Cluttered Writing Life Causes & Cures: Writing Creativity Killers, Part 5
Novel writing, social networking, blog posts, newsletters, promotions–oh my! You have too much going on, more or less all the time.Everything seems important and necessary, but you are stretched thin and entering the red zone of author burnout. Or maybe you crossed that boundary line a while ago but are slogging on out of a sense of duty. Your office is a mess. There’s paper clutter everywhere. And you can’t even hope to deal with cluttered computer files. Your schedule is more like a wishlist these days, with only a few items crossed off on good days. Writing just isn’t fun anymore.
In a scenario like this one, something has to change. Just as physical clutter makes a home cease to function, a cluttered writing life will immobilize you eventually. It’s time for an overhaul.
Clutter has a way of creeping up on a writer, growing slowly until it reaches a tipping point. If in childhood you ever had to be told by your parent to clean your room will find it a subtle distraction that saps energy.
Since creativity takes energy, it’s important to karate chop clutter, most importantly in your writing space. Setting aside time on a regular basis to put your office in order is not a luxury and can lead to better concentration in the hours you spend writing. That, in turn, helps your productivity.
Office Decluttering Checklist
Working one area at a time, do the following:
- Remove anything belonging elsewhere.
- Discard any throw-away items.
- Place belongings you want to give away into boxes labeled by recipient.
- For the items you want to keep, purchase any organizers you may need.
- Organize your belongings.
(For paper clutter, read Declutter Your Papers and Organize Your Life at my author website.)
If you’ve ever lost a file on your computer, you already understand why computer clutter stymies creativity. It’s frustrating to have exactly the information you need…somewhere. A lot of extra files on your computer slows its performance, and that can effect your productivity. Computer clutter has an emotional weight that impacts creativity.
Prevent computer clutter before it starts by thinking out your file systems. This really depends on how you categorize and what is logical for you, but here are some suggestions to spark ideas:
- If you write in more than one genre, create a folder for each of your genres.
- Organize all files pertaining to a book series in folders under the series name and filed by genre (if applicable). This would include everything, from research notes to promotional documents.
- Files that apply to a particular book project would go in a folder labeled with the book title and, if part of a series, filed under the series title.
- Create a speaking folder for any pitches, notes, and presentations, filed under the appropriate titles.
- Either place your cover art and promotional images in the series or book folders or file them in separate folders labeled by book or series title under main folders labeled digital art and promotions.
- File contracts and agreements in a Legal Folder, labeled by series or book title.
- Create a financial folder for royalty records and tax information.
- Name a folder after yourself for different versions of your bios and an assortment of author images.
- Keep a folder labeled proposals with sub-folders by project title.
The Cluttered Schedule
You try hard to check off everything on your daily to-do list, but it never seems to happen. Life feels out of control, as a result.
Reduce and prioritize your tasks. Afterwards, if you still aren’t checking off more than a few tasks on a regular basis, your problem is either that your projects are broken into too large of chunks or you are trying to work on them all at once.
If your daily project goals are too large and can’t be reduced to deadlines, you have over-extended yourself. Unless you can renegotiate your deadline, you will have to live with the consequences while promising yourself that, next time, you’ll guard your resource of time more carefully.
Batching similar tasks will help you become more productive with the time you do have. Instead of writing a blog post a week, for example, set aside a day to write a month’s worth. This saves you the time of logging into your website, navigating to image sites and image editing software, etc.
Writing Project Clutter
You load your schedule with projects other people want you to write or that you believe you should write as part of a volunteer organization, to earn money, or because someone flattered you into accepting an invitation. Now writing feels a lot like wading through sand and your creativity is nowhere in sight.
Writing is difficult enough without taking on a project that, deep down, you don’t want to do. Bow out of anything you can, fulfill the rest of your obligations, then take a deep breath and promise yourself you won’t do this to yourself again.
Some Final Thoughts from Janalyn
For best results, organize the areas you declutter (develop a system for computer files, for example) to keep them clear. After living with clutter, not having it can seem awfully thin. If you can resist the urge to fill the spaces you clear with more clutter, those vacancies will fill with the stuff of your dreams.