When you first return from a writing retreat, you just really can’t believe the world expects you to fold socks (also, you’re not sure how to spell socks anymore, but s-o-c-k-s seems right). Really, World, you expect me to match up all these socks? Don’t you know I’m a Poet?
But, Yes, says the world, Socks. Really. And also milk. And T.P.
So today I spent a while taming the beast of domestic chaos, despite my incredulity about the socks. And so, I thought, let’s talk about organdizing and process.
One thing that makes folding the socks easier is that I have a process for it. I know what the inputs are and where to find them. I know what happens in the middle. I know what the outputs are and where to put them. Here’s my folding socks process (I know, I know, you’ve been dying to know, haven’t you?):
Oh, look: I learned something. One part of what I thought was my process never actually happens. Okay, now I can adjust and work smarter (I hate that phrase, don’t you?).
What does all this have to do with writing/organdizing? Just that it’s important for your writing files, workpapers, etc., to flow out of your process. Otherwise, your system of organdization will not be organdized.
So I think the first step to writing organdization is to draw out your process. Here’s where my background in public policy comes in handy (Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but about 100 years ago I went to grad school for public policy, and cried the whole first week because I knew I should’ve been in grad school for poetry. This is also when I learned about the idea of working smarter. But I digress.). You don’t really have to make it anything fancy, but if you think of your process of inputs, functions, and outputs, it will be fairly easy to draw as a flow chart. I know the input for my generative work is my morning reading and writing. Maybe yours are art books, collages, music, or old notebooks. Whatever your inputs, put them down on your flow chart and map away. Here’s my process map for generating new work (you must clink the link to view it – sorry):
From my generative process, it’s clear I need folders for
- poem maps — an outline of the syntax and strategies in a poem (more on this here)
- morning writes — which are basically free-writes on whatever grabs me from my current reading (more here)
- wordbanks — lists of words that grab me from whatever I’m reading (more here under #1 “Random Generator”), and my
- blotter — which is just a long, messy list of ideas for poems, words or phrases that grab my attention, URLs to interesting poems, articles, news items, and the like). The blotter helps with the problem of rabbit holes. You know, you find something that seems interesting and the next thing you know you’ve spent an hour reading about it instead of doing the work you’d planned to do? The blotter helps you keep track of interesting things with out getting distracted by them. I use Evernote for my blotter, but you could just use a big long list in Word, or in your notebook.
I realize as I map my process I also need a folder for prompts/exercises, so I add that in mentally.
Whether to create paper or electronic files, or both, depends on your preferred way of working. I use both because, while I prefer to work with paper, I don’t want to lose anything to the paper beast. I’ll do a post more specifically about filing later in the week.
Note, also, that in mapping my process, I figured out a way to simplify it. Rather than having to decide whether to type up morning writes every day, and to have to go back through morning writes once a week to mine for things I didn’t type up, I see that it would be easier to just type them up every day and read through them once a week prior to my drafting day.
So, we’ve looked at the inputs, processes and outputs of a generative process. These outputs feed into the next process which is Drafting & Revision. After that comes the Submissions process. In the coming days, I’ll provide links to my process maps and call out any highlights that might be helpful. But remember, it’s your process that you should focus on (unless you don’t have one yet. Then you can borrow mine and give it a try). Your process may look very different than mine, and that’s okay as long as you can get to your inputs and outputs.
At the end of all this, I promise I’ll just give you a list of my paper and electronic files, which when I was a beginning writer, was all I wanted–because I really couldn’t figure it out myself and had very little awareness of process then. Maybe that will save you from having to do a major file re-org 3 or 4 times in 10 years, as I have done. But looking at process is a good first step.
Now, you must excuse me. Orphan socks await my attention. Ever onward.