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The Write Space: Setting up Your
Work Space for Optimum Efficiency--A 12 Step Program For Clutter-aholics.
Most of us writers, well, how shall we say it nicely...leave a little to be desired when it comes to being organized in our work areas. This, I find in my travels and visits with other writers, is normal among the highly creative. And rather like one's fingerprint is unique to the individual, so is the amount of clutter in one's workspace.
But in can be conquered to at least the point where you can work effectively and, more importantly, find things in 20 minutes or less. After all, it's hard to write when you can't find your desk,
Even in the most illustrious of writer's work areas, you will find papers sorted and stacked halfway to the ceiling sometimes, with no hint of a sorting order, though there very well may be one. There are often object's de art all around, as well as various clips and bits and pieces of the current work in progress.
Getting organized is not, contrary to popular belief, about getting rid of that stuff or about completely stifling creativity or becoming retentive at all. It is about finding what you are looking for, knowing where to look for it to begin with, and being able to effectively manage the direction of your writing with the crucial tool of organization.
If you are really serious that you want this change, then you will find it easy to get organized by following three rules and twelve steps. Write the following rules down and tape them to your keyboard.
Rule #1: If you can't sell it, use it to create something to sell, track something you intend to sell on it, or put something to sell into it, it's useless paper.
Rule #2: Useless paper must go elsewhere as soon as it's identified.
Rule #3: Once you take something out of the Action pile, you must do it. You may not pick and choose and put any back.
The Twelve Steps
The first and most important step is to start. No really, just like quitting anything, you have to first come clean and announce out loud that you are ready to make a change, you are a clutter bug and you must stop it.
The second step is to make that commitment to doing whatever it takes to change the behavior, and, if you really do want to write, and become famous, and do book signings, and have your work become the next Harry Potter box office buster, etc., you really must learn not to get in your own way when it comes to progress.
Let's face it, in almost all aspects of our lives, we are our own worst enemies. What we say to ourselves, how we think of ourselves, the little inner voices that tell us that we are great or terrible, all have a major impact on what we become in life. And, like it or not, our work area is one of the most personal, private, and special places for us in the world. To allow it to look like a garbage dump is a horrible thing to do to our own creativity, isn't it?
Oh, I know, we have been at it, in the middle of all that mess for so long, we actually can work in it most of the time. But what we CAN do and what we SHOULD do are often very different things. Trust me, when you adopt this new philosophy you will not spend all your days hunting for that slip of paper you wrote that perfect character name on when you were in the drugstore. Better yet, you will not spend all your time cleaning, either. But what you will be doing is spending your creative moments in a haven, neat and tidy, still with all the things you like and really need, only neat. No trash, no clutter.
Step 3. Get a box and put all the paper in your work area into it. (Yes, that stuff in the drawers, hanging wall boxes, and stuffed on top of your hardrive, too.)
Step 4. Stand back and look at your area. Look for the snow drift areas. You know, just like in a snowstorm, the snow builds up on whatever catches and holds it.
Desktop stackers with more than two shelves, wall hangers, file pockets, and many other things on your desk will act just like a snowdrift fence and will catch all kinds of clutter you really don't want caught. Then, get rid of everything on your work surface that holds paper except a wastebasket, and one other item that will hold two piles of papers only.
Step 5. Label one of those two spaces Action and label the other To Be Filed.
Step 6. Get out your wastebasket, and go through your box of papers. Open all envelopes, throw everything away you can, and deposit everything that needs some sort of action from you in one pile, and everything you need to file in the other pile.
Step 7. Pick up your pile of action items and put them in order of deadlines if any, and put the nearest deadlines on top. Put the entire stack into your Actions box or stacker.
Step 8. Take any items that can be delegated to someone else and do so.
Step 9. Pick up your pile of To Be Filed and go through it, and file everything in it into the appropriate places. (note: now's the time to make a set of new file folders if you need to for queries, rejection letters, accepted letters and payment information, writer's guidelines, and other paperwork perhaps not related to your writing that may occasionally end up on your desk.)
Step 10. Take out your trash.
Step 11. Drink a cup of hot chocolate (or latte if you prefer) and breathe. You deserve a break, since you've done it. You are organized.
Step 12. Take one item from the top of your action pile every day and do whatever it requires. One day is usually plenty, but if you find that you need more than one day, you should try to keep just slightly ahead of it at all times bye evening out the math proportionately. All new items added go to the bottom of the pile. You might even choose one day a week to do five or ten of them if that suits you better.
And there you have it. The complete plan of organizing your workspace without sacrificing creativity or excessive amounts of time to sort and resort the same stuff again. Choose one day a week and do the whole process again. There should be very little, if you have followed the three rules above, and all you have to do then is just clear off anything that has been deposited by accident somewhere, and do your filing of your to be filed pile a couple of times a week. Some people like to do it every day, and some prefer to do the filing and cleaning up once a week, and either is fine as long as it gets finished no later than once a week.
Give yourself the gift of organization. It's one gift you'll be pleased that you got.
Carolyn Burch is a full-time freelance professional writer, columnist, author, and mother of four from Phoenix, AZ. With a background in addition to writing in marketing, sales, and human resources, she has written for five National and three International print magazines and journals, several newspapers, and more than a hundred online e-zines and sites, and is the lead instructor for 2001-2002 at the Cornerstone Creative writing workshops. Her writing archives can be viewed at: http://www.cornerstoneconsortium.com