August 12, 2013

Find a System - Lorrie Orr

"Be regular and orderly in your daily affairs
that you may be violent and original in your work."
Gustave Flaubert

The more I read about writers I admire, the more I realize that each has a system. The particulars of the system may differ, but for all, routine and stick-to-it-iveness makes the difference. The trick, perhaps, is in finding the system that works for you.

Stephen King strives to write 10 pages per day whereas Hemingway's goal was 500 words. Churchill and Nabokov wrote standing up at a lectern. Colette and Truman wrote in bed or on a couch, lying down. Trollope aimed to be at his writing desk by 5:30 am and wrote 2500 words before breakfast. His success was to "allow myself no mercy."

Beyond putting the words on the page, a writer must find a way to organize the business of writing. When I began writing for publication slips of paper flew everywhere - ideas, notes, quotes, snippets I'd overheard. I had to find some way to organize my writing life. But organization needed to flow throughout my entire life, not just the writing time.

I run a fairly well-organized household (although it seems to have been more so when I had three children at home) and I needed something that would suit my entire life, not just the writing portion. Julia Hood's The Sidetracked Writer's Planner works for me. It's full of blank forms to personalize - calendars, query index, income and expense records, idea index, addresses, etc. Best of all, I just print the pages I need (it comes as a PDF) and ignore the rest. I've used that system for nearly 8 years now, while writing for publication, while completing my B.A. in French, and now while working on a non-fiction craft book. I like the flexibility.

Find a system that works for you and stick with it.

Lorrie Orr

Note: The website has not been updated for several years, but I believe the materials are still available.


  1. Lorrie, I like that quote of Gustave Flaubert's.

    Ah, the trick is to find the right system. I've played with various styles over the years, and I think I've finally got something that works for me too. Shirley Tye and Tammy Wiens shared some of their ideas a few months ago here that I found helpful.

    I am still going to peek, however, at Julia Hood's e-book, just in case she's got something more for me too.

    Thanks, Lorrie.

  2. I could never be that organized! I could have ten books and calendars and they would all be empty!

  3. I, too, loved the opening quote. It totally speaks to me and sums up the way I feel about the creative process in general. I am SOOOO into being organized, making lists, etc. but then I tend to be pretty flexible when it comes right down to the writing/painting/rehearsing... I might check into the suggested organizer, although I pretty much have my own system at the moment that works for me.

  4. I too love that Flaubert quote. The subconscious side of my creativity is very attuned to the tranquility or lack of it in my life. Order and organization are linked to this for me. And it seems I'm always working on my system, fine-tuning and tweaking it. Your ebook sounds interesting.


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