Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Thoughts on...

Life as a Writer, Or Something Close to It: Getting Organized

Wow - sounds like Charlotte and I have a lot in common. I try so hard to keep my office neat and organized, often succeeding for a while, then poof! Chaos erupts. Brings to mind a line from a poem by Yeats "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold" (from The Second Coming). Even now, my cat is curled up on the one clear space on the desk, directly under the heater (quelle surprise!). Of course, if there's no clear spot, he just nestles on top of the papers and books. But I digress. Organization - something I value highly, but have trouble enforcing, at least when it comes to my desk and office. Granted, I pretty much know where most things are and can find things, just like when I was working on my thesis. My then fiancé would come to visit for the weekend and just stare in disbelief at the piles of books spread over the floor of my apartment. He's super organized, so just couldn't understand how I could work like that. BUT there was method to my madness - each pile had its purpose.

Like Charlotte, I've organized my mss to a certain extent. Each one has a separate plastic tub with much of the relevant info. Except the most current one, which has overflowed. I have so much paper related to it - maps, articles, critiqued chapters etc. Many of the articles are in binders, but some rest in my set of inboxes, along with file folders also related to the story. Arrggh!

Right now on my desk I have two binders labelled - WTHR Research: Paris and Normandy and WTHR Fashion, several books, including Ladies of the Grand Tour and Last Letters: Prisons and Prisoners of the French Revolution alongside Brohaugh's English Through the Ages, A Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms, Websters Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary and McCutcheon's Building Believable Characters. My ms itself is sitting on top of a pile of family history magazines, while my PALM is perched atop contest rules for the Hearts through History contest. Oh, and there's the tub of yogurt I finished off a few minutes ago, waiting to go upstairs on my next trip.

I've read so much about organization - I know I should clear my desk at the end of each day, get rid of any paper I don't need - either filing it properly or in the circular file basket. And I should put the magazines away, though at this point I think I've yet again overflowed the magazine holders I own, so there's nowhere to put these ones. And at this point, like Charlotte, I'm about to reach the breaking point again. I will give in and clean up, at least somewhat. But filing everything in that inbox would take way too much time out of my writing day! Or so I tell myself. Maybe I should just do it before the poor cat steps up onto the teetering pile to get closer to the heat and starts a paper avalanche .

Organizational tools I DO use include my PALM, WriteWayPro and a wonderful site called BirthdayAlarm.com, which sends me emails to remind me of upcoming family birthdays. And every time I despair too much, I just remember what a great job I did when we moved four years ago. I was in charge of changing over all our services and sending out the change of address cards. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I started a file folder and filed EVERYTHING related to the move in there. It still exists and I pull it out to prove to myself that when it really counts, I'm organized. I think part of the reason I can't keep my desk clean is that being surrounded by chaos must somehow be part of my creative process.

So, what kind of desk do you keep? A neat one? Or one like mine, which even at its cleanest, still has at least three containers for pens, cards from my husband, photos and my coffee cup warmer.


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