Working Table of Contents – A Way to Organize Your Writing

Create a working table of contents (WTOC) for all your writings.  Think of the WTOC as an idea list.  The working table of contents lists not only the vignettes or articles you’ve written, but also the vignettes or articles you plan to write.  Use actual or working titles for each vignette, chapter, blog post idea or article.

HOT TIP – Create a Working Table of Contents document in a table in your word processing software or use spreadsheet software, such as Excel.

In your WTOC, next to the titles you’ve written, record the current word count.  Also, create a column to notate the phase the writing is in (i.e.  prewritten, 1st draft, middle drafts, close to final, needs proofing, ready to publish, etc.).

Keep ALL your writing in one place on your computer.  Start with a folder titled “MY WRITINGS” or “MY BLOG POSTS” (or title of your collection), for instance.  Within that folder, create a new folder for each vignette OR working title.  Within each folder, save your drafts and revisions along with other supporting documentation, and research for that vignette, chapter, blog post idea or article.

Keep ALL your copies and edits of your writing together too.  Mirror your computer folders by creating manila folders for each of your articles, vignettes, or chapters.  Print the latest drafts and revisions and place them in their respective folders.  Also, collect supporting documents in the folder to create a compost of ideas and springboard material.  For instance, photos, articles about your topic, research notes, letters, interviews with characters who appear in the story, etc.

Store all your writings in one place.  If you have a filing cabinet or drawer where they can all reside together, great!  If not, consider purchasing a portable file tub with a lid.  These are especially handy when you go on vacation and want to take your writing with you.  For those who live in hurricane or flood evacuation zones, the tote tub filing system makes it easy to grab and go, never leaving behind your precious works.

Feed your creativity.  Visit museums, antique stores, and places that carry the associations of your stories.  Make dates with yourself to feed the muse.  Go for walks in the park.  Write in a journal.  Listen to music.  Fill your well with fresh ideas and new musings.  The more you feed the muse, the more often she’ll meet you on the page.

Download a free .pdf of the Working Table of Contents here.

Please leave a comment below this blog post to let  me know what you think.

Let’s get organized!

Anne Lamott’s Perfect Writing Space

I recently wrote about creating a space for your writing,  And I saved the BEST for this article because these are my personal faves.

My Favorite Creative Writing Space

Even though the desk is small, the feature I like about this space is the colorful clothesline draped  above the desk. A dozen years ago when I attended a writing workshop with famed author Anne Lamott (known for her awesome book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life), she shared how a similar clothesline effect keeps her work-in-process organized. She suggests hanging chapters of your manuscript above your writing desk, each one clipped separately by a clothespin or binder clip. Then as new ideas crop up, or you’re ready for revisions, the manuscript pages are right there, organized and easily plucked from the line. I’ve envisioned such a line above my desk ever since. Seeing this colorful example refreshes the idea.

My Second Most Favorite Creative Writing Space

I generally go for warm tones and a homey vibe. But the visuals in this inspired home office space are making me rethink that decor for my office. What if I had a clean spare space that didn’t distract me? What if everything was put away and I truly worked from a blank slate every day? There’s a certain calmness created by the tip-top organization, don’t you think?

What if… just sayin’…  for the sake of my inner creativity… what might I produce in a room like this?

Your Turn

1.  Are you an organized writer? What tools do you use? Will you consider the clothesline now?

2. Is your writing space clutter-free? Do you prefer to write in a clean spare space or in a messier environment?

I’d love to hear from you! Please post your thoughts in the comments box.

(photo credit: Thomas J. Story)

A Creative Space for Your Writing

Office On The BeachWhen I’m not writing, teaching writing or editing other people’s writing, you’ll most likely find me watching HGTV (House and Garden TV).

I’m really not much of a do-it-yourselfer around the house but I get really, really inspired by all the wonderful decorative organizing ideas I see in magazines, on TV shows, and via blogs.

Creating a writing space is much like writing itself.

  • Start with what you have.
  • Expand what you have with what you know.
  • Ask for help when you don’t know what to do next.
  • Do a little here and a bit more there; small steps lead to great results.
  • The end product will be something you’ll be proud to show off.

Do you have a special place where you write? Whether this weekend beckons you to write or to organize your creative writing space, here are some creative spaces to inspire you.

Home Office Inside a Closet
This home office example
shows that you don’t need a lot of square footage for your creative writing space when you use beautiful accessories to create savvy storage.

Writer’s Nook In The Attic
Imagine you’re a writer who desires creative writing space away from the hustle and bustle of family noise. Have an unused alcove in the attic? Or any alcove? This creative writing space may inspire you.

A Real Dining Room Office Conversion
Are you a writer who cheats? I mean, not really cheat, cheat, but cheat yourself and your home of a proper dining room by using the dining table as your office? If that’s you, why not turn that dining room into a proper office like this gal did?

Entry Hallway Turned Office Space for A Writer
The key to this hallway add-on writer’s nook is high storage above. Even if you keep a messy desk, no one will know when the doors close to hide your work in process.

National Get Organized Week – 1st Week in October

HousekeeperNational Get Organized Week is celebrated each year during the first full week of October–or at least it used to be.

Started by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) in 1992, Get Organized (GO) Week “was created to focus on the benefits of getting organized and the tools and techniques necessary to achieve that goal. This week is an opportunity to streamline your life, create more time, lower your stress and increase your profit. Simplify your situation and make it more manageable by taking advantage of this time to get organized.”

Call me old school but I still like October as a time to clear the desk mess even though in 2005, NAPO moved National GO (Get Organized) Week to National GO (Get Organized) Month to January.

But hey, why not use October to set fresh goals to burn through to the end of the year? After all, October’s the beginning of the final quarter of the year so why not set in motion a final push to get things done?

Writers, let’s GO this week and use these tips for writers to clear the clutter and make a fresh start!

GO, right now. Grab a broom, a mop, and a dust bin (that’s old school talk for “trash can”). Roll up your sleeves, put on some rockin’ movin’ music and do this:

  1. Take everything off your desk or writing table. That means everything.
  2. Give your desk or writing table a really good clean–dust the top, the sides and bottom, then sweep or vacuum all around it.
  3. Put back only the essential “hard” tools, such as your computer components, lamp, phone, etc.
  4. Eliminate unnecessary clutter created by knickknacks and chotchkes. I’m all for little mementos too but place them on a shelf or windowsill, away from your desk surface, which should be reserved for your creative projects ONLY.
  5. Turn your PILES into FILES. That means going through the piles of paper and organizing them into categories. Put LIKE with LIKE, and give the former PILE a FILE folder with a label.
  6. Organize your files in a stand-up fashion, using a rack system. Your rack system might be file drawers.  Or, file boxes, tubs or totes.  Or, create a rack-type space between two strong book ends to hold the files in place. (I like to get creative and use “found objects” such as vases filled with sand or rocks to make decorative book ends.)
  7. If possible, place your rack-type system away from the surface of your desk, perhaps on a credenza or within a filing drawer. That way, your desk is open for your writing, and thus, is more open to your creativity without the visual noise and clutter.

Look around your writing space now. What do you see? Remember, clutter drains your energy. It zaps your creativity too. If there’s more to do, continue the process of decluttering and organizing. Twenty minutes a day is all it takes.

Clean up and clear out stuck energy. Make good use of the “old” National GO Week to get a jumpstart on finishing the year out as a savvy, productive writer.

Now it’s your turn… what will YOU do this week to take advantage of our personal celebration of National GO Week?

Please post a comment below with your ideas.  Thanks!

Writers: Reach Your Goals – Stop, Start, Keep Doing

Writers, are you aware of all the things that keep you from your goals?

What will you stop doing, start doing, keep doing during the next 30 days?

This is a question I ask my coaching clients at the end of every month.

If you’re not taking time periodically to evaluate how you spend your time, then you’re probably stuck on autopilot, doing the same things you did last week, last month, or even last year without thinking about them.

It’s not as simple as 1-2-3, what do you stop doing. I encourage you to go deeper than that and look at what you’re already doing really well. Often, you merely need to tweak a few things.

Month by month if you adopt this process, by this time next year you’ll be a new writer.

A simple assessment of your daily action habits includes:

  1. What are you doing that wastes your time? What action habits do you routinely break, those tiny, big or small things that leave you disappointed at the end of the day for not achieving what you set out to do? Make a list – these will be behaviors you want to STOP doing.
  2. What are the top 3 action habits you could implement this month, maybe even this week, that would help you be more productive, better trained, or more marketable? Make a list – these will be behaviors you want to START doing.
  3. What 3 action habits are you already doing that you know benefit your writing life? Make a list – these will be behaviors you want to KEEP doing. (Be sure to give yourself credit for the many things YOU ARE already doing that lead you to your daily successes and writing goals.)

Take some time to reflect on all that you need to stop doing, start doing and keep doing at the end of every month.

Then download my free STOP-START-KEEP DOING TOOL << — (click the link) and fill in the blanks. Post your STOP-START-KEEP DOING TOOL where you see it every day.

Smart writers take time to assess what’s keeping them from their goals. Post a comment to tell us what you’ll STOP-START-KEEP DOING during next month too.

Before You Write, Declutter!

Have you ever noticed that clutter of any kind, whether physical, emotional, or mental, shouts out, “Hey, do me… don’t forget about… me… what about me?”

Clutter is stuck energy.  Clear your clutter and you will remove stagnant energy, free up space, and open up the channels to your creativity.

Clutter is defined as anything:

  • unfinished
  • unused
  • unresolved
  • tolerated
  • disorganized

When we begin a weekly decluttering regimen, we begin to clear out the old and make room for the new.  We cast off old projects, broken promises, and forgotten sidetracks.  We get rid of what we’ve been tolerating.  We put order to chaos.  The simple act of clearing clutter can transform your life by releasing what is no longer needed.  You’ll generate renewed energy, allowing you to create space in your writing life for the things you want to achieve.

Decluttering is an organic, ever-evolving part of the prewriting component in the writing process.  Do IT!  Start right now.  For the next 20 minutes focus your attention on a small pile of stuff, a desk drawer, a file folder, a computer folder, a countertop.

Ask yourself these 3 decluttering questions:

1.  Does it lift my energy?

2.  Do I love it?

3.  Is it useful to me now?

If not, out it goes (to the trash, to recycling, to charity, to a good new home).

Writers: Declutter Here!

You’ve decided to declutter so where to begin?


Practice clearing your clutter for just 20 minutes a day 3 times a week, and you will experience big shifts in your energy.

Begin here:

  • old stuff – from previous projects and careers, any unfinished plans you no longer feel passionate about
  • your computer files, clogged with old writings – clear them or use them
  • files and notebooks of old writings
  • a fat folder of stuff – old receipts you need to shred, for instance
  • your desk or writing space
  • clutter is also backlog or pending to do’s – collect theses pending items in one place and spend your 20 minute sessions getting closure on these items
  • unreturned phone calls or open phone calls you need to make for appointments (doctor, dentist, tax man, bill resolution, etc.)
  • anything that makes background noise, physically or metaphorically
  • anything broken or tolerated – either fix it, get it fixed, or get rid of it
  • household clutter – stuff you no longer use, wear, or need
  • relationships that zap your energy
  • organizations, meetings and dates you keep because they’re on the calendar

Clutter drains our energy.  It zaps our creativity.  Your declutter targets should be all about raising your vibration by increasing the flow of positive, unstuck energy.  Get things moving creatively right NOW.

(more if you have time to)


Get the family involved in the 20 minute decluttering exercise 3 times a week and you’ll feel a big release of stuck energy in large doses—it’s so freeing! ~