Wednesday, May 09, 2007

You Can Be Too Organized

Do you consider yourself to be an organized person? An organized writer? You know, the answers to those two questions don't necessarily have to be the same.

I try to be organized in both areas of my life. Sometimes I pull it off; sometimes I fail. Sometimes I'm too organized – to the point of being anal. Take my newsletter, Doing It Write!, for example. I keep a copy of each issue on my hard drive. I also used to keep a hard copy in ever-growing notebooks, one for each year. I also maintained copies in my email folder. And copies of all the columns and web pages used to be up on my website ... and on my Dreamweaver program. Okay, even I thought that was overkill! I’ve pared it down to just copies on my hard drive.

My name is Helen and I’m a recovering anal retentive organizer.

Sometimes I think I worry too much about losing important papers or missing deadlines and appointments. I used to carry a heavy notebook/calendar in my purse. Now I have a small palm pilot. I used to put up a weekly calendar on the refrigerator -- until, after years of frustration, I came to the realization that I was the only person who ever looked at it, let alone wrote on it. Everybody in the family knew where I was minute-by-minute. I knew where no one was or what their plans were. Forget that!

I have a huge file cabinet in the garage with research papers, copies of manuscripts, left-over handouts from workshops and talks I've given, reams of paper I've wasted querying agents or writing proposals. At my desk is a smaller file cabinet full of those clear envelope folders, one for each project or committee I'm working on, manuscripts in progress, To-Be-Read papers ... and so on.

I'm so organized, I can't find squat.

I was looking for my folder I keep on important things (phone numbers, etc.). It's not in the file cabinet. I know it was there not long ago. Who moved it?

I wanted to work on a book idea I started about a year ago. Surely I saved it on my laptop, but where? Maybe I was working on the PC and saved it there. I'm sure I could find it on the zip drive back-ups or the diskettes in the safe deposit box at the bank (you never know when your hard drive will crash or the house will catch on fire), but surely there's a paper copy of it around here. Couldn't find it. Did find a couple of spare copies of some issues of Doing It Write! that I handed out at a seminar ...

Okay, I said “recovering” not “cured.”

Speaking of diskettes, I make so many edits while I write that I end up with about 15 copies of each project. You never know when you might want to review the original, right? As a result, I have this huge box of diskettes. I learned to date each diskette so I can keep up with which one is the latest version. They’re pretty much totally useless now since my laptop doesn’t even have a slot for a diskette. Of course, you need a paper copy of those versions. I used to even keep the edits my critique group did. Still, sometimes it's easier to scan through paper than electronic pages when you're searching for something in a manuscript.

The other day I found the complete notebook from a Board I served on years ago. Did I go through it, saving papers or information that might be relevant today and tossing the rest? Nah, I re-shelved it. You never know ...

Recovering? Ha! I've decided that I've gone from being this organized, lay-her-hands-on-anything person to being a first-class pack rat.

Anyone out there who'd like to join me on my block of cheddar?



  1. Move over, Helen. I'm right beside you at that block of cheddar!

  2. I thought I heard some squeaking!


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