Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Planning Ahead

I have a love/hate relationship with organization and planning. Deep down inside, there’s a girl who would love to throw out the clutter, sort and color-code what’s left, make Excel spreadsheets for everything, and follow a perfectly scheduled agenda filled with just the right balance of productivity and relaxation.

Unfortunately, she doesn't get her way often because I’m just so incredibly lazy. And I've sort of trained myself to stay that way. For example, I actually have a decent tolerance for messes — I'm good at ignoring things or assuming apathy, because if I notice and care, I might have to do something about it. (I'm a big believer in the conservation of energy; that's why I'm so fond of sleeping.)

But every once in a while, I'll be ambushed by a sudden onslaught of energy and motivation. That's when I do things like alphabetize books on my shelf by last name of author and then check that the spine of each book is exactly the same distance from the edge of the bookshelf (with a ruler, of course, so it's accurate). Or reorder the clothes in my closet (well, once I move them there, anyway) seasonally and by item type, then catalogue it all in a spreadsheet along with attributes that include brand, color, length, care instructions, occasion, and how frequently I wear it.

Thankfully, these episodes are brief, and soon things devolve back into organic chaos. I try to do some light organizing here and there, but I basically allow entropy to run amok until the next time I'm overtaken by the urge to bring order to my surroundings. (I was particularly susceptible during midterm or finals season; funny coincidence, that.)

For a long time, that's how it went with my writing. I'd think about it from time to time, perhaps write a character study or jot down a few plot points in a burst of creativity, only to forget the project soon after. Since I wasn't all too dedicated and had little idea what I was doing, I didn't make much progress beyond a lot of daydreaming.

So now I'm going to try something different. I'm going to leverage my organization and planning skills to map out a strategic plan of attack on my novel project. Hopefully, breaking down my goal into smaller steps will make it seem less overwhelming. Plus there's something so satisfying about completing items on a checklist (why yes, I've added completed items to my to-do list before, just so I can cross it off — it's important to reward yourself with that sense of accomplishment!). And knowing what's next will keep me from feeling lost and help me make things easier for my future self.

Of course, having an awesome master plan doesn't guarantee success. I still have to carry it out, which is... not my strong suit. I'm hoping that blogging my progress will provide accountability and force me to remember my goal instead of brushing it off. (You guys will help, right?)

I'll be unveiling my game plan in my next post. It's more of a general overview, actually, so I'll probably have to come up with sub-sections with detailed checklists and a better schedule and... well, I'll worry about it when I get there. Stay tuned!

Where are you on the messy/organized spectrum?


  1. i like your inner control freak much better. for the most part... hahaha. your descriptions were so funny (and true)! looking forward to hearing your game plan :)

  2. Haha you do? You are so strange. But yes it'd be nice if I were more
    diligent lol.

  3. "(I'm a big believer in the conservation of energy; that's why I'm so fond of sleeping.)"

    Ha! I'm on the morning commuter train and I just snorted outloud.

    I'm so not an organizer. My room is at it's cleanest when I'm procrastinating. And even then new shiny objects easily distract me from my distractions.

    My current writing project was organized only in so much as I knew it had a beginning, middle and end. I would love to plot out a story on notecards one day. That seems like it would be such a logical, easy way to do things. A girl can dream, can't she?

  4. savesprinkles1234May 25, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    I look forward to the big reveal of your "master plan."  I'm in desparate need of one of those myself!  I'm fairly organized as far as housework is concerned, but beyond that, I'm chaos incarnate!

  5. Haha! Glad I could make you snort. :P

    It always amazes me that people can dream up plot and character as they
    write. Give the note card plotting thing a shot! Who knows, it might work
    for you. If it drives you crazy then at least you'd know it's not for you.

  6. Hahaha it won't be anything amazing. Just the various stages in the project
    that I want to get myself thinking about ahead of time. Planning is a lot of
    fun for me -- but I'm keeping my fingers crossed about getting it done!

  7. Thanks for the encouragement! And for sharing your experiences. Nice to know
    I'm on the right track. :)

  8. Hi Linda!

    I identify wholeheartedly with this post. I'm not a naturally organized person, especially because I'm always daydreaming and focused on ideas. While I'm off in my own head somewhere, notebooks and papers and haphazard notes build up and crowd me in.

    But when I start consciously cleaning, suddenly I become a perfectionist. I've always had these  organization paroxysms, similar to yours, throughout my life. The most difficult part of building my career as a self-built, entrepreneurial writer has been sustaining constant attention to order and to following through on good ideas.

    There are so many different tasks and areas to focus on that I've had no choice but to make lists, schedule my own workdays to make sure everything's getting enough attention, and so on.

    Okay. Shutting my mouth now to go read your game plan.

  9. Hi Nicholas! Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such thoughtful
    comments! :D

    Yeah, it's so hard, isn't it?? I struggle sooo much with follow through and
    perfectionism. Sounds like you got things figured out pretty well, though.
    Got any tips for me? :)

  10. Ha! Thanks for your faith, Linda, but I am definitely still figuring things out.

    Here are a few things that have helped me follow through on projects, though:

    -Asking friends to hold me accountable by asking how the book's going
    -Writing reminders on the bathroom mirror with a huge marker
    -Also writing the title in huge letters on posterboard, writing a deadline underneath, and posting it above my desk
    -Keeping the project notebook out on a surface where I can't ignore it

    As for perfectionism, I think the best weapon I've found against my own perfectionism is knowledge. The more I study the various elements of literature and narrative devices, the more I feel capable of tweaking a piece of writing to my satisfaction. But your perfectionism might be different from mine, so I'm not really sure what to prescribe, you know?

  11. Great ideas! Though maybe I have to write the note on my laptop screen
    instead of the bathroom mirror, since I stare at that a lot more (but maybe
    not with a marker :P). It's so true about visual reminders! Out of sight,
    out of mind, and all that.

    Hmm... interesting point about different kinds of perfectionism. I guess I
    should give it some more thought. Thanks for the tips! :)