Whenever I scour social media a common problem I notice is that indie artists struggle with feeling overwhelmed. I get that. There are lots of details to manage year-to-year, month-to-month, day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute, second-to -- *Stefanie bends over, gasping for breath*
Phew. See? Overwhelm is a real problem. There are many ways to cope with the feelings of pressure associated with having to stay on top of technical tasks -- starting with self-compassion, patience and having reasonable expectations of yourself and others (including your readers) -- and today I'm sharing the tangible tools I use to run the Business of Being an Artist.
As always, these are juuuuuust suggestions. Broken down by category -- STYLE // TASK // COST -- you should be able to select the strategies that suit your lifestyle. Even though I've sourced systems that serve writers, these organization recommendations could easily work in other creative industries.
Are you a design-based artist? Or is putting pen to paper your preference? If you know how your writer's mind interprets and synthesizes information, utilizing your communication strengths can be helpful when trying to stay organized. Here are some of my favourite resources for managing a hefty workload:
Trello -- Hello, bold/dynamic/flexible online resource. Come to Steffie! If your brain loves colour (and programmable timers, labels and images), Trello might be the tool for you. Plus, I'm a fan of GoogleDocs. You can't go wrong with folders, folders, folders.
Record your to-do list, listen back. Talk out your day with a sympathetic friend, have them repeat what you said. Play music in the background as you work, or maybe a little ASMR. Sound is your kink, so use those ears to manage your artistry. Try Noisli -- a free resource for authors.
This should feel like a no-brainer for writers -- get a journal! Write out your day, then follow up with a text-based online organizer. Some of my stage management friends like Excel, Drop Box and LibreOffice.
Kinaesthetic (Action) Organizers
Move while you work -- research shows that walking improves cognitive function, so if you struggle with putting your thoughts in a sensible order, get outside! Or pace your living room. Any space will do.
What's a great way to figure out complex problems, like when to release your books, how much to charge and what design aesthetic to use for marketing? TEACH. Grab your kids, or pets, or collection of still-in-package Transformers and tell them what you know. Afterwards, the things you don't know will rise to the surface of your thoughts and you can tackle the next level. It's called mastery, baby -- check this out: The Protégé Effect
Knowing how you work is great, but maybe you have all the self-awareness in the world and still can't get into a good organizational rhythm. Try these task-based strategies to regulate your routine:
1) Set long-term and short term goals -- revise when they no longer align with your reality (ie. if your readers prefer your poetry over your prose, maybe think about leaning into that story style; or if you run out of money, maybe pause until your pockets become more flush).
2) Make lists -- daily, weekly, etc. Check off your responsibilities after they're completed and celebrate every victory. With bubbly. The good stuff, not the sparkling cider.
3) Keep your schedule on a calendar or journal planner -- I use both online and paper. I have no idea why.
4) Set a timer to integrate breaks into your writing sessions -- back problems are a thing, friends. Stand up and move every forty-five minutes (at least) so you don't get "Writer's Hunch". Plus, productivity increases when you frequently step away from your screen to clear your head.
5) Delegate -- if you're in the middle of writing a crucial WIP moment, take some chores off your plate. Order in dinner, ask your partner to take over the household duties for a week (or six), get your kids to fold their own damned laundry and pause the social engagements until you're finished. If your people (and food delivery services) care about you, they'll be happy to help out. Just make sure to return the favours (and tip generously) when you're less consumed by your writing.
6) Pick a time of day when you reply to phone calls, emails, text messages and DMs -- DO NOT BE ON CALL. Communicate clearly when you're available and when you aren't, then respect those boundaries.
7) Don't forget your finances -- keep receipts; create a budget; PAY ARTIST FEES ON TIME (photographers, cover designers, formatters and editors have bills to pay, too); and file your taxes (yes, writers have to pay tax on the ten books they sell every year, don't be that person who benefits from public services but does nothing to contribute to their maintenance).
8) Schedule "You Time" -- I'm not joking. Make taking a bath, drinking hot tea, going for a run and laughing at Twitter goofballs a priority. Put it in your calendar. Recharging helps you ride out the stressful moments that show up far too often when you're an independent writer.
If talent grew on trees we'd use it as currency. Sadly for writers, a short story or song won't buy you organizational tools. If you do have a little moola to work with, lucky you. If you don't, no worries. I've got free and fancy options for everyone:
-- Milanote Writing App
-- Evernote Online Notepad
-- Mariana Timer (Pomodoro, Kitchen, Custom)
-- Ulysses Writing App for Mac, iPad and iPhone
-- Freedom Distraction Management
-- Eco-Friendly Journals Notebooks for Sustainable Writing
-- Scrivener Free-form Notetaking
-- Todoist Comprehensive List Manager
-- EarthHero Products to Organize your Work Space
Single Significant Purchase
-- Marlowe Pro Manuscript Assessment
-- Masterclass Writing Course Membership
-- Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Northwestern University (hahaha, I'm funny)
I hope these suggestions help. When in doubt Google I DON'T THINK I CAN BE A WRITER and a plethora of resources will leap onto your screen. Also, join a supportive online community -- friends can supply you with daily recommendations for how beat the 'business blues'.
Have fun organizing your writer set-up!
*I am not paid to promote any of the services mentioned in this article -- I just think they're nifty and want to get the good word out.