Words to live by #1

Welcome to the first in a series of some of the quotes and pieces of advice that I’m generally inspired by and use to motivate me and live my life according to.

Be neat and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so you may be violent and creative in your work. – Gustave Flaubert (1821 – 1880)

It sounds contradictory. How can you be a neat and orderly person and also wildly creative? Is it not stifling? No, because the key thing is to keep the different aspects of your life separate. There’s nothing strange about that. We all do that all the time. Do erotica writers wear thigh high boots and corsets all day? Of course not, because the process of doing the work is different from the product of that work. Having a good filing system, or always being able to find your keys doesn’t make you a non-creative person. It makes you a person who’d rather spend your time writing, or painting or whatever you do, than looking for a lost document or your car keys.

This is the most important aspect of it for me. It saves time. Time is at a premium for me. I have to fit my writing around a day job. Every moment I can claim for my writing is precious. I don’t only mean the actual sitting down and doing the writing time though, but also thinking time. I want to use as much of that as possible on creative thoughts about my work in progress.

Which is going to give me more head space to think about a story I’m plotting? Having to remember all day to buy milk on the way home? Putting a reminder to buy milk in my phone to pop up when I’m on the way home? And which is more likely to result in me arriving home with some milk? Letting something else do the remembering of mundane things leaves me free to forget them until I need to do them, leaving me free to think about the new rocks I’m going to throw at my characters.

It reduces stress to be organised. I don’t lose stuff or forget to do tasks, so I have a clearer mind and less worry that I’ve probably forgotten to do something. It encourages me to be disciplined in my creative work too. If I organise what I have to do for a project and schedule the time to do it, then barring unforeseen emergencies, I’m going to get things done in time and keep to the promises I’ve made to people.

Everyone can choose their own method of organisation that suits them. Me, it’s all about my to do list and my scheduling. A tickler file helps me stay on top of those crucial bits of paper that I’d otherwise probably lose and forget to deal with. My To Do list is probably the key one. I live by that list. I manage my non writing stuff and my writing projects on it. I use a site called Remember the Milk for mine, but there are plenty of options from the simple and streamlined to full on project management software. Mine is sort of in the middle.

One thing that’s important when you come to rely on your organising system to run your life is that you are in big trouble if you lose your lists and calendar! So I prefer to use apps and websites for my calendar and To Do list. So I can reach them from anywhere and I can’t lose them because they are not just on one device. They can all work offline too and sync when I get connected again.

I don’t claim to be perfect. My long term filing can pile up. Some tasks get postponed if I can’t be bothered to do them – but they get done eventually, because there they are on the list I see many times a day, all red and overdue and accusing. So I get stuff done in the end. I get my writing work done and I keep up with the mundane stuff so it doesn’t distract me or take away time I want to spend on writing. Being neat and orderly in my non-writing list means my mind is clear and free when the time comes to sit down and write.

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