Organised Autumn

Photo credit: Nicholas T

In another life, I used to organise things for a living. Conferences, events, people, travel, hotels, projects, production… Everything had a plan, a schedule and there was hell to pay if someone didn’t stick to it. Things happened on time, or early, and I knew every in and out of where a project was.

So I can’t help but wonder, why do I find it so hard to implement organisation in my writing life?

I know that a big part of it is that my life has had to become more flexible in the way it works. Since becoming a mother and wife, working part time, writing part time… These days, my life is about balancing all the different roles, and being flexible enough to give any area extra care and attention when it needs it. That makes strict schedules and plans a thing of the past.

Which doesn’t stop me trying, I might add. I have a moderately epic colour coded spreadsheet, listing my writing ambitions for every day for years to come. I spend a lot of time reworking it as life gets in the way.

And, I’ll admit, this might actually be a big part of the problem. My stubborn, organised side insists on having a firm, detailed plan. But if I spend more time fiddling with the plan than actually writing… that’s procrastination, not organisation.

Another part is that the creative side of the brain works differently to the conference organising side. I’m a big advocate of BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard) but there’s no denying that some days that’s harder than others. And if the words won’t come on the scheduled project, on a day when I’ve only got an hour or so to write, I’d rather get something done on a different project than lose the time all together.

So, if flexibility matters more to me now than a rigid schedule, maybe it’s time to ditch the three-years-in-advance spreadsheet, and work project by project. I still love a plan, though, so keeping track of projects I want to work on, and in what order, will always be useful. And when, like today, I get an email from my editor telling me to expect my first round of content edits for Room for Love just when I’d planned to start a new novel, it’s easier to slot them in and push other things back a bit, without spending hours re-planning the next three years of my life.

That’s another change to my working method, of course. After years of writing to my own deadlines, I now have contractual obligations to meet. And they have to come first in the planning. As much as I might want to start that new novel, I can’t do it at the expense of a contracted novel waiting for release.

I know I have a lot to learn about being a professional writer, and I know my methods for organising my work will inevitably change and evolve as I learn. But having a plan, however loose, helps me know where I’m going and, more importantly, where I want to be.

How do you organise your writing life?