The Working Writer: Systems and Processes

As a “working writer”, I’m learning that it isn’t always about the craft. It isn’t always about the joy of creativity, much as we’d like it to be.

Sometimes it’s about how to manage being creative in the face of all those other things on the to-do list.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned after opening my coaching business in 2020, it’s that I have to have systems and processes. Things to keep me organized. Ways to keep my writing hours sacrosanct, and ways to keep my clients happy and moving forward, and ways to balance those things with family, down time, daily life chores. Plus…in these times, there’s a heavy load of marketing that goes with both the writing and the coaching.

By the way, systems do work for creativity too – and I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post.

Systems That Work for Everything

I think the number one thing that is essential, whether you have another business/job besides writing, or not, is a calendar.

image of computer, desk

My image made with Canva

I happen to use iCal – I like that I can color-code it, I like that it syncs easily with my other systems, I like that I can easily print it out. Google calendar is another option. And of course there’s always good old paper or whiteboard.

I’ve learned to sort out my “marketing” on my calendar – noting what I want to create on this blog, or in my newsletter, and when; what to post on social media and when. Suddenly marketing seems more manageable.

In addition to iCal, I could not do without my Acuity scheduling app. For my business, this allows me to set up boundaries, such as only meeting with clients Tuesday through Thursday, and blocking 30 minutes before and after meetings. Then I can send clients a link (it automatically links to my Zoom account and my iCal) and they can choose from my available times, and it reminds them again before we meet.

And of course, Zoom. How brilliant that Zoom came along just when we really needed it. I use it for personal as well as business, for friendly chats and book club meets, and watch untold numbers of webinars, make school visits, etc.

See my list below for more of my favorite systems.

Processes That Help with Creativity

It’s really hard to be creative when a thousand little things are yammering in your brain. Here’s what I’m doing to give myself creative space.

Every Sunday evening I look at the week ahead. I make sure that if something has changed or popped up, I know it. I make notes. I check the calendar. I print it out. I plan when I’m going to write and when I’m going to do marketing and when I’m going to spend time on life.

At the end of every month, I do the same thing but with that monthly overview. What’s coming up? Do I have a book coming out in six months and if so, what can I do about that now? What I do doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be planned. Do I have a vacation with some free time, when I could visit a bookstore and sign stock, or slip in a school visit?

And thinking 3 months ahead, too, helps with a quarterly overview. Do I want to get that manuscript to my agent by a certain date? If so, how much do I need to work on it each week? Do I have the room to take on another coaching client? If so, when?

My Favorite “Office” Tools

Here’s a list of tools, some of which I couldn’t live without. (In a future post, I’ll talk about some tools for the right side of your brain – the creative tools.)

  • Calendar: iCal, Google calendar, Acuity scheduling, Calendly scheduling, Doodle polls for group meets
  • Meeting: Zoom
  • For small business organization: 17Hats, a customer service management system that automatically organizes my clients, sends bills and receipts, catalogues everything I need from calendar to emails to bookkeeping. Dubsado is another CSM people like.
  • For file storage/sharing: Dropbox, Google docs
  • For backing up everything: Carbonite
  • For making nice-looking graphics for social media, websites, or anything else: Canva
  • For helping me with everything: my virtual assistant (and I can recommend Terri LeBlanc to help you set up any of these systems and make them play nicely together)

Life today is busy, complicated, and demanding of our time and energy. Let systems work for you!

If you have favorite office tools, I’d love to hear about them.