Organization of a Creative Life... Part 1: The Basics

I have heard that many people think that artist and writers are very disorganized and maybe some are, but I fall on the other end of that in many different ways. I'm a very Capricorn writer, which to me means organized and dedicated.

If you're not someone who loves organization, this blog post may bore you to tears, so please feel free to move along to something more interesting.  But as someone who actually enjoys being organized, I like to know how others do it, so below (besides some other Capricorn writers to prove I'm not alone) are some of the ways I stay organized.

Here are a few other Capricorns who are writers:

Bly, Robert (23 December)
Duffy, Carol Ann (23 December)
Kipling, Rudyard (30 December)
Lee, Stan (28 December)
London, Jack (12 January)
Miller, Henry (26 December)
Milne, A.A. (18 January)
Poe, Edgar Allan (19 January)
Salinger, J.D. (1 January)
Sandburg, Carl (6 January)
Stafford, William (17 January)
Tolkien, J.R.R. (3 January)

I also share a birthday with Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Kranz, and Dave Matthews.

For my personality, I dislike clutter and mess. I like lists, order, and plans.  Sometimes I rebel against this, but ultimately, I know, this is who I am.  It took me quite awhile to realize I could be an artistic person AND be organized. I always thought disorder and artistic/creative had to go hand-in-hand, but they don't.

My organization may not sound like a "normal" artist or writer, but for me to have that space to create, I need order.  And I believe in discipline, routine and habits (good habits, I should add).

Here are a few of the tools that allow me to keep order in my life so my creative life can flourish.

1) Google Calendar - I honestly would not be able to live without this. It keeps all my dates, appts, readings, schedule, writing times, in order so I don't have to worry about what I'm forgetting. It sends me reminders, puts my husband's and daughter's schedules in different colors so I know where everyone is. It is probably the best calendar I've used, plus it syncs with my Mac/iPhone.

2) AMPAD "The Organizer" - I've been using these since my first job in 1993 and I love these for keeping a main To-Do list.   Everything that comes to mind goes on this list.  I have each page organized into sections:  Home / Writing/ Crab Creek Review / Blog/ Creative/ My Book

This is my master To-Do list. I write everything on here so I don't forget (Have I mentioned I have a not-so-great memory, so this helps me live my life without feeling as if I've forgotten to something major).

I keep this list on my desk and about 3 times a week use it to fill out the daily book, which I use below...

3) The BusyBodyBook: While this book was designed for families so you could mark where everyone has planned each day, I used mine as a way to focus my Main To-Do list into 3-5 small tasks a day.

This book is great because I don't feel overwhelmed if for my daily To-Do I have "submit some poems," "Proof first section of book," and "Read fiction submissions."  That is doable.  My major to-do list can get a little large.  It was Tatyana Mishel who first clued me into do this.  She said, "Choose 1-3 things you can do each day and get done," that way I don't feel overwhelmed by the long list of chores.

I found this book online and love it. But you don't have to buy the book, the site provides free downloads of the pages to help organize your day.


These 3 items pretty much organize my daily/normal life so my creative life can thrive.  They allow me not to feel overwhelmed by the rest of the "stuff" that comes with life and to keep things in order so I can create.


  1. Great post! I'd say I'm a an organization challenged individual who believes, someday, I can overcome this! My room and my desk are chaos and I frequently don't get tasks done like I had intended. I'm going to try to implement these suggestions!

  2. Organization terrifies me. This was the scariest thing I have read in quite some time...

  3. Cindy- I'm glad this helped some. I think the key is to figure out what works for you and go with it.

    Barry-- Then my evil plan to take over the world through a series of To-Do lists is working. Watch out, there will be a few more of these posts coming up. Maybe I should give them a PG-13 or R label.

  4. So funny I'm just reading this now as I went through acfrenzy, this week, of reorganizing :) o dropped google calendar in favor of going back to a small paper planner which I used to always use since I only have Internet at home or with wifi

    then I am using these lined sticky notes for my daily to do lists which I stick on the front of my writing journal ;)

    finally I have a notes text doc I keep open on the computer for links and such as I work which I can print or copy reminders onto my to do list at the end of the day if I need too.

    I had tried to do too much on the computer and found myself scattered. I'm happily back in my paper ;)

  5. Four other poets for the list are Robinson Jeffers, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, and Lenore Kandel.

    Not being one of the goat-people myself, I don't carry calendars or organizers. Too much work to write everything down. I do have an address book, but I keep a calendar in my head, and a map.

    And I do, occasionally, make lists of things to do, if I have to get a lot of stuff done in a short period of time. When I'm going to be traveling somewhere, I always write down a list of stuff to pack, just to make sure I don't forget anything essential.

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  7. I loved reading "Organizations of a Creative Life..." I am an artist — yes, creative. Also organized and not a Capricorn. It happens!

    Wishing you much success.


  8. Just saw this post...(I've been way too busy) anyway, glad I saw it. Very helpful. Sometimes I tend to make organizing way to complex.


  9. Thanks for the list of fellow Capricorn poets.
    I'm an organizer too...lots of lists around here.


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