I’m an organization nut. I can’t deal with clutter, especially in my writing space. I feel like I can’t create if I’m sitting in a mess. While I use Scrivener for a lot of organization, I have a lot of notes and items that help me through the planning project, and I feel like I waste writing time if I’m digging in piles for a specific paper. Here are five tips for keeping your writing space organized while you write.
1. The Book Binder
I like to have physical copies of notes, rather than files on my computer, even thought Scrivener makes it easy. One of my favorite ways to keep my papers organized is with book binders. What I do is take a regular 1″ binder with pockets and fill it with notebook paper. Then, any time I have an idea for a story, I put it in that binder. That way, all my notes for a given story are contained in one place. The best part of using a binder rather than a bound notebook is that I can change the order of the pages at any time. If I decide I want to organize them chronologically, or by subject, it’s no problem. You can put your most useful subjects up front, or use tabs. I have separate binders for each project, because I feel like they get too muddled and full if it’s all in one. Another thing I really like about book binders is that when I want to write away from my desk, all I have to do is grab my binder and my laptop, and I’m ready to go.
2. One-Subject Notebooks
While we’re on the topic of notes, I also have lots of one-subject notebooks in my writing space, and just like my binders, each of them is for a different purpose. I use one for blog notes; one for ideas that I haven’t formed enough to be binders; my book journal, where I keep track of all the books I’ve read; and my writing journal, where I write about how my writing is going. (I’ll post about the last two later.)
3. Sticky Notes
I think sticky notes are one of the greatest things that were ever created. My mind tends to wander when I write or plan, and when I don’t want to break the flow, I just jot a down a note and move on. It’s a great way to make sure you don’t miss any great ideas, but it keeps you focused. It’s easier to focus when I’m not trying to write and remember an idea for later at the same time. If I come up with a new story, it goes on a note until I can put it in my notebook. If I’ve realized I need to research something, it goes on the note. If I need to develop a character, it’s another note. Any notes I need for the long-term are stuck around the shelf on my desk. If that’s full, I start sticking them to the surface. I like to group them together for each project, and then by subject after that. All my character notes for one project go together, while setting goes in another place. I like being able to look up and see whichever note I need right away without any fumbling. Different colors and shapes help designate different projects and subjects. This is a great way to easily differentiate which notes go with what project.
I always keep several folders. One is usually just for random pieces of paper that I want to hold on to, but I haven’t found a permanent home for yet. The other is a multi-subject folder. It’s the kind that opens, and the compartments pull down. I use it to store old projects that I’m not working on anymore. If I finish something, or decide not to work on it for a while, it migrates from a binder to one of the compartments in the folder. I never throw any writing away, because you never know when you’ll need it again, but this keeps it out-of-the-way and safe.
5. Cork board
My next organization project is to get a cork board. A lot of times, I have a specific note I use a lot, or one I want to think about for a while. I tend to think about things better when they’re where I can see them all the time. I’m going to get my board and use it to pin-up things I want to keep handy all the time, inspirational pictures or quotes, or anything that catches my interest.
How do you stay organized? Share your tips in a comment.