It has taken the better part of the month, but I have finally set up and organized my home office, which happens to be located in our bedroom. This is what it looked like before I started:
As you can see, my desk served more as a catch-all for junk than anything else. I rarely worked there, and I could never find anything.
This is what it looks like now:
You’ll notice that the space under the desk looks a bit disorganized, but it’s not. Once I started on this project, I decided that perhaps I should go through all my old writing files since I seemed to be missing a few stories. Turns out I had three boxes of old writing stuff: drafts of every story I’ve ever written, thousands of notes on thousands of scraps of paper, rejection letters, old articles, old scripts, sample scripts, et cetera.
I went through everything I had. I got rid of the extra copies of drafts I didn’t need, and I sorted everything into file boxes. I archived everything I wanted to keep, but wouldn’t need to refer to anytime soon (mostly old retired stories). I have two file bins for two novel projects that are at various stages of completion. I have a file bin for active files, stories that are waiting to be polished and sent out; and I have a file bin for subactive files, like files of ideas that need to be sorted through, scriptwriting stuff, things I’ll eventually get to.
It was a dusty, pain-in-the-ass job, but it was worth it. I’ve never been so organized in my life…writing-wise, that is. And the treasures I uncovered!
I was able to put together a comprehensive list of all the short stories I’ve written — 31 in all! I’ve gone through each one and categorized them as either retired (because they’re too terrible), to be evaluated (it’s been so long since I’ve read it, I can’t remember if they’re any good), to be rewritten, or to be spit-shined and sent out. Some of them are ready to be sent out — in fact, have already been sent out and came back, and I never got around to sending them out again.
This process has been invaluable. I’ve finally been able to put together a system that I think will work for me. Here’s what I’ve set up:
The bottom in-basket is “Composting,” where brand-new stories go when they’re finished. Revision usually goes best when the first draft has aged a bit. Once they’re ready — you just give them a sniff — you’ll know — then I pull them out and rewrite them.
The next basket up is “Awaiting Feedback.” This is where they go after I’ve revised a story and submitted it to a friend or fellow writer for feedback.
Next up is “Final Polish and Submittal.” Pretty self-explanatory. These are the stories that are just about ready to go out into the world.
And finally, “Business Records”…again, self-explanatory. This is where I keep receipts (office supplies and Starbucks), word count records, tracking records, et al.
So far, it’s working pretty well for me. I’ve got files in each basket, and it’s helping me keep track of what I’m working on and stay focused on one particular task at a time. Before, I was always in a perpetual “cut-bait-or-fish” state of mind, which resulted in many orphaned stories.
In addition to all of this goodness, I discovered that I may never have to buy paper again. Turns out, I have an awful tendency to buy notebooks, start journaling or writing, and then wander off. So I went through all of those, tore out the used pages, and this is what I have left:
It’s kind of embarrassing. Okay, a lot embarrassing. But I’m committed to using every sheet of paper before I buy another notebook. So as far as paper supplies go, I think I’m good until 2020.
It might seem like a lot of trouble to go through, but it’s crucial to have a work space that works. When I worked for the court, I had my own office, and everything in my desk had to do with my job. There was no laundry, baby wipes, or personal correspondence cluttering my space (although I don’t profess my desk was ever clean at court either). All the things I needed to do my job, to produce a transcript, was there in my office.
I think this is the challenge of having a home office, keeping it separate from the daily activity of living. And if teething rings and stuffed toys land on my desk, that’s okay. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I just try to keep in mind what the space is for. I’m a working writer, and I need a place to work…and that’s what I try to do.
Whew! Anyone need any paper?