Efficiency: What the Writer Needs to Know

Toward the end of January I taught a class called Putting It All Together. Here’s why: People come into my craft classes and write in response to powerful generative exercises. After a while, they accumulate a collection of very strong writing, but what to do with the pieces? During the three-hour Putting It All Together workshop, we talked about logistical organization — making files, using folders, on the computer or actual, notebooks, post-its, index cards. Tracking and sorting. We also talked about connecting the pieces, the energy that can arise from putting two disparate fragments together, finding what I call “cross-currents” that can create rapids, depth, dimensionality. We explored finding v. creating forms and structures for your stories.

But the underlying principle for all of it was this: self-acceptance. We creative types are so good at imagining what life could be like if we were someone else — more organized, more focused, more disciplined, more efficient.

And yet the only path to those qualities is through you. You can’t detour around who you are and there is no abracadabra fairy godmother at hand to — “poof!” — transform you. The only way to be more efficient is to do what you do more often and sooner. This includes going in wrong directions, getting stuck, worrying, doubting, encountering your inner critic and more.

What you can do is put supports into place that bolster what you already do: Timers. Bulletin boards. Big paper. Colors. Writing buddies. Books. Classes. Readers. Reading aloud. Deadlines.

But the biggest, best support of all? Acceptance. Stop fighting. Take a deep breath, acknowledge your fears, your fumbling, your impossible human way forward. And release. People have done it differently, but no one’s done it perfectly. Stumble toward imperfection faster and with more faith in it. That’s the best any of us can do and it ain’t so bad.