Sunday, May 24, 2020

Productive Writers Are Organized

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

During my years in publishing, I have been through many different changes. At times, I've been a pack rat saving all sorts of things gathered in piles in my office. I've interviewed more than 150 authors and saved interview tapes. I've written many books and saved various versions of the manuscript and all sorts of things—many of them unnecessary. There is a basic principle that I've learned: the more chaotic my working space—the less productive I become. The chaos weighs on my writing.

When we move, this situation often helps me. Especially when you use a moving van and pay for the weight, it makes you review everything to see if it comes with you or you give it away or toss it. Especially when we moved from eight years in Arizona a while back, I tossed a lot of things I was keeping. Over the years I kept complete magazines of the different articles I had written. That amounted to boxes of magazines. In some ways, I wish I had taken the time to scan those articles (which I didn't) so they got tossed. But to be honest, I don't need those articles.

These days I'm much better organized in my office space and also electronically. I've discovered the increased organization has a number of benefits:

1. You are in touch with your priorities and meeting deadlines (large and small one). The majority of writers miss their deadlines. I've been the editor they call for extensions with their excuses. In book publishing when you set a deadline for a contract, it sets off a chain of events inside the publishing house that writers never see—but are critical to the success of the book and its release. When you ask for additional time, you disrupt that schedule—and unknowingly affect the sales of your book (which you will not know or experience until months later). It's not a wise step to extend your deadline and instead set realistic ones you can achieve from the beginning. Again it harkens back to organization—the theme of this article.

2. You can easily find projects and pieces of paper and bits of information. As an editor and writer, you would be surprised at the random emails and phone calls I get from my colleagues asking about some book or author. If I am organized, then I can often give a quick answer. If I am not organized, then I have to take time to dig for it (which could consume a lot of time).

3. You take a few minutes here and there to keep things organized and you will be much more productive and accomplish more in a single day than in the disorganization.

It is not easy to be organized in my view and takes continual effort and work—but the payoff is worth it. I have much more work to be done in this area but my encouragement to you with your writing life is to continue to this organizational effort. Once everything gets organized an in place, it takes continued vigilance and maintenance to keep it that way. If you ignore it, the piles of paper and disorganization tends to grow and get out of control again—or so has been my experience.

How does organization play into your writing life? What tips can you give us? Let me know in the comments below. 


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4 Comment:

At 5:53 PM, Blogger Monty Hobbs Left a note...

Good advice, I no longer have an office and wind up working at the dining room table. I need to try to find a way to organize time and materials that are in different rooms in the house.

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Thanks for this comment. Knowing that you need to do something is the first step, then taking action to get organized will help you be more productive.


At 2:56 PM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

What a great and informative piece!
Thank you Sir @terryWhalin for sharing.

I am very passionate about reading and writing. Unfortunately I have not written any book yet but I really wish to.
Do you mind sharing with me some tips on how I can develop writting skills and how i can start to write please?

Thank you sir.
Kyakunzire Edith @EdithKyakunzire1

At 7:15 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Thanks for your question. One of the best ways to begin the writing journey is writing for print magazines. You will reach more people than with a book (most books) and be writing a shorter piece (500-1500 words) and learn to write for a particular audience and other critical writing skills.



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