Systems Are Sexy! Structure Will Free Your Creativity, Buy You Time and Create Wealth

34“Ma?” I knocked on my mother’s bedroom door.

It was late afternoon in the early 70s. We lived in a cheap pre-fab duplex. My mother drank. We used food stamps for groceries.

I was ashamed.

But I was always ambitious. Even at 11.

I worried my character was weak because I didn’t have to get up early and do chores like my friend Emily Nyman. All I did was make homemade sunglasses out of wire and groovy-colored toxic plastic and go to school.

The Massachusetts sun only managed to poke a few mild rays through the curtains. It was dark. Underwatery. And my mother was still a lumpen shape in bed.

“What.” Her voice was ragged. Hungover.

I knew my time was short, so I spoke super fast.

“I need to do chores. Like Emily. Here’s a list. Could you make me do them? It will help build my character.”

“Go away,” she said. “Go. Away.”

I craved structure and rules at a young age. I sensed it held something shiny. Something solid. But that wasn’t how things worked in my house. Houses. (We moved a lot.) So over time, I grew accustomed to chaos. I grew to love it. Or at least to make that my story.

I wanted to write since I was four years old. In college, somehow I connected the artist’s life with chaos. Schedules were bad. They were square. Uptight! Structure was for sissies. For the straight-laced. The unimaginative.

If only I’d known then what I know now.

There is freedom in structure. There is more time when you schedule. And that equals more earning — and more opportunity to build and create.

I used to spend up to four months writing a short story for a literary magazine. For $100. I thought that was what serious artists did. I got used to being paid in prestige.

F*%k that.

Now I am an entrepreneur. I mentor other entrepreneurs who’re eager to find their voices. To learn the art of storytelling. To make their brand stories and books come alive.

More than ever, having a distinctive voice is imperative. There’s so much noise. So much chaos. People want to connect to other humans. Build community. Make a difference. They don’t want sales pitches. They want to be drawn into a story.

A story with a message.

Here’s mine. If you hate structure, if you loathe schedules, ask yourself where that comes from. See if maybe you bought into someone else’s belief.  See if you’re denying yourself something that makes things easier. More profitable.

In the last month, I’ve begun using a system and creating processes to make my business, Writers On Fire, more streamlined. Not only are my clients happier, I’m happier. We’re all not wasting time trying to find documents or correspondence. The system is like a cool Creativity Command Center. Who knew? I’ve never felt more creative.

And with the freed up energy and time, I’m earning more. You can, too. What’s not to love?

Sometimes my ideas flow like lava. My business coach recently told me I’m an expander. I need a container. This current system (we’re using TPM — Teamwork Project Manager) is a container.

What about you? Are you an expander or container? If you’re an expander, do you have a container? A coach, a VA, a community, a system, a structure? If you’re a container, do you have an expander? A partner or coach, someone or something that gives you permission to fly?

Writing tip:  If you are the type who writes a lot and then gets overwhelmed and stuck, try this — Let yourself write freely. Then, re-read what you’ve written and see if you can imagine a structure for your writing. Is it a spiral? Something sequential? Does it build like a song with refrains and a chorus? Is it a circle? Once you’ve chosen a structure, go back into the material and shape it. See what story emerges.

Then, attach your business message to it. Voila! You’ve connected, and you’ve stood out from the crowd.

Tell us your thoughts. Your experiences with structure and chaos. Let’s get the conversation going. And let’s support each other. No holds barred!

Yrs in truth,


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2 Responses to Systems Are Sexy! Structure Will Free Your Creativity, Buy You Time and Create Wealth

  1. vicki May 25, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    Rachel, your writing draws me in as always and teaches me something valuable about the human heart and mind, I so admire your journey and will delve into the reasons why I live in a certain chaos (you don’t even want to see the desk I am typing you from, mess mess mess) and what new direction I might send myself into…just like you have! Best, XO, V

  2. Stirling June 1, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more. I am at my most productive when I have a deadline and specific parameters, be it word count, tone, or any other number of factors.

    I find it much much harder to be given a completely blank canvas and an infinite number of colors to choose from. I get stuck in simply “where do I start?”

    Give me a 4×5 piece of paper and a pencil and I am off to the races!

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