How I organize my writing life

Last night at critique group we writers were discussing how to live and also manage to write. Sometimes when I write about complicated topics like this, I feel overwhelmed because I know my own life, but I don’t know yours. Therefore, take what is useful, and leave what isn’t. That will make me feel better.

There are different stages of the writing life as well as stages of manuscripts, and I think they require different handling. For example, beginners have to figure out where they’ll write, whereas veterans probably already have that covered. I won’t go into that, because I’m not writing a book here. Ethel Herr would say write where you can with what you can. Quiet and a pencil are good enough. Your own office and a computer are nervana. New writers don’t usually begin with more than one piece, so the organization issue only covers that one piece. Nice. Veteran writers have a larger world. What to do ?

Here’s my story, and that is all I know. When I began to write, I had a typewriter on a tv tray in a corner of the bedroom. I was writing a story about the birth of our son there when I went into labor with my daughter. I sold that story for $7, and rejoiced all over town. Organization: one typewriter, a bottle of White-Out, paper and a tv tray. Article-wise organization, I don’t even remember, and it’s probably book-length anyway. Complication: children do not understand “Wait.” Many “Now where was I?s” came before that $7. However, my writing pilot light was lit, and refused to be extinguished.

I don’t recall when I began to tell my cherished husband muse that a roll-top desk would give me inspiration, but one Christmas there she was. Surprised? I was astonished and delighted beyond belief. Can you just imagine the organizational possibilities of all those little drawers and boxes? My next acquisition was a filing cabinet. True to my suspicions, that desk has turned out a whole bunch of articles and three books.However, it had help.  When those kids was having before all moved out, the roll-top got her own room. Mighty fine.


If you don’t write, you won’t publish anything. Pardon me while I state the obvious. Sooo, I looked at my life, and decided I do my best work in the morning. Alas, I have had full-time jobs ever since the birth of my son story.  Therefore, I got up early in the a.m. before the interrupters rose, and wrote for half an hour a day. When I was on a deadline, I would eschew (cool word, yes?) television for the roll-top, turn down invitations, and allow denser layers of dust on the furniture. But generally, a half hour a day can turn out some mighty fine words.

Time marched on (oh brother!), and I had free summers. (Go ahead, guess where I work now.) By the way, don’t use parenthetical comments when you are writing well. Now that I had mornings, I wrote in them, gardening when I needed to think.

Time flew by (I just can’t help it!), and I realized I needed to write an hour and move an hour. You do what you have to do. Whatever is necessary can get done, and writing is necessary.


Writers must write. I’m really good at stating the obvious. However, they also must keep track of research, where they’ve sent manuscripts, what needs to happen next in the project they’re on, what licenses and internet accounts they have, and how much they spent so the tax man won’t make off with their roll-top due to unpaid taxes, yada yada yada. I first started with file folders and 3×5 cards. However, that was before the personal computer. I still need the file folders for some things, but I use Anydo for scheduling activities, my phone calendar for appointments and deadlines, and Evernote for research and great ideas on the run. Anydo and Evernote are apps that follow you from your computer, to your tablet, to your phone and under bridges. Just kidding about the bridges.

That is a summary of how I manage writing. If you have questions and will do me the great favor of commenting I will surely answer, especially if you do it before school starts next Monday. Write on!

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