Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I used to think of the creative process as a wild and free flowing event, an artist covered in paint, a writer with ink-stained fingers and hair in a tangle, a furrowed brow, or a figure draped over a typewriter, pounding madly. I want my writing to come from a deep place, sometimes even mysterious and dark. I want to type with fervor in a grand hotel like Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining” (but having a way better outcome)!

I’ve noticed for the most part however, a strange and curious thing about the creative process. What I’ve become aware of, although drawn to these dramatic images of the creative person at work, is how very ordinary the creative process usually is. I’ve also noticed that my most creative work usually comes from a beginning place of order rather than chaos, artistic or otherwise.

At times it has struck me odd and counterintuitive that the beginning task of the creative process is often one of cleaning up or creating order.I simply do better, write better and feel better when I’m more organized. It’s taken me a long time to realize this and I by no means have gotten this all together. But I have learned some things I’d like to share with you. Here are five tips for getting your writing and creative work organized.


Even if you have piles of papers to file, sort or process, clear your immediate working area. Give yourself the gift of clear working space. Remove everything from your desk, table or work surface that you don’t need. Keep only necessary tools (pen, paper, journal, computer), a few well-chosen inspirational objects (pictures, framed quotes, rocks or shells) and a beverage. Try it and notice how you feel without the visual distractions pulling your attention away.


This is a critically important issue for writers and other creative people because we tend to accumulate so much “stuff.” David Allen, author of Getting Things Done suggests a filing method that uses one simple alphabetical system for all reference material. He suggests printed labels on file folders because they are clear, easy to read, help you find what you’re looking for and re-file folders you’ve used.


At one point or another, you’ll have to go through and process whatever piles have accumulated. Since for most creative people, creating is lots more fun than organizing, you’ll want to find a way to get to your organizational tasks with the least amount of resistance. Try sorting your papers in a room with a nice view. Listen to upbeat music while you work. Set a timer and stick with it for half and hour and then reward yourself with a phone call to a friend or reading a few pages of a mystery. Set the timer again and do one more sprint for the day.


As creative people we tend to think we don’t have time to organize. That combined with not enjoying the process can make organizing a low priority task. You’ll need to schedule time to organize like you do appointments, meetings and other commitments. Start slowly. Can you schedule ten minutes today to begin to file, sort or process whatever is most needing to be looked at? Good! Now just schedule ten minutes more for tomorrow. Notice how you feel when you keep this commitment to yourself.


I watch, listen for, read about and borrow ideas about organizing from other people all the time. Look for others who are organized in the way you would like to be and ask them for suggestions. There are also several useful books on getting organized.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
  • Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston
  • It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys (I love this title!) by Marilyn Paul
Getting and staying organized is an ongoing job. It is also critical if you are seriously committed to your creative work. If you think you could use some help, let’s talk.

If you find you could use some help getting organized, schedule a GRATIS SAMPLE COACHING SESSION via phone or in person to find out if writing & creativity coaching is for you.

Phone (800) 552-WRITE, that's (800) 552-9748 or write to me at susan@susanborkin.com to find out more.

Take good care,


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