Category Archives: Organization

Getting to done: Applying writing advice to my life

“To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”
Seneca

to-doI’m having a problem focusing these days.

This comes as no surprise to my fellow Restless Writers, to whom I have been promising a fresh new blog post since the holidays.

The symptoms of my lack of focus are not limited to delayed blog posts. I’m also finding that I can’t read a whole book. I went from neglecting a new novel, to not being able to finish a short story, to skipping whole paragraphs in Globe & Mail articles. Even my Twitter feed has started to feel like too much pressure.

And it’s not just reading. I have a to-do list as long as a Canadian winter, enough Post-It Note reminders to wallpaper my guest bathroom, and so many evening appointments and meetings that I am thisclose to forgetting what the inside of my fridge looks like. The idea of replacing the light bulb in my kitchen seems overwhelming but I know I have to do it soon because it’s hard to make G&Ts  coffee in the dark. (Hard, but not impossible.)

Many of you know that my life has taken some turns over the past six months. I’m not surprised that all these changes have affected my day-to-day life in some way, but I didn’t expect that I would turn into a slack-jawed scatterbrain. I can’t seem to finish anything I start, and hunkering down to write seems impossible.

So what to do about it?

In my search for ways to tame my monkey-brain, I turned—of course—to other writers. Who better to advise on how to focus, since so many writers struggle with the fidgets and a perverse inability to just sit down and get ‘er done already.

Here are some of the best tips I’ve culled from the Interwebs about focusing on your writing. I’ve re-jigged them so they will help me focus on my to-do list and hopefully help me read (and eventually write) that book.

Block out time, not tasks: Getting to a word count goal can seem daunting, but telling yourself that you’ll write for an hour is manageable. Likewise, if I give myself an hour in which I can tackle, say, roaming around Home Depot, it might be easier than telling myself I have to choose the perfect light fixture today.

Be mindful of distractions: You can’t avoid distractions, whether you’re writing or trying to put together an IKEA shelf. The phone will ring, emails will keep coming in, and Rob Ford will inevitably do something stupid and burn up your feeds. Identify what distracts you the most. Is it Twitter? Indulge for five minutes, but then shut it down. Text messages? Put your phone in another room. Coffee craving? Keep a carafe full of hot tasty brew on your desk so you’re not forced to hit a local Starbucks.

Say “no”: This one’s hard. Writers are very protective of their time, and often have to employ drastic measures to make sure the world doesn’t keep them from their keyboard. These days, I am trying to fill my life with people and events, so saying “no” to an invitation gives me a bit of anxiety. I have to remember that saying “no” when I feel overwhelmed will help me save my energy for when I am ready to enjoy an activity or someone’s company. (Yes, this includes dates.)

Have an accountability partner: Writers share word counts and pages all the time. Maybe I’m doing the same thing by writing about my challenges and efforts to succeed right here. I may have to call on my sisters and friends to check in and make sure I’m chipping away at life.

Track the resistance: What is it about finding the perfect light fixture that’s so goddamned difficult? The parking lot? The bone-deep chill of winter? The crush of people? Whatever it is, I need to pay attention to where the barrier is, so I can figure out a way to get around it. It’s like with writer’s block—I need to figure out what’s keeping me from moving forward.

Treat yourself: Let’s say I do manage to find that perfect light fixture when I go to Home Depot on my lunch break. Just as when I finish a writing task (like finishing this blog post–yay!), checking that off my to-do list deserves a minor celebration, whether it’s a fancy coffee or a mini-iTunes shopping spree.

Do a little every day: I can’t do everything in one day—which pisses me off a bit—so I have to give my controlling self a break. I need to celebrate the little wins, keep checking things off my to-do list, and remember that things will get easier.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard that you can also apply to your life?

3 Comments

Filed under Life and stuff, Organization, Trials and Tribulations

Confession Time

I dumped the entire contents of my purse on the floor of my doctor’s waiting room this week. Embarrassing? Yes. But there was a silver lining. While I was crawling on the ground (in a skirt!) gathering up the little pieces of my life, I made a few choice discoveries, including a $50 gift card for The Bay that was MIA since last Christmas and the head of my son’s much-coveted Darth Vader Lego figurine. Better than this though, I also found my ideas—long-forgotten writing ideas for book plots and characters that I’d jotted down on the back of receipts and sticky notes.

I have a habit of doing this. If you came to my house, you would find more of the same random notes on my bedside table, my phone, my laptop and in the back of my agenda for work.

This system for organizing my writing ideas is about as effective as it sounds – chaotic and unreliable. My notes, if I even remember that I’ve made them, are never where I think they should be when I want them. In fact, right now I am leafing through my agenda in search of a bright yellow sticky note that had some great ideas on it for this blog post. Ah, actually found it—crumpled at the bottom of the bag I cart back and forth to work every day.

Clearly, I am in need of some sort of system to help organize my writing. 

I turned to my fellow Restless Writers to see how they keep track of their projects.

Maria wondered if a binder qualifies as a system—I say yes. In her binder Maria says she keeps hard copies organized according to the working title of the piece, including previous versions, all dated.  Beckie relies on file folders, storing notes and papers in folders, one for each writing project.

A quick Internet search tells me there is a myriad of stuff out there for people just like me. Programs like Evernote, Mindjet, and an eBook The Oraganized Writer that promises 30 days to more time, money and less frustration. There is even a mobile app Werdsmith, created for writers to help them keep track of ideas whenever inspiration strikes.

Do others have organizing systems they’d be willing to share? What works for you?

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Organization, Trials and Tribulations, Writing resources