5 Ways to Write Like Your Hair’s on Fire

writingI’m a very organized person. I like everything in its place, ducks lined up, no chance of interruptions, then I can get into my writing. I couldn’t find that sweet spot until my children had moved out because until that point, I’d drop anything when they needed me. I still do, but as adults, those times are more rare.

These days, I get a lot of writing done. My office is perfectly arranged. I have two monitors; one shows my writing, one my research. I have four back-up drives automated so I don’t worry about losing work. I have a fan I can turn on if it gets too hot. I have shelves of books right behind my chair–I swivel and I can find the description of Mt. Kilimanjaro I need for an article. To my left is a glass of ice tea, more a crutch than a thirst quencher. I was going to put a baby fridge in a corner, but my husband sold it to a neighbor! Now, getting a snack is a mental break. My Labrador, Casey, regularly visits, or lies outside the door, keeping an eye on me.

What sets my hair on fire is deadlines. My modus operandi is to take on as much as I can until it’s too much, then I scramble to finish it. As a result, I’m always hurrying to finish one writing job so I can get to another. We could psychoanalyze why I do that, but today, I want to share how I manage to accomplish it:

  • I write everything as though I have a deadline that must be met. Think fast. Organize fast. Get ideas down and edit. Then, move on. I trust my skills. I hope I’m better than my inner muse thinks I am.
  • I write on a topic I’m passionate about. Nothing like emotion to get the words flowing
  • I write in my own voice. I don’t try to rephrase things according to rules and regs. My blog readers are used to my writing style–my choice of words. It’s probably at least part of the reason they visit. Ana Hoffman’s Traffic Generation Cafe is a great example of that. Every time I open one of her posts, I feel like we’re huddled over a table, coffee in hand, sharing the secrets of the world like best friends. Why? It’s her voice.
  • I let my muse speak. I don’t edit her. I don’t second guess her intent.
  • I trust my gut. Studies show that people who act on their gut are more likely to be right. Why? Because what we call ‘gut’ is our collective experience, skill, and knowledge. Our brain mashes it together for a fast decision when we need one–and that’s our 6th sense or ‘gut’. I trust it. I’ve gained a lot from life experiences. Might as well let them work for me.

That’s it. It works well enough. I’d love to be a better writer, but maybe that’s coming.


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a weekly columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.


20 thoughts on “5 Ways to Write Like Your Hair’s on Fire

  1. Are you sure it wasn’t the world you set on fire, rather than your hair?

    You are one very busy lady!

    Great article!

  2. Deadlines can be very motivating – even the self imposed ones! I loved this, thank you for sharing!

    • I work well under a deadline, but I have lots of friends who hate them. Personal choice I suppose. I think you do NaNoWriMo? That’s one massive deadline!

      • Yes, I love NaNoWriMo for the motivation factor. There’s no “prize” for winning except for the satisfaction of reaching that 50,000 word goal. If I was better about setting word count goals and deadlines like this for myself all the time and not just in November, I bet I’d get a lot more writing done!

  3. I feel like my hair is on fire all the time anymore, not just when I’m writing.

    Your list is good. I am totally a “pantser” when it comes to writing so I just follow the last three you listed and write what I feel like, how I feel like writing it and I just let the story carry me wherever it wants to go. When I’m in a “good place” in terms of my writing, these steps never fail me.

  4. Jacqui I really enjoyed reading about your writing space and how you achieve your best thanks for sharing them.

    • Don’t you love how we’re all so different in the path to the same end? We all love writing, want to do great at it, and do it in our own way. There’s something special about a job that allows that much diversity.

  5. I still think there is more than one of you and both of you are on fire.

  6. Lately I find myself writing and re-editing and re-editing. I need to do a better job of outlining. (As you expressed in your article, you didn’t hit your sweet spot till the kiddos were gone. I’ve got four, so that could be part of my problem:) Still, I’d love to know your thoughts on how to effectively outline a long piece of work, a novel. It feels so tedious when I have short burst of time and all I really want to do is write.

    • I love Excel for exactly that set of problems. My novel’s over 100k words. I started with an outline in Excel, then fleshed it out as I had time. I just added pieces here and there as the inspiration struck. When I finally thought I had enough details, I converted to Word (Google Docs wouldn’t allow such a long doc at the time)–then, I had to find blocks of time.

  7. Reblogged this on Oh My Blog! and commented:
    I wish I was as organized as you. My kids are 18 and 16 still here but I’m finding more and more time to myself.

  8. Thanks, Jacqui. Writing like I have a deadline……….by George, I’ve got it!

  9. Jacqui, you’ve now answered the question I’ve had since I started following you–how do you do it all? Now, if I can figure out how I best do it. 🙂 Not having children of my own, I’ve adopted almost everyone I know, and I try to be available at the drop of a hat for anyone who needs an ear to listen or a heart to care. I need to be needed. Maybe I can apply that to my writing. If I think it needs me, or maybe that someone in the world needs to read what I write, I’ll not only get it written, I’ll get it out there to be read. Thanks for the inspiration. I have a NaNo novel I really want to finish editing, and I think this will help.

    • Crystal–you sound like the adult I always wanted to be, the one who was there for kids when they needed it. Somehow, that always eluded me. I’m impressed you can do it.

      • Funny, I wrestle with feeling like an adult. LOL. But I can say that I do better with kids once they’re grown because I tend to have more emotional energy than physical energy. I’d rather let my little nieces tell me all about their fave cartoons than try to give them a bath. 😛

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