Ten Strategies for Organizing Your Writing Life – Part 9 (Final)

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 3.33.54 PMAfter implementing all of the strategies for organizing your writing life, then…

Finish Up, Follow Through and Have Fun!

Almost nothing is worse than spending a lot of time working on a writing project and then not finishing it and meeting your deadline(s). Be sure and complete your writing and send it in as scheduled (or complete the last step in the process). This “completion step” is important because it will bring you deep personal satisfaction. Following through gives you a sense of accomplishment, and confidence to take on future projects. Why? Because you will know that you will stay the course and follow through. Gentle self-discipline gives you this confidence in your ability to take things on.

As Henry Ford said, “There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.” 

When you’re finished, it’s important to take time to pat yourself on the back (don’t expect anyone else to do this for you!). Celebrate your achievements. Schedule some “down time.”

Europeans take a month off each year and go “on holiday.” We Americans are lucky to get two weeks off, and even then we often can’t slow down long enough to appreciate what we’ve accomplished. This can lead to burnout. Take time to do the things you love. This may be as simple as enjoying your kids or grandkids photos on Facebook and watching a good movie, or taking a cruise to the Caribbean.  

If you are a person who tends to engage in unpredictable creative processes, like writing, I’ll leave you with another great Henry Ford quote to inspire you, “If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security that a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.”

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Ten Strategies for Organizing Your Writing Life – Part 8

photo 3One of the last things you need to do when implementing these ten strategies for organizing your writing life is…

#9. Eliminate Time Wasters

As your project unfolds, if you notice that your tasks aren’t getting done as planned, review your timeline and how you’re using your time. Identify any time wasters. Then create shortcuts for tasks that are wasting time, or even temporarily stop any activities that aren’t aligned with your writing goals. Focus on what’s important. Concentrate on what will move your writing project forward. Be consistent, yet remain flexible. Make sure you use what you create; don’t waste your creative energy. For example, if you create a system to physically organize your writing, use it regularly.  

People often focus on money as a precious resource. However, time is also an incredibly precious resource. There are many famous examples of people who — despite all their money — could not buy health or peace of mind, and ended up losing their lives. Be aware of how you’re spending your time. It can make a big difference in your productivity, especially when writing is involved. Recent statistics show that people spend several hours or more a day watching TV. Facebook, Twitter, and other computer activities can be fun and relaxing, but non-productive. Imagine what you could create if you spent that time writing. It is sometimes hard to impose gentle discipline on yourself, yet discipline you must — if you wish to put the necessary time into your projects.

As you seek to prioritize aspects of your writing project, remember this inspirational Henry Ford quote, “Life is a series of experiences, each of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward.”

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Ten Strategies for Organizing Your Writing Life – Part 7

Screen Shot 2012-06-23 at 8.18.05 PMIn the process of organizing your writing life, once you have taken time to:

1. Get clear on your writing project

2. Read and researched

3. Plotted out your time line — and communicated it if necessary

4. Created a personal action plan and prioritized your day

5. Organized your work

6. Backed everything up

7. Created boundaries and focused

8. Taken responsibility (for whatever isn’t going well), then…

#8. continued… Prevent Blocks by Switching Tasks

If you get “blocked” when writing, one way to keep this from happening is to learn to juggle multiple tasks and projects. If you are unable to move forward on one part of a writing project, either because you’re not “inspired” or you’re waiting for someone else to do their piece, switch to another task. For example, if part of your project requires more reading and research, or interviewing someone, schedule that activity and carry it out.

I became blocked on a writing project a while back. It became too painful and confronting to write. I felt trapped in my head… blocked… so I did something completely different. I painted my bedroom! It might sound funny, but it worked. Doing a physical task that I find enjoyable (and peaceful) was the right choice.

So, I ask you: What are the strategies you use — other than eating and shopping — to cope when you’re blocked? By the way, there’s certainly nothing wrong with eating or shopping. Those activities may be on your list; however, what else can you do? Here are some ideas of things I do: Take a walk, work on another writing project, go out and listen to some good music, talk to a friend, do some gardening, take a yoga class…

When you’re blocked and struggling remember what Henry Ford said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” 

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Ten Strategies for Organizing Your Writing Life – Part 6

Screen Shot 2012-10-07 at 2.54.34 PMMore about organizing your writing life…

#7. Create Boundaries and Focus

You can lose your focus if you’re distracted. My writing experience has shown me that concentration demands a certain amount of peace and focus. What is your experience? Whatever it is, make it happen. Create an environment that supports you (and others, if you are working in tandem or in a group) in the most effective way. Are you bothered by noise and music? If so, turn it down or turn it off, if possible. Do you need music in the background? Okay, use it in your writing environment.

Whether it’s at home, school, or work, when you’re focusing on a project, try to minimize or eliminate interruptions. Set your smartphone to go directly to voicemail; turn off your email alert; don’t check into Facebook. If you have trouble using a computer due to the distractions, consider using a device like a NEO. This keeps you, and everybody else — if there are others involved — focused on the task. It’s also respectful of everybody’s time. 

When writing with others, remember what Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

#8. Take Responsibility 

If things aren’t going well on your writing project — or if they aren’t going at the pace you expected — ask yourself “What else can I do?” Don’t blame external forces when things don’t work out. Accept setbacks, and then get on with it. And if there aren’t clear external deadlines, create internal ones to keep your writing on track. Be realistic and flexible. And make sure you don’t take on too much, so that you can always complete quality work. 

As Henry Ford summed it up, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — either way, you are right.” 

See you next time!

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Ten Strategies for Organizing Your Writing Life – Part 5

IMG_0875Reviewing the strategies for organizing your writing life… Once you’ve taken time to get clear, read and researched, plotted out your time line and communicated it, created a personal action plan, prioritized your day, and organized your work, then… 

#6. Backup Everything

When you’re using a computer to capture your information, it’s really important to make sure you back up all of your writing. Purchase an external hard drive (or two, sometimes they fail) — and maybe try an online storage system (there are lots of choices).  Cloud storage is easier and more accessible these days, and not that expensive. I am deliberately stressing the importance of organizing your writing, and how easy it is to forget to back up your files. You can end up a “disorganized mess” — as a friend of mine says — if you aren’t careful about backing up your writing. 

One time I was at the Apple store having my computer checked over for a problem, and one of the Geniuses asked me if I’d backed everything up. I remarked enthusiastically, “Of course I have!” He looked at me and said I’d be surprised how many people don’t back up their work on a regular basis. 

I have also recently had the experience of getting sloppy and not backing up my work. My MacBook got a virus, and I tried to back it up before taking it to the Apple store, and I couldn’t. The virus wouldn’t let me, and I lost some work. I learned from my mistake. 

If you’re using information that’s on hard copy (paper), make sure you keep the original, or at least make sure you have a copy of all hard copy documents that relate to your writing project. That way if you’re working with another person, or with a group of people, and someone loses something, gets sick and doesn’t show up again, or doesn’t follow through with their part, you’re covered.

Henry Ford’s attitude was, “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain.”

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Ten Strategies for Organizing Your Writing Life – Part 4

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 10.48.08 PMThe next strategy for organizing your writing life is…

#5. Organize Your Work  

Though it sounds obvious, lots of folks struggle to get organized. Pay attention and see what’s working for you. But also, pay attention and see what isn’t. Notice, and adjust to what’s working.

To effectively organize your writing projects, take time to clearly label notes, documents, and folders. Whether you’re using a computer, paper notes, or both, take time to label everything clearly, and store your writing so you’ll know where it is next time. Before storing it, ask yourself, “Where will I look for this next time?” 

The more conscious (aware, deliberate — whatever you call it) you are in how and where you store your writing thoughts, the easier it will be to retrieve them when you are ready to focus on your project.  

If you don’t take time to organize yourself — especially when juggling multiple projects with multiple tasks — you’ll probably waste time trying to find something later. But don’t go overboard and meticulously organize, as this can be a way of procrastinating. 

Get in the habit of carrying a small notebook with you,, and use separate pages to record notes on different projects. That way you can easily put them in different folders. For example, if you are waiting in the car and have an idea, jot it down in the notebook or on a piece of paper, and put it in your wallet or purse. When you return home, put it in the folder you’ve created for that project. If you use a smart phone, take the same approach, don’t mix notes. Also, always be complete and clear so you’re able to understand the note or idea later. 

If in some moments you feel overwhelmed with the task, or make mistakes, remember what Henry Ford said, “Success is 99% failure.”

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