We had some repair, we had a party, we had some social activism…. and we had some writing. Just nothing terribly visible at the moment. Ie, it ain’t done yet.
Ever have that feeling you’ve fenced yourself in so well with activities that you either can’t get to your desk to write, or you can’t get away from your desk to take care of other parts of your life? I know so many writers with this problem or variants, I’ve lost track of their numbers the way people lose track of how many times they go to the grocery store. It’s part of the game, and the solution is balance.
Of course, everyone is asking how you balance your life these days. We are all so overworked, over-scheduled, and overdone with it all.
The best thing I can recommend are: LISTS. I am a great lister. In fact, my kids have told me more than once that their most common memory of me is at the kitchen table (or at my desk or at the steering wheel of my van) writing down or consulting a list. Things to do, things to buy, things to make, appointments to keep, stuff to fix. All the different lists of things and tasks that make up our lives. Christmas lists. Halloween & dance costume lists.
And then there were the lists for writing. Projects to work on, people to call, revisions to do, plot points, characters, settings, timelines (not a true list, but I often list scenes or plot points to get them in order). You get the picture.
What did I do with the lists? you ask. How did they help?
Well, some didn’t. Some became nags as days went by before I could complete the items on the list. Some, embarrassingly, I find years later stuffed in a tote bag or box, still unfinished and crying out at me for abandoning them. Some deserved to be abandoned. Others are proudly marked with checkmarks, cross-outs, and revisions and additions. Beautiful working lists that helped solve my problems and put order to my universe,
Now, I have found that I have to be careful of lists. If I don’t intentionally and purposefully keep them at hand to checkmark off what I accomplish, I am more likely to forget about them as well as everything I’ve put on them. Because sometimes, putting an item on a list convinces my mind that I took care of it.
Sometimes I think the beauty of the list is in the writing. By putting things down where I can see them, I eventually detect patterns and priorities and can order things by criteria that make sense to me. It’s a matter of using a manual tool to assist a largely mental process.
So, it works or it does not work, but it’s my way of calming the whirlwinds and taming the chaos. Although, I’ve always felt a touch of chaos is a good thing.
What’s your favorite way of trying to organize?
I love databases. I like that I can sort in various ways, can hold documents, and can have the information with me at all times. I’m a big fan of FileMaker Pro. I think every fiction writer needs a database of characters to keep track of characteristics, relationships, and where they appear. I find it disconcerting when a character is right handed in one book and left handed in the next.