“A good system shortens the road to the goal.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
I consider myself to be organized. As a general rule I know where things are and when things are due. This is how I am in my day-to-day life, what I think of as my business life. In fact, I have always taken pride in my organizational skills. And I do consider myself to be successful at my day job. But is being organized necessary to succeed in other areas of life?
I have come to realize that I am not organized as a writer. I started my journey a few years ago and have discovered that I am all over the place when it comes to writing. I started off at a sprint, taking a twelve-week class through Writer’s Digest and drafting my first novel. The class kept me organized with deadlines and assignments and because I paid for it, I held myself accountable to complete everything as outlined.
Fast forward to today. I haven’t given up on my writing. But my sprint has turned into a slow meandering walk down a windy path with many stops along the way. And there isn’t just one path, there are many. Sometimes I wander down the path of working on my second novel. Sometimes it’s the path to my Human Resources book. Sometimes it’s just random thoughts in a journal before bed. I often feel guilty or anxious that I’m not more focused on my writing – a different notebook for each path – no outline, just thoughts and ideas on page after page. No structure, no deadlines, no accountability.
Every writer has a method for approaching each project they work on, just like we all approach our work in whatever way works for us. There is no set way to succeed. Some writers use outlines, which is what I did for my first novel because it was required during class. Some just start a novel and see where it takes them. Others use index cards or sticky notes to track timelines and characters. Published authors have agents and publishing houses that give them deadlines. They each use a method that works for them. And that’s when I realized I don’t know what my method is or what it should be. And I definitely have not held myself accountable with any deadlines.
I have thought about this quite a bit recently, and I believe to succeed in writing I need to develop a method for keeping my writing organized and start holding myself accountable. This is what worked for me when I was a college student, at work, and when I wrote my first novel. I need the structure and the deadlines. That is how I have succeeded in the past and how I believe I can succeed with future writing projects.
Is being organized necessary? Not for everyone. We should each look to how we have succeeded in the past, and use what works for each of us to succeed in the future. I thought I could just wing it and write whenever, and figure it out later. But that isn’t what has worked for me in the past. I realize now it was a way to not hold myself accountable, to brush it off, to do it later. In the end I’m accountable only to myself – and shouldn’t that be more important than being accountable to others?