Organization And Creativity: How To Free Up Brain Space And Be A Better Writer

by | Apr 2, 2014 | Organization Techniques For Writers, Other Helpful Information, The Writing Life | 8 comments

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Organization And Creativity: How To Free Up Brain Space And Be A Better Writer

Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.

                                                                                                                             —Flaubert

Okay, writers, here’s the theory: If you reduce the clutter in your life, you’ll reduce the clutter in your head and free up more brain space for creativity. Assuming you’re not one of those writers who thrives on disorganization—and there certainly are those who work better under pressure and in the midst of chaos—here are a few simple ways to get organized and be a better writer!

Organize your computer. 

  • Delete old files and defunct bookmarks. Not only will you clear out space on the hard drive, but you won’t be distracted by all of those files and links that are no longer useful. Learn more: Computer File Management For Writers.
  • Organize your working files into folders and subfolders. Start with the big categories such as Personal, Poetry, and Taxes and subdivide from there. (But don’t make too many subcategories, or you’ll find yourself clicking through folder after folder to locate what you want.)
  • Name your files accurately and specifically: “NameOfNovel_Revision_May2014,” rather than “Book.” A logical, definitive naming system will save you valuable time and help you avoid revising or submitting the wrong version of your work.
  • Bookmark your most useful sites—dictionaries, reference guides, etc.—for quick and easy access. 

Develop a submission tracking system. 

Some writers use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of their submissions; others use a paper filing system. See our article on Successful Record Keeping for Writers’ Submissions for a simple plan to keep your submissions organized.

Or sign up for Writer’s Relief, and we’ll manage the entire submission process for you!

Submit to Review Board

Buy a great big wall calendar.

A wall calendar is visually appealing and a concrete way to view an entire month at a glance. Use the calendar to track upcoming writing contests, retreats, submission deadlines, and goals.

You may even note literary magazines’ themes and word count requirements. Some writers use colorful stickers as a visual reward system for meeting goals…and because it’s fun to play with stickers.

Organize your workspace. 

Whether you prefer a state-of-the-art office with a view or a comfortable corner of the couch, if it’s cluttered and messy, it might not be conducive to creative output. Throw out all those dried-up pens, toss the takeout containers, and arrange your most often used reference books and office supplies neatly and within easy reach. Everything else can be tucked away.

Office supply stores are full of fun, affordable organizers for your office, desk, and drawers. Take charge of that catch-all desk drawer by dividing it into small compartments, or organize atop your desk with the iStick Multifunction Desktop Organizer. Browse Ikea and the Container Store for some other cool ideas. 

Write stuff down. 

When you’re super-busy, your thoughts may feel like bees buzzing in your head. Free up brain space by transfering all those busy thoughts to paper. Writing down everything you need to do can also help you take inventory of your priorities and transform vague ideas or goals into concrete, manageable steps.

Keep good financial records.

A spreadsheet that details clients, payments, and expenses not only keeps you more organized, it can be a real bonus at tax time, especially if you are able to claim expenses like ink and paper.

What if you’re at your most creative in chaos?

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

                                                                                                                 —Albert Einstein

For some writers, organization does not free up brain space. Many creative people thrive on chaos, likening it to white noise, where the clutter and chaos blur outside distractions, allowing them to focus fully.

Some studies of the link between organization and creativity show that “disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.” If this is you, don’t bother sorting your paper clips by color or alphabetizing your reference library. You’re in good company with Albert Einstein!

Photo by sciondriver

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: Do you think organization helps or hinders the creative process?

8 Comments

  1. Phyllis Twombly

    There’s a definite difference between work friendly clutter and total chaos. Many people have a ‘live’ pile of current paperwork/files which contain recent assignments, projects and relative research. What makes the system work is that each item is filed or tossed when finished.

    Reply
  2. Amanda R.

    For the “wall calendar” I like to use Google Calendar. Whenever I find a writing contest or anthology I want to submit to, I add it to the calendar with a link. This is useful because some deadlines might be months away, so I can add it and forget it until the deadline gets closer. It’s an easy way to see all the things I need to write every month.

    Reply
  3. Patricia Hines

    Organization is needed so that I can find what I need when I need it. However some clutter-chaos is needed to create a friendly, creative atmosphere.

    Reply
  4. Kristine

    Orgnaized chaos is for me. ; )

    Reply
  5. Karen

    I can appreciate the need for both. I feel more solace in an orderly environment but I work best with a bit of chaos and under pressure. My creative juices flow at full tilt when I’m coming up on a deadline.

    Reply
  6. Heidi

    I like the rest of my house to be orderly when I write, but dislike having to tidy up my writing space mid-project.

    Reply
  7. Sophie Lovett

    I’m not a tidy person. But when it comes to writing it’s planning and organisation that keeps me going. I have so little time to write in between looking after the toddler that if I didn’t know exactly where I’m at I doubt I’d get anything done!

    Reply
  8. All Green

    I absolutely hate it when a great idea pops into your head while in the shower. By the time you’re dry enough to turn on the computer, you’ve forgotten what it was. Stare at the blank computer screen. Nothing. In such moments I really want to give my laptop to All Green and never touch it again.

    Reply

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