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Author How-To: Organizing Your Writing Space

It’s no secret that creatives - writers, painters, musicians - are often perceived as “messy”; that in order to create any type of masterpiece (a novel, a painting, or a song), chaos must rule their worlds.

But is that the case for all creatives? Or is it possible they could be organized?

While the answer to those questions may vary, the good news is that being organized isn’t a character trait, but rather a skill anyone can learn!

With that in mind, we want to offer some simple tips to help authors organize their writing spaces and exercise their organizing muscles.

How to Organize Your Writing Space

Contrary to popular belief, being organized isn’t one-size-fits-all. Everyone has their own individual organizing style. However, there are some steps that everyone can implement to bring about order, regardless of how you like to organize.

1. Schedule time to organize. What gets scheduled gets done, so carve out time in your day to spend decluttering and organizing your writing space. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time - 30 minutes is sufficient - but knowing that you’ve dedicated a specific period to the task can help you stay focused and accomplish more.

2. Start small. Don’t try to attack your entire writing space all at once. Pick one area - for example, your desk - and start there.

3. Declutter. Before you buy any fancy containers, you need to remove anything that doesn’t belong in your writing space:

  • Set a timer (10-15 minutes depending on the condition of your space)

  • Pick a small spot that needs decluttering (such as a drawer or the top of your desk)

  • Group everything in the spot into like groups

  • Sort through each group and put things into categories: keep, donate, recycle, trash, shred, go elsewhere

  • When time's up, store keep items, take donate items to your car, recycle/trash/shred accordingly, and put items that go elsewhere back in their proper place

4. Assign zones to your stuff. With your space decluttered, now it’s time to give everything that’s staying an assigned home. Each item should fall into one of three categories:

  • Friend Zone - Like friends in your life, items in the friend zone should be those you enjoy, use on a daily basis, and need quick access to (i.e., computer, office supplies you use regularly, reference books, etc). Generally these are kept nearby on your desk or within easy reach.

  • Acquaintance Zone - These are items you like, use and need but not on a regular basis; maybe once a month or every few months (i.e. reference books you only glance at, books you’re going to read eventually, educational material you want to keep, extra office supplies). Generally these are stored within your space but maybe across the room.

  • Stranger Zone - Stranger danger stay far, far away! Stranger items are those you still need but don’t look at or use very often (i.e. old copies of print manuscripts, important documents, old journals). Generally these are best left in a closet on a high shelf, or somewhere outside your working space.

5. Maintenance. Now that you’ve decluttered and assigned homes, the only way to keep the order you’ve created is to stay on top of it. Here are a few steps you can take to maintain your newly organized space:

  • Clean up at the end of your writing time. Take a few minutes at the end of your work time to put things back where they belong and to prep for the next day. It may not seem like much but it can make a big difference when you get ready to create again!

  • Declutter regularly. Be intentional about decluttering and remove anything that doesn’t belong in your writing space so clutter can’t expand or overwhelm you.It doesn’t have to be every day but aim for once a week or twice a month.

  • Leave empty space for rest and growth. Over time more items will enter your writing space. Can you make room for them? You will if you leave empty space. Not only that, but having empty space where you write allows your mind to rest and have space to let the ideas flow!

It may not happen overnight, but organizing your writing space is possible! Using these tips, being an organized creative doesn’t have to be a myth. You, author, can make it a reality in your writing space today!

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