I hope you were able to spring forward this past weekend without losing your writing momentum! If you’re struggling to organize yourself and your writing life, today’s tip talks about how to put together all of the tools we’ve been talking about over the past few weeks. It’s the sixth and final article in our series on writing productivity based on the book Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time by Paul Hammerness, M.D., Margaret Moore, and John Hane. The first five articles are available on the blog. Find the links at the end of today’s article. Happy writing, Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
Organize Your Writing Life by Rochelle Melander
To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking. —Agnes DeMille
Did you ever take dance lessons? The teacher demonstrates each step and then puts them all together. If you’re taking ballroom dancing, the teacher will sometimes use one of those footprint charts with the arrows that make absolutely no sense without the teacher showing how the steps work together. At first the dancers look a bit robotic, trying to remember the steps in order and count. In order for the dancer to loser herself in the dance, as DeMille talks about in the quote above, the dancer must not worry about the individual steps and just dance. The muscles will remember the steps.
And so it is with this writing process I’ve been talking about. Over the course of five articles, I’ve outlined the various steps we need to take to organize our mind and write:
*tame our frenzied emotions and engage our thinking brain
*attend to our task for a sustained period of time
*notice when we get distracted, harness our attention and refocus
*recall, retrieve, and use information for our work
*move between different types of tasks.
The final step in the six-step process is simply to connect the dots or dance elegantly between the steps.
How to do it. You’ve learned the mechanics of each step. Now the trick is to immerse yourself in the dance, moving in and between each step. These tools will help:
1. Practice mindfulness. Every step in this five-step process requires mindfulness. Instead of worrying over the past or future, pay attention to what you are doing right now. Dance this dance (not the other dances you also know). Don’t think about HOW to dance or worry about what dance to do. Just dance. Remember, you can only dance one dance at a time.
2.Take balcony time. Balcony time is simply stepping away from the demands of daily life and seeing the big picture. Once a month, put on your scientist hat and examine how you are doing at putting the five steps into practice. Treat everything, including your missteps, as information. In other words: don’t judge yourself for losing focus or having difficulty moving between tasks. Figure out why the task challenges you, what you can learn from that, and how you might fix it.
3. Build strength. We become better and stronger at writing and organizing our time when we practice. Martha Beck talks about how people who meditate become better at focusing by losing focus and then refocusing. As writers, we do the same thing. We get better at taming the frenzy, sustaining attention, and applying the brakes by doing it, over and over again. When we get distracted and then pull our focus back to our writing, we gain strength.
Your turn: How have you learned to put all the steps together and create a writing life than works?
Read the first five articles in this series: