Jun 05 2019
Comments Off on Spring-clean your writing practice in 3 steps

Spring-clean your writing practice in 3 steps

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie shares some practical tips for tidying up your cache of drafts and completed works to make writing time more efficient.

Is there anything so ominous as a backlog of unfinished writing?

Writers are artists who go through creative and . . . less creative periods. Creativity is marked by productivity. The words seem to arrive on the page with little effort, but that does not mean writing is completed. Raise your hand if you have multiple files saved on your desktop waiting for beginnings, middles, endings or rewrites. Both my hands are raised. Having more than one unfinished work can block creative flow.

If you are stuck because you have too many potential starting points, consider these three tips for decluttering your writerly mind:

Number your drafts

I am never as frustrated with myself as when I open a piece and get to editing only to find it is not the most recently edited draft. Stopping my creative flow to wonder, didn’t I already resolve this tension? Didn’t I already cut this part? Didn’t I change that word from X to Y? is incredibly frustrating. Keep your writing orderly so there are fewer hurdles when it’s time to work.


Organize your work according to its priority. Keep folders on your desktop—or literal folders on the top of your desk, if you’re analog—marked with indicators of whether the priority is high, medium, or low. It’s easy to manually move a file from one folder to another if its priority changes. This allows you to focus only on what you put at the top of your list, including that most recent draft. Everything else can wait.

Revisit and reevaluate

Reread work you haven’t looked at in a month or more, mine it for gems, then delete. For some reason, this suggestion is often met with a gasp, but writing can be ruthless! The idea is not to trash your hard work, but to discover the gems you’ve already polished—beautiful lines, evocative images, ideas that deserve more time—and to release the rest. Keep your gems in their own file. I like to keep mine in a notebook I can flip through whenever I need inspiration, but you could even tack them over your writing space or try to write an entirely new poem or short story using as many of these best lines as you can.

What methods do you use to keep your writerly mind decluttered? Will you use any of the above tips? Share with us in the comments!

Related reading: Make the absolute most of your writing time

Respect the process to meet your writing goals

How to make the “write” work space for you

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