Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

How to Be an Amazingly Productive Writer: Uncluttering Expert Erin Doland Reveals Her Secrets

Erin Rooney Doland

Think your busy life in communications measurement is crowded with too many things to do? Then Daphne Gray-Grant’s interview with Erin Doland will inspire you to get things done. Erin is the spectacularly well-organized and productive author of Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter and Unclutter Your Life in One Week. This interview, her bio, and even the design of her website reveal her amazing focus and drive. Read on…

If I’m feeling “down” or overwhelmed, nothing improves my mood faster than cleaning a desk, a drawer, or a closet. Call me deranged, but I adore organizing. Perhaps that’s why I was so happy a few years ago to stumble across the marvelous website Unclutterer, hosted by Erin Doland. I read it every day.

Now, after interviewing her for this article, I am, frankly, gobsmacked.

How did a former English teacher—not to mention one-time pack rat—turn herself into someone who could write a book in four months? Erin’s practical, no-nonsense attitude toward writing should offer a model to anyone who has struggled with getting words on the page. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just write!

As a PR professional you likely have plenty of project management tasks—in addition to writing. Here’s my interview with Erin about how she fits it all in:

Daphne Gray-Grant: Can you briefly describe your writing day?

Erin Doland: I wake up around 6:30 a.m., feed my son and get him ready for the day, drink a blissful cup of coffee, and then settle down at my desk. I’ll write from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. without interruption. I try not to check e-mail or listen to voicemails or do any administrative work until after that. From 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. I’ll tend to the busy-work part of my job (media interviews, reader questions, bug fixes, spam deletion, checking in with my agent or editor, etc.). I’ll take a lunch break until 1 p.m., and then it’s back to dedicated writing until 3:30 p.m. From 3:30 until 6 p.m. I’ll run to the post office or edit a speech or finish up any work that has to be done before the end of the workday. At 6 p.m., I’ll close my laptop and spend time with my family. If I have more writing I need to do, I’ll tackle that after my son goes to bed. Some days are 12 hours or more at my desk—especially when I’m working on a book. My workday is the opposite of glamorous.

Daphne Gray-Grant: Are there any techniques you use in your life as an “unclutterer” that you also use in your writing life?

Erin Doland: Every aspect of my working life is dedicated to writing about simple living, so it’s no surprise that this carries into how I work. I try to write in a straightforward, authentic style. I batch process most of my repetitive tasks. I use two monitors to keep my visual space uncluttered. I use project management software to plan out my writing assignments. I spend the last 10 minutes of the workday getting all of my materials set for the next morning.

Daphne Gray-Grant: Roughly how many words is your book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week, and how long did it take you to write it?

Erin Doland: If memory serves me correctly, the final manuscript is just 65,000 words. The first draft I turned in was 80,000—my editor and I had to cut out a great deal to keep it to the size the publisher wanted. It took me about four months to write, and just three weeks to edit. My editor and I are still shocked with how fast we turned it around for the design team. [Daphne is shocked, too!]

Daphne Gray-Grant: What was different about writing the book versus writing your blog? Which was harder to do and why?

Erin Doland: Writing is writing. I didn’t really notice much difference in the process of crafting the book versus crafting blog posts. The book editing process, however, was different since there was another person involved (Cara Bedick, my amazing editor who is now at Penguin). At Unclutterer, I’m the final word on content. I was far from being the final word on the content for my book.

Daphne Gray-Grant: As a first-time book author, what was the biggest surprise about getting your book published?

Erin Doland: The business aspect of book publishing is so much more in your face than I had expected. Everything is about numbers and target markets and sales strategies. I never had a conversation with anyone about Art or Writing. We talked about Product and Content.

Daphne Gray-Grant: Regardless, when you really, really, don’t feel like writing, what do you do to get yourself in front of your computer again?

Erin Doland: Writing is my job. Every day I get up and write, even when I’m on vacation. There are certainly days when I don’t feel inspired to write, but I do it anyway. I don’t wait for inspiration to strike, if I did I wouldn’t have a book or a website. I’ve always loved Leigh Michaels’ quote: “Waiting for inspiration to write is like standing at the airport waiting for a train.”


Thanks to The Other Side of Organized for the image.


Daphne Gray-Grant

Daphne Gray-Grant

A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of 8 1⁄2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a weekly newsletter on her website Publication Coach. It's brief. It's smart. And it's free.
Daphne Gray-Grant
728 Ad Block

Related posts

728 Ad Block