Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net
Holly Lisle's Vision

Getting Organized:  
A Writer's Perspective

By Jennifer St. Clair Bush

2001, Jennifer St. Clair Bush 

I've always been organizationally challenged. When I lived at home, there was a path through my room to my bed, the bathroom, and my desk. And sometimes even those paths vanished. I always intended to organize; I knew my life would be easier if I organized, but I never quite got around to doing it. Oh, I'd start one weekend and get a pile or two done, but I'd always get distracted. You see, there was always something else to occupy my time. In the early days, it was writing, or walking in the woods. Later, after I got a computer, it was email, or chat. 

Then I got married, moved, and started a new job. You'd think I would have decided to get organized about the same time as well, wouldn't you? Again, I made promises to myself, promises I didn't keep. I wanted to have everything organized and in place before the wedding. I wanted to have all of my credit cards paid off before the wedding. I wanted to be able to unload my car at the townhouse and put everything away in its proper place. 

It didn't happen.  

And it was all my fault.  

I made promises to myself and procrastinated until I had no time left to organize. My possessions ended up in a pile in the basement, scattered and cluttered. My husband started talking ominously about dumpsters. And I never quite got around to cleaning out my room at home. In fact, it's still a mess, almost two years after I moved out. 

Lately, though, I've been thinking about my eventual goal to write full time from home. I began to realize that if I didn't organize now, I'd never realize my goal. I got into that trap a few years ago, thinking that just saying I wanted to be a full-time writer was enough, and that the library job I took after high school was just a transition until I could afford to write full time. If I had been organized then, I might never have met my husband, for one. And I might have already realized my goal. Instead, seven years passed, I got married, moved, started a new job, and came to the realization that I was shooting myself in my own foot by not taking my dream seriously. 

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to have a book contracted or published by the end of the year. We all know what usually happens to New Year's Resolutions; they get dropped by the wayside and forgotten. This year, though, I made the conscious decision to try my best to turn my life around and fulfill at least one of my resolutions. Well, to date, I have one e-book out, and three more contracts outstanding. Even by my standards, that's a pretty good fulfillment. 

So, with that in mind, and thinking more and more about the future (and the fact that I'd love to be my own boss), I decided that if I could give writing my undivided attention, I could also make a conscious effort to get organized. So with that in mind, I posted the Organizational Dare in mid-June on the Forward Motion site, and  then conveniently forgot all about it until I discovered 'Organizing from the Inside Out', a course at BNU (Barnes and Noble University http://www.bn.com).  The course is based on the book 'Organizing from the Inside Out' by Julie Morgensturm. I got my copy at the library. 

In the book, it says that before you begin an organizing project, instead of jumping in and ending up with an even bigger pile, you should Analyze first, Strategize second, and then Attack. After spending one weekend organizing and rearranging the downstairs (which wasn't all that bad, really), I decided to start with the office and use the book as my guide to organizing it as effectively as I could. 

I began by making a list of what Chris and I do in the office: 

"What do I do in the Office?" 

Bills

Write

Internet

"What does Chris do in the Office?" 

Get dressed (clothes are kept in office)

Internet

Classes/Online Training

"What else is the Office used for?" 

Guest bedroom (maybe 6 times/yr)

So, with that in mind, I looked at the current setup, made some notes, and decided I needed to rearrange, starting with the guest bed, which was previously sticking out into the room. To place the bed against the wall, I needed two inches of extra space, which looked to be available if I moved Chris' desk over. 

To make a long story short, expect delays if you're working with rounded inserts to L-shaped desks. I moved every piece of furniture in the office at least four times (except for the bed; it stayed against the wall. I'm planning to get some pillows and pretend it is a couch. Good thing: We can watch DVDs on Chris' computer while sitting on the bed now. I can also sit on the bed with my QuickPad and use the IR receiver to write in complete comfort.) But I eventually got a configuration I rather liked. And, as a bonus, I get to sit next to a window, the office looks more efficient, and my new monitor fit quite nicely without taking up all my desk space. I also had room to set up my old computer so I can transfer files from it to the new one with ease. 

I wrote down a list of things I wanted to change in the office (WIP file space, room for a corkboard, room for desk shelf, empty desk space for projects, room for a set of Rubbermaid drawers) and what I thought Chris would like to do in the office (hang up RedWings banner, keep computer books and software boxes together, have clothes put away in drawers or hung up, be comfortable.) 

Not only was I able to end up with a pleasant arrangement for both of us, I also realized that if I care enough about a particular task, I can accomplish it. With that in mind, I'm going to continue implementing the suggestions from the book, and I'm not going to make empty promises to myself anymore. 

My husband was right. A year ago, he told me that if I got organized, everything else in my life would fall into place. I didn't believe him then, but I do now.