• Beth Daniels

FROM PILER Adventures in Organizing the Home Office

I used to think that I was fairly organized. I have the required file cabinets and they are full of hanging folders with other folders tucked neatly inside them. They're even color coded!

The trouble is, I put them all together so neatly five years ago when I moved to Kentucky. Today there is a pile of things to tuck in those folders because some of the books they involve are still collecting royalty statements from the original publisher and as I have a new publisher, documents collected from them are waiting for nice cozy file folder homes to be made. That pile has been waiting nearly three years now to be sorted through.

Then there are the piles that got shoved in a storage box when company was coming and I needed to hide them. They're still in hiding. Oh, I can see the file box, but it has a more recent pile sitting on the top waiting to be taken care of.

So this past week I told myself, "No working on any stories! You're going to sort this mess out so you can find the things you know are in there and you need for the next book."

Which is what I've been very diligently doing...between naps.

There is nothing more boring that sorting through stacks of paper. Until you begin you've no idea how many different categories they belong in.

And that's what I'm attempting to build. I realized that I will never be a filer. I'll always be a piler, which means if I have piles that have categories, perhaps I CAN find things when I need them because they are in a pile that has similar stuff in it.

While I have piles that belong to just a certain book in progress (and I have many of those since I write under four different names and in different genres), there are also piles that are dedicated to series in progress. Those piles have what happens in future books as well as the research for whatever I needed to look up for a previous one.

There's a pile that says MARKETING now. The trick is to read all these things I printed out from blog posts elsewhere and then get rid of them. I did not put the books that are about marketing on the pile but they are on the shelf below it. Close at hand when I get around to dealing with them.

My categorized piles have now out distanced the baskets I had on hand, but that just means I fall back on the file folders. Rather than put them in the file cabinets (which actually are full, all four drawers worth), I have some portable plastic file holders that I can stick like things fact, I think that's where the series stuff will end up going. One "bin" for each series. I can stick a category lable on the end to identify which is which and, whether I actually stick things in a folder before sticking it in the holder or not, the print out can nestle next to other sheets dealing with the same thing. They also will slide easily onto the bookshelves. I just have to recategorize some of the books, moving them to bookcases in other rooms, that's all. But then I'll have the room for the sort of a pile bins to fit near the baskets.

A friend said, "Why don't you scan them into your computer and when you create a new document just file it in the same folder electronically?" I have a feeling I'd wear out five or more scanners doing that at this point, then my system would crash and they'd be gone. I'm sure she would say "cloud" to me but that's not going to help when a giant sun spot or solar wind causes all the systems to erase themselves, will it?

I'm old fashioned. I like handling paper copies. In fact, when I taught English Comp at the college, I told everyone to "print your paper out because if your system crashes" (and considering that was the reason given why papers couldn't be turned in on apparently replaced the "the dog ate my paper" excuse), "you can rekey it AT THE COLLEGE while your system gets repaired." That was too sensible for them. Use paper? What was I? A scribe from the Middle Ages or something? Actually, I don't think they had paper as we know it back then, but that's beside the point.

If you find you can't find things that you've written or taken notes on or clippings collected or photos or whatever you collect that applies to the story you have in mind or are working on or finished and keeps getting rejected (been there, done that -- a lot!) so you need to keep returning to it, you too may need a new organization system to try.

Will my categorized piles do the trick? Well, only time will tell.