The Most Organized Writer in America

by Kitty Felde

No, it’s not me.

I’m of the messy desk set, the folks who find that filing something away means I’ll never think of it again, or even more likely, won’t be able to find it again. I like everything I need to deal with spread out in front of me, where I can touch it and move it around, and feel the satisfaction of tossing it in the trash.

Last night, I heard a talk by writer Mindy Klasky. She writes a little of everything – romance, baseball, middle grade novels, and “how to get organized” strategies for writers. She’s a former attorney who was used to billing by the hour and a former librarian, one of the most organized professions in the world.

Mindy is a great believer in spread sheets. Now, I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my play submissions and responses. But Mindy takes it half a dozen steps further. She uses spread sheets, not just for tracking her submissions and publication schedules, but also for keeping her metadata information organized – everything from an up-to-date bio to reviews to key words for Google searches. She uses them to create a business plan. And most interesting to me, she uses them to create a strategic plan for writing.

That strategic plan starts with setting her writing goals for the year. In other words, how many books, essays, short stories, etc. does she plan to write this year? And then she uses her spreadsheets to set out a 12 month schedule with specific page goals that must be met each week.

How productive is she? She averages 400,000 words a year – 5,000 words a day! Last year, she wrote nine 40,000 page novels in nine months. Yet, she only writes three days a week – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are left for the business of writing, running errands, and having lunch with friends. She takes the weekends off – unless she didn’t meet her page goals for the week.

I’m not Mindy Klasky. I don’t think I’ll ever fall in love with spread sheets. And I certainly don’t have the stamina to write 5,000 words a day. But I like the idea of setting goals.

Playwright Jose Rivera advises those of us who toil in the theatre to write one new full-length play a year. Every year.

I think I can do that. No, wait. I know I can do that.

So here is my plan: tomorrow I get on an airplane and will have five-plus hours of flight time when I can think. I’m going to think hard about my schedule, about committing to regular writing time, about setting page goals and play goals and sticking to them. I may not open a spread sheet to map out my writing plans for 2016, but I will write them down.

How about you? Do you map out your writing life? What works best? What organizational tools do you use?

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