How to better organize your writing

Viewing time: 4 mins. 30 secs. 

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question looks at how to better organize your writing. If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.

Transcript:

How do you better organize your writing? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode. 

I have a question from Andy Maguire, a writer based in Moses Lake, Washington. Here’s what he’s asked by email…. 

“I have just pinpointed my main problem in writing. I get all kinds of ideas, references (non-fiction blog posts) and snippets of writing all typed out — I use OneNote — and then I struggle with how to go back and organize it all. One problem with just sitting down and writing without editing is that once I have enough draft text to start editing, I find that what I have written can be organized in several different ways. Then it takes me an enormous amount of time to turn this into a readable form. This really slows my writing process. Do you have any suggestions?”

Thanks for your questions, Andy. I can see you’ve given this issue a lot of thought and congratulations on being so self-aware! 

But the problem is, you’re missing out two of the key steps of writing! You’re researching and you’re writing and you’re editing. But nowhere do you mention thinking or mindmapping. These two steps are at least as important as writing, maybe even more so. 

Your job as a writer is not just to assemble what other people have said. You also need to contribute to the conversation. And to be able to do that, you need to think. 

Let me make a couple of observations about thinking. Don’t do it at your desk. Desks are TERRIBLE places to think. This is because we’re sitting and when we sit, we don’t breathe nearly deeply enough. Our brains take up only two percent of our body weight but they use 20% of the oxygen we take in. They are oxygen hogs!! 

And when we’re sitting, we tend to take wimpy shallow breaths, as though we were sipping our breath through a narrow straw. This lack of oxygen makes our brains a bit stupid — or at least more stupid than they would be with enough oxygen. 

So instead of sitting, go out for a walk. That’s the ideal time — and a fantastic activity — when you want to be thinking about what you’re going to write. 

If you don’t like walking you can do any other form of exercise that appeals to you — running, cycling, whatever. Or whatever the pandemic will permit. And if you’re worried you might forget something, take your phone with you so you can dictate some notes. 

Apart from the need to get enough oxygen, there’s another reason to get away from your desk when you’re trying to think. This issue relates to letting your mind wander. To feel that important freedom you can also consider doing anything that’s repetitive but that leaves your brain free to think, in an unpressured way. This might include gardening, vacuuming, dusting, chopping vegetables. Or even lying in a hammock, letting yourself sway in the sunshine.  

The next step is to mindmap. I’ve written about mindmapping a lot and done a number of videos as well, so I’m simply going to include a link to all that material in the show notes, below. Please take a look at it. Mindmapping will make a huge difference to you. 

Andy, I know you think the problem is that you’re not editing while you write. But in fact, the problem is you’re not thinking BEFORE you write. Nor, it seems, are you taking advantage of the many benefits that mindmapping can give you. 

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from English writer A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh. “Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”   

Andy, if you’re able to add thinking and mindmapping to your writing process, I think you’ll be much happier with the results. 

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If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a much more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes. 

Links 

Mindmapping posts and videos

Your Happy First Draft