A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Do You Have to Be Organized to Write?

There's this image of the truly focused writer; driven, haunted, the kind of person that sits in front of their keyboard night and day, slaving away over their art as if nothing else in the world existed. (Um, I've been that person a few times, ask my family.)

And then there's reality:

Even when you're writing, life happens. For me that life includes a husband, a house, four minions (my kids), a dog, a tortoise, a guinea pig, and a whole lot of outside activities.

In order to keep up with it all, I'm battling my right-brained, seat of my pants style and trying to get organized. Usually, there are two times in the year when I get really organized. One is around January 1st and the other is around now, when my kids go back to school and my life settles back into a routine.

This year, I approached my organizing with a concrete goal in mind. I wanted to organize my household in such a way that I could be a nearly full-time writer and not have to deal with the guilt and stress that comes when I neglect my house in favor of my writing.

I know I'm lucky. My husband is gainfully employed and all of my little minions (my children) are in school. I can (theoretically), be a full time writer. BUT (and there's always that but,) my kids still need to have food and clean clothes and a house that won't end up on a reality television show.

I'm not saying you have to be perfectly organized to be a writer. In fact, I find that a little chaos in my life spurs my muse along and makes for more interesting narratives. After all, doesn't conflict make the story? But I find when my mind is clear of other distractions (like a visit from the bill collector or the Health Department), the ideas flow better.

So this year, in my never-ending search for balance and organization I've decided on jobs for the minions, I'm trying to stick to a schedule, and (this is for my critique partners) I'm learning to say "no" to things I don't have time for. However, I know there will still be times when I'm on deadline or just really caught up in a story and the rest of my life will suffer. But that's okay too. (How can we write conflict if we never have it?)

As one of my favorite authors, Janette Rallison says in her top ten reasons to be a writer:

#2. (When you're a writer) You have an excuse to be cluttered: you have no time for cleaning; you're creating ART.

So, I want to know, do you think a writer has to be organized? Is an organized person a better writer? And how do you make time for writing in the midst of your crazy, busy writer?



  1. I totally relate to your random organization system. I have difficulty staying focused. I think it's important to know who you are and then find what works for you. I know that I need to change activities frequently so I'm trying a new system. I have stations set up. (My minions have flown the coop.) One for revision, another for new writing, craft improvement. Seems to be working for the time being.

  2. I can totally relate.

    I am NOT an organized person. At all. My mom is an artist and our house was always chaotic (though reasonably clean) when I was growing up. I'm constantly trying to get organized, but it hasn't worked out too well yet. I need an organization guru who specializes in teaching right brained people, because whenever I try to be super-scheduled and organized I crash and burn.

    My best writing times are when I get on a roll and give up sleep to write because I'm so excited. Lately sleep has been too important. :)

  3. A writer doesn't have to be organized, but it helps to make better use of time when we aren't having to waste time looking for things that would be easy to find if they were where they belong. It's a great idea on paper. Kids seldom work well in reality.

    I love the notes on that board picture.

  4. Mmmm... lamb heart pie...

    My problem is I expect organization to somehow free me from the time it takes to get organized and do all those keep-the-house-at-bay chores. I'm doing extra laundry today to get my minion's favorite favorite favorite (as in I had to pry it off his body while he was sleeping) sweat shirt clean so he can wear it as soon as he gets home from school. Oh, and did I mention that's TODAY? So he doesn't cry when he gets home, he loves it that much?
    I think the best thing about a schedule or routine is it lets us know it is possible to devote time to all the things we want to do and it also lets us know what isn't getting done when we veer off it. Knowing what we're actually choosing (reading blogs while eating lunch instead of playing sudoku while eating lunch) helps us make better choices to reach our goals.
    So, organize away. Say no! (but not to me!) And be prepared to huck it all out the window occasionally.

  5. That is me too. I organized once a year and then I spend the rest of the year writing and promoting. For me is different because I have no kids home. So except for my grandkids visits... my house stay clean. Love it.
    Anna del C.
    Author of "The Silent Warrior Trilogy"