Organzing Your Writing on the Fly

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Six hours.
That was how many hours I spent flipping, tossing, filing, perusing, sorting, stapling, clipping, and organizing.
How many of you fall into a trap of new year's organizing? I thought I had been spared this year as I awaited my home office transferring to a different space in the house.
We made dinner plans with friends.
And then I looked at my desk, which had overtaken a large chunk of our dining room.
Saturday was spent with cardboard boxes, the recycle bin and trash can at close proximity.
It was a painful day--I was never sure what works-in-progress-but-not-in-active-progress I needed to delegate to the storage boxes. Research that I hadn't touched since 2008 or notebooks that cluttered my desk found new homes.
It was an exhausting day as I tried to clean up my exploded mass of papers and files before our guests arrived. We even had to call and delay them by an hour.
While launching into 2011, I decided to make more of an effort to say "Yes" with a lot less frequency. Saving the "yeses" for projects that wouldn't crowd my in-box. In the last months of 2010, projects had started piling up, getting buried in other projects. Books for some research towered, competing with my children's building blocks.
Here are some of my tips:
1. Before diving into the pile, make a list of writing priorities. What projects are you really working on? Which deserve the coveted space on your desk? You can still work on other projects, but just don't let them take up the valuable desk real estate.
2. Have your tools at the ready. I know my organizational style, so I knew that I needed a few manila folders here, a couple markers there, and my top filing cabinet drawer in the open position.
3. If you aren't sure what to keep or toss, err on the side of caution. While I have many works-in-progress, I am never sure when to actually get rid of my material. If you have the space, box the project and stow it away for a while. If you don't return to it in, oh, 10 years, you might want to re-visit or re-cycle the material.
4. Find a time with no looming deadlines and no dinner guests planned. Admittedly, I'm afraid to peer into two of the boxes I packed and stored. Towards the end, I was shoveling some items just to get them out of the space.
5. Once you've re-discovered that empty journal you were looking for, use it. Now that you've cleared away some of the clutter, open your mind, sit down at that clean desk and write, write, write!

Based along the North Carolina coast, Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach, writer and editor.


Unknown said...

Great advice! I am still trying to clean up my desk and computer files - and I started last week. I didn't think it would be that big of a job, until I realized all of the bits and pieces I had stored in all kinds of places.

LuAnn Schindler said...

We need a "cluttered desk/office" photo contest. I need to declutter...and soon!! Thanks for the reminder.

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