Writers often spend a great deal of time inside their own heads. Wonderful, if your head is full of comfy beach chairs, frothy drinks and plenty of coconut sunscreen. Unfortunately, my head tends to be full of dark manholes, snarled socks and upside down spreadsheets. In graduate school, one assignment required me to simulate a model of my thinking process. I used a Chutes and Ladders game board. Need I say more? Thought not.
So how do we take all that twisty-turny stuff cruising through our gray matter and make sense of it? We’re writers, so we write it down. Some of you may be groaning, but I’m a list lover. When I feel overwhelmed, a list is better than a handful of Xanax any day (okay, ALMOST any day).
This year, after spending almost four months on the other side of the world from my son and husband, I desperately needed to bring my life back into focus. So I sat down and listed out the main categories in my life: Writing, Writing Business, Volunteering, Professional Development, Personal, and Other Work. Then I created a new outline template in Word (no worries – you don’t have to be this insanely anal) that allowed me to break down projects and tasks under each of these categories. No need to create the same lists over and over again. Each month, I save over a new template copy and fill in the details. Then I leave a few open project and task spaces for those responsibilities that inevitably crop up. If a task needs further break down, the outline form makes it a snap.
My monthly planning outline is usually around three pages, and I clip those pages together and place them at the front of the three-ring binder I use as my daily desk planner. I then reference the outline two or three times a week to make sure I haven’t forgotten something significant. My 2010 year outline is a little longer, and I’ve linked to a sample outline in case you’re interested in modeling your own after mine.
Here’s to calming the mental chaos in the New Year! (Toasting you with a frothy drink!)
Kelsey Browning is a Romance University founder and faculty member. She writes contemporary and paranormal romance with a hint of southern sizzle. In her former life, she worked at one of the ten largest universities in the U.S., raising money and teaching students how to land their dream jobs. These days she pursues her dream job of freelance and fiction writing, which provides excellent benefits such as unlimited coffee and an office dress code that permits flip flops. Originally from Texas, she now lives in the Middle East with her husband, son and seriously spoiled dog. She’s currently at work on the first book in a new series. For more information, please visit www.KelseyBrowning.com.
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