Set Up Your Digital Space to Inspire

Hello Lovelies, and welcome back to the blog.

At the end of every year, I get organize-crazy. Do I have all my paperwork sorted so I can get my taxes done? How long has it been since I’ve updated my passwords and uploaded all the stuff on my phone and desktop to the cloud? Oh, shoot. I’ve been meaning to get around to finding a spot for that new thing I got in the office and never got around to it. All year. Since last holiday season when I bought it.

There is no shortage of organizing tips for feeling in control of the physical things in your life. If you want a minimal mess desk with functionality and in colors you love, there’s probably a Pinterest board for that. Yet as writers, it is equally important to set up your digital space to inspire. Here are some ways that you can set up your digital life to work for you. I’m going to give you some ideas in an easy, bulleted list to get you started.

The Look and Feel:

Consider changing up your desktop background, Scrivener full screen backdrop, or even the color of your word processor’s text and background page.

  • Abstract: Think of geometric shapes, or splashes of color in your novel’s theme.
  • Concrete: Have images of your characters in mind? Make a collage and set it as your background. If you already have cover art, or you have a Pinterest board for this novel, consider screenshots of those.
  • Something that helps you set the scene: Have a picture of the New York cityscape if you’re writing about New York. Is it raining in your scene? Maybe use some hi-def water droplet photos. Or consider using a city map, or a photo of the specific town that your novel is set in.
  • Places you’ve written: Take pictures of your favorite park, coffee shop, etc. especially when they are slow.
  • Places you’d like to write: There are plenty of well-styled office spaces, hi def cafes, and coffee shop photos on the internet. No one’s judging you for loving the cat cafe. Cats are adorable.
  • Something Inspiring: Flowers, fast cars, the great wall of China. Maybe it’s magic gardens, oceans at high or low tide, or a quote you love. If it’s something beautiful or inspiring to you, it might be just the thing.

Files, Folders, and the Cloud:

Your physical files can get overwhelming, but even more so when you don’t have a good system in place to deal with them.  If you can’t find that thing you’re looking for, you’re going to get frustrated.  Here are some ideas to get your files a little more organized.

  • Delete what you can: As you go through your files, delete anything that you are sure you won’t need anymore, like files in your download folder, blurred images, or file duplicates. This will make it faster to organize the files you do still need.
  • By Project: One of the most useful ways you can organize your digital files is to group them by project. Whether you are working on a one shot or a multi-arc, long-running series, organizing your files by projects can be the way to go. Consider labeling your folders so that your top folder is the series title, the second level folders are your arc titles, the third level are each book in the series arc, and each book has the relevant character sheets, notes, drafts, location references, outline, and pictures necessary for that book.
  • By Date: Some files, like journal entries or photographs, might be better served by being organized by their date. Rather than trying to categorize each picture (Family, Wedding, Pets), you might want to just make an album for each year, and then either single albums for each event or photo shoot of that year, or even break the year down further into pictures by month.
  • By Content: Sometimes, organizing files by content is the fastest and easiest way to go. Is it a text file? Cool. Drop it into the word documents folder. Is it a PDF? A Spreadsheet? Pictures? Something else?
  • Backup Everything: Whether you use a cloud-based service or you have a physical external hard drive, always back up your work often. I save everything to my Dropbox as I’m working on it, and then, once a month, transfer all my Dropbox files to a more permanent home on Google Drive. While there’s probably a way to automate this process, I personally have better peace of mind when I just take about ten minutes and physically make the transfer myself.

Phone, Tablets, and Apps:

Sometimes, when you aren’t thinking about it, your phone fills up with a ton of stuff. Here’s what you can do.

  • Delete anything you don’t use or need:  I do this thing all the time where I wishlist or download tons of apps at a time, looking for one specific type of app. I try all the likely candidates one by one until I find an app I will use, and then forget to delete the ones I’m not using, especially if I’ve used them in the past or put them into a folder where they got buried. Once in a while, it’s necessary to open every folder and delete all the unused apps. This doesn’t just pertain to apps. Clear out your voicemail. Delete duplicate pictures. Save the messages you want to keep and trash your thousands of other text messages. Clear the cache on your web browser and other app files (if you’re comfortable with that).
  • Organize your apps: Most phones allow you to organize your apps into their own folders. I use categorical folders in my phone, like D&D, Reading, Monetary, Writing, Productivity, but you can use any of the folder naming methods already listed above.
  • Simplify your home screen:  The only thing on my home screen at the moment is my weather/time app, the most used apps (texts, phone, internet, camera, photos) in the bar that you can’t get rid of at the bottom, and a few preset timers that are one-click start widgets. I have no secondary pages, no additional apps on my home screen, not even a fun anime character or inspirational quote as my background image. When I want to look for an app that isn’t in my top 5, I have to physically click into my app list, and click into the folder for that app. This keeps me from mindlessly opening up social media or playing games.  If I want those apps specifically, I have to look for them specifically.
  • Deny push notifications: I allow only a few apps to send me notifications. Want to know what they are? Phone calls, voicemails, and texts (obviously), work emails (so I can respond quicker if my equipment malfunctions), my preset timer widgets (so they will notify when my timer is up) and the few audio apps which are inconvenient to have to open the app to control (podcasting services and music, but most of them don’t need to notify to be functional). Every so often, I go through my list and disable notifications on almost everything else. It surprised me when I did this for the first time, how much it improved my quality of life, and how little I needed any other notifications. Unsure? Try to disable 5-10 notifications to start.
  • Backup everything: Your phone only has a limited amount of space. Consider downloading a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive, and as mentioned above, take a few minutes while waiting in line at the grocery store to upload all your photos and videos, then delete them from your phone.

Tips:

  • Don’t spend too long looking for just the right photo or app to use. Pick one and move on.
  • Pick images that are excellent quality. If it’s too small a photo, it won’t scale to your screen well. Generally, the higher resolution the photo, the better (up to your monitor’s highest resolution).
  • Consider creating an “Archive” folder for stuff that isn’t necessarily relevant anymore but you still might hold on to, including older drafts, editing notes, previous year’s finances, and old marketing and promo images. While you will never need that image that says “Pre-Order at 99 cents for a limited time” you might still want to reference the image when you do your next launch so you can create similar graphics.
  • If it’s going to be too busy, too complicated, or too distracting, don’t use it at all. Consider using a minimal functionality app or a blank color as your background.
  • If you have a secondary desktop screen, phone, or tablet, consider using the secondary screen for ASMR of your choice. Anything you can do to your background you can also probably find as an ASMR video with sound too. Full screen it on your secondary screen and you’re ready to write. (Check out my playlist on YouTube for some of my favorites).

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