Saturday, July 20, 2013

On Organization and the Writing Process

With these days of summer vacation (not to mention extreme heat), I've logged some pretty good hours at my writing desk.

And though I am a neat-freak in other areas of my life (go ahead, ask me how I organize my t-shirt drawer... but know that the answer might take a while) my writing desk tends to be rather messy.

To be clear, it isn't empty pizza box and sticky coffee ring messy (I couldn't deal with that).  But it is paper-absolutely-everywhere messy.  And I like it that way.

There are many authors I know who prefer to have a bulletin board over their desk or a white board or simply a large, clear wall surface on which to paste sticky notes.  Some folks have elaborate systems on their computer to keep track of thoughts, ideas, storylines, and character development.

However, I prefer lots of little pieces of paper.  I have a legal pad (white, not yellow paper), a medium size scratch pad, a large stack of those hotel notepads (I won't reveal my source), and index cards.  I like to jot notes to myself about a scene I'm thinking of, or an essay I want to write when I'm through the novel draft, or something I don't want to forget to go back and fix, or some topic that I need to research.  Right now, I'm working on a rough draft and there are notes everywhere.

Even stranger, what I like to do with these notes is, mostly, ignore them. I write them and scatter them on my desk.  Then I go back to drafting.  Sometimes I read them when I get stuck, but mostly I ignore them.  I'd like to say I have a system and when I finish a day's work, I read through all the notes and collate them, blah, blah.  But I don't.  They sit there until I finish the draft, at which point, I scoop them all up, paper clip them, and stick them in manila envelope and file them along with the handwritten draft.

It is the case that when I am in the revision process, my notes are much more organized.  Then, I usually post a coherent list of things to do and keep in mind and I tape it at eye-level on the wall.  (Even then, I usually tape up a blank sheet or two for random thoughts and notes.)

So why do I continue this practice?  I don't know that it helps me produce a better draft, but I do know that it helps me keep peace of mind.   Once I write something down, my brain reads that as "taken care of."  Sure, there's danger to this: if I actually need to do something and I write it down, then I need to keep that piece of paper handy and do that thing.  However, when I'm writing a rough draft, mostly what I need to do is... write the rough draft!  I don't need to worry about the extraneous questions and thoughts: that's what revision is for.

In short, while my practice keeps my desk cluttered, it keeps my mind pleasantly clean.

No comments:

Post a Comment