Organising your life as a writer

Organisation is a word that seems totally at odds with the creative life. When you hear the word ‘creative’, it conjures up an image of an artist in paint-stained clothing, wafting around an airy attic studio, complaining about the lack of the right light for his or her work. At least this is how I always viewed the creative life, and it prevented me from realising that I was actually a creative person, and that my writing was part of that.

Trying to organise the person I described earlier would seem impossible and you would probably forgive them if they were caught up in their work and forgot about an appointment. You couldn’t imagine this person having a day job either. When your creative life isn’t the major part of your life – ie it isn’t what pays the bills – organisation becomes very important.

You may need to plan ahead to find time for writing sessions, make deals with family members for babysitting duties or negotiate with your partner/spouse/flatmate over chores like washing up, vacuuming or food shopping. There is also a certain amount of juggling as you try to balance up the many areas of your life. Add into this trying to hit deadlines for submissions and competitions and you have a recipe for disaster if you’re not organised.

So, what should you do? There are a few tricks that I find help me to keep on top of things:

1. Make it known that you’re trying to be a writer – if friends and family know that you’re taking your writing seriously, they’re more likely to take it seriously too and be more accommodating and helpful. Don’t forget to thank them – I find a batch of chocolate brownies, or similar baked goods, puts a smile on most people’s faces.

2. Note submission dates and competitions in your regular diary – some people recommend keeping a ‘writing diary’ but I don’t think that’s practical. By having just one diary you’re making writing a part of your life and you can make sure your work/life/writing balance is right. It also means you don’t accidentally plan a key writing session on the same night as your best friend’s birthday party! (I suspect even brownies couldn’t rescue you from that one!)

3. Develop a system for managing the ‘rest’ of your life – household paperwork like bank statements and bills can mount up very quickly. I keep clearly-labelled files and file paperwork away regularly so I know where everything is. This keeps your home, and your mind, uncluttered and focused on your writing.

4. Be prepared for failure – no one can be perfect all the time. There will come a time when whatever system you have put in place will fall apart. If and when this happens, give yourself a break. Allow a bit of slippage time and don’t plan to work right to the wire. Set your own deadline 2-3 days before the official deadline to allow for things to go wrong. That way you won’t panic. If it does go wrong, don’t beat yourself up. Just tweak your system and try again.

Do you have any tricks for keeping organised? What have you found works well for you? Feel free to share your hints and tips in the comments section below.

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