When You Can’t Stand It

Typically I put it off until I can’t stand it any longer—then I tackle it with gusto. The tension builds and the piles of paper and books build. Some times my wife has walked into my office and can’t believe the chaos of my work place. Piles of things are everywhere. I can barely get into my chair and in front of the computer. When I reach that point, I take several hours and organize my paper and files.

In many ways I try and tame the paper flow situation each day. Manuscripts come into my office almost daily or query letters about novels. I have to process this information fairly quickly because of the volume. Since January, I’ve received over 250 submissions for six to eight possible novels. Like I mention to people, it’s like trying to take a drink of water out of a fire hose if you don’t have a plan to process this information flow.

While I keep a great deal of my correspondence electronically, the most critical bit of information are printed and tucked into various Manila file folders. I’ve learned the hard way over the years, never to count on that electronic copy. When I’m in the middle of a book writing project, I will typically back-up a series of files daily to prevent any loss of information or data. Each project goes into its own folder and this folder contains my correspondence, contracts (if any) and helps me instantly be able to connect with the status of the project. The most current correspondence is on the top or in the front of the folder.

Every so often my file drawers get stuffed. I clear out the old files and often tuck them into a file box for storage. Some times years after I’ve profiled someone for a magazine or worked with them on a project, a new opportunity will develop. You have to be thinking immediate as well as long-term as you sort through the pieces of paper. And yes, some times I’ve thrown something which I should have kept—but over the years that has not happened often—and it’s almost always been information that I can easily recover from a different source.

I’m at the point where I can’t stand it any longer and some of these bits of paper need to get tucked into the proper file—so I can be more effective with the various projects under way. With the local temperature tied with the record high yesterday (113), it’s a good season to stay inside and do a bit of organization. On average this area of the country gets about 10 days at 110 and over but this year we’ve had over 20 days of this type of weather.

When you can’t stand the piles around you, do something pro-active about it. It’s what I’m going to be tackling over the next few days.

4 Responses to “When You Can’t Stand It”

  1. Sara Says:

    I finished organizing my home office this weekend after my final day of work “outside the home” – bringing home yet more stuff.

    Finally, my desk is clean, my files are alphabetized, and my project list is neat and tidy on my dry-erase board.

    But I’m sure I’ll be organizing all over again after this week. 🙂

  2. C.J. Darlington Says:

    This is definitely how my working space usually ends up. Funny thing is, I can usually find what I need amidst the piles … but I’d much rather it be clean. Organizing – sounds like a good thing to be doing in the dog days of summer, Terry. At least there are no hurricanes in AZ.

  3. Gina Holmes Says:

    Funny, I think most writers are closet slobs. I know I am. On the surface, everything is clean and in its place, just don’t open any desk drawers.

    Good Luck organzing Terry. I know it’s now probably how you want to spend your time. But, think of how good you’ll feel when it’s over!

  4. Macromoments Says:

    I am convinced that writers are wired differently. I know of only one writer whose office is so clean, I would think she never really writes. But I know better, because her books and articles are wonderful.

    Terry, your post was more timely than you know. My office is beautiful but I can’t find it right now for the stacks. If you figure out how to tackle the paper jungle permanently, let me know.

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