Organize Schmorganize

The folders of incipient genius

How do you physically organize your writing? Especially if you’re a poet, after a couple of years you end up with a lot of individual pieces of writing in ever-evolving states of completion.

I used to be a binder aficionado. I preferred black three-rings with clear plastic slots on the spine that I labelled “In Progress,” “Completed Work” or “Writing – Other.” And special write-on divider tabs that came in sets of 20 or more. Did I mention that as a child I used to keep all my used airline tickets in a plastic pouch to play “secretary”? So yes, my office supplies disorder (OSD) goes back a ways. But after about ten years of the binder method I realized that it was getting more and more cumbersome to put drafts away, I was letting the piles build up, and I was constantly losing good pieces of writing. Plus, who wants to spend hours hole-punching papers? Shorter: It’s not a good system if it can’t overcome my natural laziness.

So I took a page out of my friend Deb’s book, and switched to folders. Nothing cute, fancy, expensive, or hard to duplicate; just cheapo, manila, straight-cut folders. (1/3 and 1/5 cuts make me INSANE WITH HATE, but that’s another topic.) And as long as I keep them roughly alphabetized, it works as well as anything can in a small space. Want to group all the poems that need work, or all the poems that will go into a single manuscript? The folder method lends itself to the task.

The switch-over process was not pretty, but it was worth it. I’m still hanging onto my 5×8 card box to keep track of submissions though.

So how do you organize your drafts?

a) Folders.

b) Binders.

c) Fancy-pants options like this thing. (I can vouch for that thing. It is awesome. But I don’t use it for writing, because again, I’m lazy. Too much hole-punching.)

d) A giant misshapen pile on my desk.

e) All my drafts are electronic, you tree-killer.

f) It’s all in The Cloud, baby.

g) Organize? Organizing is for DILETTANTES. I compose my works of startling genius in a WHITE-HOT FRENZY. They are written in THE BLOOD OF MY VERY SOUL. Afterwards I fall to the ground in a STATE OF EXHAUSTION. Then representatives from Poetry, APR, and possibly AGNI, humbled and awed before my inhuman level of productivity, knock softly on my door and BEG ME FOR THE FRUIT OF MY BRAIN-TREE.

The 5×8 cards of incipient rejection

2 thoughts on “Organize Schmorganize

  1. Loved your article. I used to pride myself in being organized but now I wish I could earn enough money with my poetry writing to hire an assistant. All my published poems are stored alphabetically in three large binders. The ones in progress are scattered throughout the house waiting to be filed. Some are filed according to theme. I do love the index cards and spread sheets for keeping track of submissions. If you’re Canadian, the spread sheets help with recording a claim for Access Copyright. Keep writing.

    1. The copyright thing is an interesting wrinkle! Believe it or not, since this post, I’ve gone almost completely electronic, but it was a change that evolved over time. Still love index cards though.

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