If you’re not writing enough, do yourself a favor. Put just one of these tips for disorganized, distracted writers into action – and watch your productivity skyrocket!

disorganized writers“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends,” writes Stephen King in On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft. “In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.

“The hardest part of writing is starting, especially if the project is daunting,” says freelance copywriter Brenda Ebel Kruse, author of John Deere Collectibles. “I often feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of a big project, and tend to put off the simple process of starting. Then, it looms even larger in my mind and I begin to fear it. If it involves either long copy or a long process with multiple approvals, I often procrastinate and begin to dread the project.”

Sure, starting a 75,000-word novel – or even a 500-word blog post – can be intimidating. And, the thought of returning to it day in and day out can make you want to drink gin straight out of the cat’s dish (an Anne Lamott quip!).

Not Writing Enough? 5 Tips for Disorganized, Distracted Writers

If you take Stephen King’s advice about approaching the blank page, you’ll increase the chances of enjoying yourself while the Muse tackles you…

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart,” writes Stephen King in On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft. “You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”

What does “do not come lightly to the blank page” mean to Stephen King? It doesn’t matter. What it means to you is what matters!

Here are a few tips for approaching the blank page with strength, reverence, and faith…

Ease up on writing – spend 40% of your time planning

Published author and freelance book editor Laura Cross brings us a study conducted by McLuhan and Davies, a communications training firm. Their research shows that “efficient writers spend 40% of their time planning, 25% of their time writing, and 35% of their time revising. Less efficient writers spend more time on their projects – tinkering and wandering – and are less satisfied with the results. They distribute their time by planning 20%, writing 60%, and revising 20%.”

The more time writers spend planning (which might involve letting chocolate melt in your mouth or wine roll around your tongue), the more pleased you’ll be with the results. If you’re not writing enough, take time to create a mind map for writers.

Write your book like you’d build a house

“You have to plan (outline), pour the foundation (start writing), erect a building (keep writing), allow inspectors to review the structure (editors and readers), and be willing to tear down the flawed parts and rebuild them correctly (revise, edit, revise, edit),” says David Cristofano, author of The Girl She Used to Be. “Set a schedule, just like a builder, and follow it as closely as possible.”

Cristofano also thinks writers need to be able to say, “All I can get done this week is set the foundation.” If you’re not writing enough, don’t beat yourself up. An easy tip for disorganized, distracted writers it to write your goals down. Recognize your milestones, celebrate your accomplishments, and move on to the next task.

Write letters to specific readers, like Gramma or your BFF

Editor and ghostwriter Jami Carpenter knows what it’s like to feel like you’re not writing enough. She taught writing to high school students who had problems getting started and keeping going. But, she found, if they pretended they were just writing letters their words flowed.

“To stay focused so you write more, figure out the audience, and start each chapter as if you are writing a letter to that person or type of person,” she says. “If the book is for older women, for example, start the chapter with ‘Dear Gramma.’ That keeps your writing focused on who the reader is.”

But before you submit your chapters to agents, editors, or publishers, make sure you ditch dear old Gramma!

Gnaw on bite-sized bits – and remember that a little goes a long way

Tips for Disorganized Writers

5 Tips for Disorganized Writers

“Eating a whole elephant at once is too much, but broken into bites, it’s easier to digest,” says Kruse. “I divide large projects into mini parts and set deadlines for those. I’ll create perhaps six or seven smaller, more manageable projects instead of one huge job.”

Cross adds, “Your detailed plan has to be realistic. If you have a full-time job, two small children, and a dog to care for, it may be difficult to fit three pages of writing in each day. Set yourself up for success by creating a practical plan.” She figures that if you write one hour a day (after the kids go to bed), five times a week – or five hours one day a week (on Sunday when the kids are at Gramma’s house) – you’ll write five pages a week. In less than a year, you’ll have written a 250-page book!

Organize your physical space (a key tip for disorganized writers)

“Does your home have a room for everything, except for you to write? Are you looking out a window where you can get easily distracted?” asks DeAnna Radaj, author of Designing the Life of Your Dreams from the Outside In. “Get rid of ALL distractions on your desk not related to writing (bills, emails/letters, work, video games, etc). Close the curtains and turn off the phone. Don’t have talk radio on in the background; play music if it motivates you. Have pictures of inspiring quotes or scenery to keep you writing, not a picture of your disapproving or critical mother.

If you’re not writing enough, make sure your space is supportive, calming and inspiring – not filled with the negative energy of unfinished tasks, distractions and “to-do” lists that constipate you.

What works for you when you feel disorganized or distracted? Comments welcome below…


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13 thoughts on “5 Tips for Disorganized Writers”

  1. Great article on overcoming writing distractions! Don’t know if i can use your tips though. Almost too lazy to even write this comment, forget about writing anything bigger lol

  2. My biggest problem isn’t so much a lack of these…as it is a lack of consistency. Oh, well. I think it’s just a lack inside of me, not an active problem.

    Wait a second, though. I plan, constantly, and have lists of things I need to accomplish for my book to be any good (since I started that I’ve done the best writing I’ve ever done) all over the place. I have lists of plot points (known as an outline), lists of characters, lists of character histories, lists of everything. I’ve filled several notebooks with information for this book, and most of that wasn’t writing. I beat myself up, because not enough of my actual writing gets done. Huh, maybe I’m not doing as bad as I thought.

    Thanks for the reminder that planning has its place, too. Beautiful article, and have a great day!

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I agree — fear is a huge obstacle for writers. If you’re not writing enough, you need to just plow ahead without worrying about how your work will be perceived.

    If you write nothing, you have nothing to edit. I like it! Thanks, Prof KRG 🙂

  4. I think the reason many people don’t write is fear. They want what they write to be perfect, so they never start or they type a sentence, erase a sentence. The best way to write is just write. Don’t worry about perfection. You can always fix things you write, but you cannot edit nothing.

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments – I hope these tips help you write more! Disorganization and distraction is the bane of this writer’s existence 🙁

  6. Great information here. I was especially blown away by the idea of taking 40% of time to plan– I have probably done a bit too much of planning, but at least I know I don’t need to cut back as much as I thought. I always feel that creating goals for yourself (especially when you don’t have an external deadline or a current contract) is crucial. It’s the reason I started keeping writing contests and markets that I wanted to write to on a chronological spreadsheet, I could see the goals I wanted to strive for and could check them off like a shopping list. (I really liked researching writing markets and contests, though, and couldn’t write to them all, so now I offer a monthly list to my newsletter subscribers–www.excuseeditor.com)

    The bite sized bits is a great reminder as well. Not only for the writer whose life is busy, but for the one who has extra time–sometimes that can be more overwhelming. If you do get 5 hours of uninterrupted time, you may want to separate it into chunks (1/2 hour or 1 hour) with small breaks. I meet many writers who have “less time” but get more writing done. I think it’s because they know their time is limited, where the writer with almost unlimited time needs more internal discipline.

  7. Sometimes it helps me to write about my work in the third person. “This is the part where I have to inspire the reader with an example. And don’t forget to mention…” Sometimes a few paragraphs like that help me get unstuck when I can’t seem to find the right voice to continue.

    Of course, I may end up with an awkward passage, but eventually I move past the rut and get on track again. I can always clean the rough bit on my rewrite.

  8. Adventures in Children's Publishing

    Great post. Thanks! Going to hurry and tweet this so it can get in tomorrow’s round-up of best articles of the week! 😀