Integrating Creativity with the Business of Writing

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Many writers have trouble balancing the creative and business ends of what they do. You might have a grand idea for a short story, but damn, right now you have to finish an article for a client, or pay a bill that’s about to become overdue.

Of course, what we’d all like is the time and leisure to just sit in a room and write! But real life intrudes. Here’s a system that might help you integrate the two:

1. Don’t suppress the creative thoughts that come to you, like that idea for a short story, even though you’re in the middle of something else that’s important to your business. Instead, be prepared for your creative thoughts by grabbing them. How? Always have some way of recording your ideas with you. It can be as simple as always having notepads and pens available — in your kitchen, in your car, in your pocket. It can be the recording function on a smartphone, or a “notes” feature on a tablet computer. Just make sure you always have some way with you to grab and keep your ideas.

2. Once you have those ideas captured, put them somewhere you can actually use them. I tend to use scraps of paper and I put them all into a folder that, once a day, gets integrated into my to-do list. I make time to look at the idea, see when and where I might be able to use it, and assign it to that particular place.

3. Lists are formidable tools. Start each week with a list that’s divided into four sections: “do” (the things people pay you to do, the way you’re going to make your living this week); “get” (marketing, the way you’re going to get new business this week); “maintenance” (the things you have to do to keep your business running this week, like invoicing, purchasing, dealing with the accountant, etc.), and, finally, “hyacinths” (because of the poet’s urging that one buy hyacinths for one’s soul: these are the activities that feed the creative part of you, so they’re the things you want to do this week: start that short story, research an interesting topic for future work, read a book that will inspire you).

4. Use that weekly four-category list to create the lists of daily activities that need to happen for you to be able to cross an item off your weekly list.

5. At the end of the week, create time and space to revisit the list, review your progress, and begin next week’s list. Some items will carry over because they were not accomplished. Why weren’t they? Learn from what got in your way this week so that same thing doesn’t handicap you next week.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir helps writers find balance in their work at her website.

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