The Revenge of The Organized Writer

by Jeff Abbott on January 13, 2011

Revenge? Oops, I meant to write Return. RETURN.

When I started the blog a while back, one of the most popular features was a series of posts with the alluring name of The Organized Writer. And if you saw my desk some days, you would laugh at my hubris in pretending that I am a model of organization. Mostly I gave short reviews about planners, notebooks, and software that could help writers keep their necessary focus and not feel overwhelmed by the endless tug-of-war between regular life and creative time.

I stopped the Organized Writer entries for a couple of reasons: I didn’t want them to turn into a long-running series of product reviews, and if I was always reviewing new products, I was by default tinkering with my organizational system, which then implied I really was not that organized. There are tons of sites out there to review planners and notebooks; I felt I had nothing new to add.

I am bringing back The Organized Writer in a limited way, but I’m not going to focus overmuch on what tools to use (there is no one right way to be organized). I want to talk about being an creative professional who isn’t feeling overwhelmed or lost by all the demands on his or her time–and this is far more interesting than what planner I use.¬†How do we thoughtfully arrange our time and arrange our work so we can be avoid distraction, focus our creativity, and do our best work? That will be more the theme moving forward.

That said, I am going to talk briefly, in the next couple of entries about my overall organizational system, just so you know where I’m coming from and what works for me and how this helps me focus on my writing. My system isn’t perfect; I am well aware of its flaws. However, it works well enough for me to keep my producing my daily quota of words, and I would rather spend my time writing than refining the system, endlessly. All I want these tools to do is to help me write and stay engaged with my work at a deep level, help me reach readers, help me grow my career. I think a productivity system is definitely a place where the perfect is the enemy of the good. Find what works *well enough* for you, and then use it and stick with it. I am doing two huge writing projects a year now; I don’t have time to fiddle with how I stay organized.

I have three basic tools I use, and each will get its own blog post in the days ahead:

Filofax – this old-school planner is where I keep my calendar, my to do list (which I have talked about before), my project notes (which differ from book notes).

Levenger Circa – this highly adaptable notebook is where I keep all my book notes

Tinderbox – billed as “the tool for notes”, this super-powered Mac software is digital index cards on steroids.

So–I hope this new, differently focused, occasional Organized Writer series will be of help not just to writers, but to anyone in today’s hyperconnected, thousand-distractions world who has work to do and thoughts to think.

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