“A good system shortens the road to the goal.” —Orison Swett Marden
Thousands of miles and a quarter-bathtub of beer later, it’s highly probable that I somehow teleported from Albuquerque, New Mexico into this cozy Hungarian apartment. A fluffy, white bathrobe and Pall Mall cigarettes are the only accessories you need here. No need for pants, just a computer and virtual stack of “Mad Men” scripts.
Like your workspace, keep your ideas clean and orderly.
Before you judge me however, I’ll have you know that I’m no writer cliché. In fact, if you were looking at my laptop screen you would likely be shocked at how organized I am.
This notion well illustrates my second installment of “Staying Organized, Busy, Inspired and Sexy.”
Mantra #2: Ordered and excellent.
The most significant lesson I’ve learned as a composer, film editor and writer is that disorganization kills inspiration and slows workflow like nothing else.
Sort your writing (digital, analogue) so that you can easily find, re-write, edit, dissect or burn it.
Try arranging it by writer, medium, genre, project and then draft. Carefully organized folders make it easier to digitally back up your files (something you should do every day!).
For organizing screenplays and novels I recommend giving Scrivener a go (there are both PC and Mac versions).
It’s a reasonably-priced and snappy tool for keeping writing, characters, story arcs, world bibles, look-books, virtual cork boards, and research under one digital roof. Screenwriters can also directly export their script to Final Draft.
Save each draft of a piece regardless of what software you’re using to avoid sleepless nights from data loss.
I learned this lesson the painful way, but I hope you don’t have to. Hard drives and webspace are cheap, so save often, make copies and always have backups. (And Scrivener can auto-backup/sync to Dropbox.)
Some word processing apps have revision options for editing. These kinds of step-by-step adjustments can be troublesome and confusing, especially when working with teams of writers or editors. Save a separate copy of each draft before starting revisions. Try keeping a separate backup folder for ideas as well. I call mine “the file,” and it’s where I place previously cut scenes and dialogue for future use.
A solid routine of making backups and good file structure will reduce stress and procrastination levels. More importantly, you will have more time to write.
Don’t stop with your computer.
Streamline your work space (check out these tips at Lifehacker). If you work from home, do not let the overflow of your day-to-day encroach on creativity. Imagine that an imaginary border surrounds your work space. Try decorating your desk differently than the surrounding area and keep it sleek and tidy.
Rearranging the area to maximize open space can ease claustrophobic feelings after hours of writing. Keeping dirty laundry, screaming kids and animals at bay is also a good idea.
Try this Lifehack: Place a cardboard box on your desk to lure your cat away from your keyboard (not sure if this works for children, since I have none, but let me know).
Like your workspace, keep your ideas clean, orderly and in their simplest terms.
Call it feng shui, Shambala practice, Zen, or whatever you want: It will make you feel better.
Another part of being orderly is the pre-writing process, something writers often avoid—and it shows. Outline everything as much as possible before you write. Whether you’re outlining three-act structure or a journalistic piece, it helps you avoid getting jumbled and confused. Try using a Corkboard app or Storyboarder (free) if you’re on the road. If you(’re a hipster and) wanna go analogue, index cards and sticky notes are still great.
If you outline thoroughly it shortens the writing process while simultaneously easing fears surrounding that dreadful first page. And that is an excellent feeling my friend, excellent.
Tell me how you keep organized in the comments.
Photo by Kathy Ponce.