be.
QUESTIONS: Have you organized your flow? Tell us how you plan your writing?