I have a confession: I’m a keeper. I keep everything.
At some point in my formative years someone must have told me how important it is to keep things “in case you ever need it”. Since then, I’ve diligently squirreled away paperwork and other items. Inspired to minimize the amount of paperwork, several weeks ago I finally started to go through it all. I Googled how long a person should keep bank statements, pay stubs, etc., made a list, and set to work. I threw away and shredded volumes of paperwork, significantly emptying my file cabinet. The one thing none of the articles mentioned though is how long to keep all the writing-related articles, workshop notes, etc. that authors can accumulate.
I have amassed a massive collection of writing-related information. Really, who hasn’t read an article or webpage and thought, “That is great information. I don’t want to forget it.”? I’m forever tearing pages out of magazines or printing online info. Sometimes I only have time to read a headline or scan the article, so I save it for when I have more time to read it—but I never get back to read it…like, ever. I also have notebooks full of notes I’ve taken at workshops or during online classes. Again, they have valuable information but there’s no consistency to the notebooks. One page has character development notes, the next has a list of household projects I’d like to do, the next (seven) were scribbled on by my kids, the next has a list of agents and their response times, followed by a hastily written note to call “Jelfiner Snoston in re: habblez to get the prmry flihten thing done asap” (I sure hope I took care of whatever that was—seems urgent!).
So what’s a pack-rat author to do?
First, I purged! I threw out all the industry-related information that was dated enough to render it irrelevant (and in such a rapidly changing industry, anything more than a few weeks is ancient history!). I tossed out books that listed agents (really, so many have changed agencies or left the industry entirely), articles on publishers and contests, and “current” market insight. Then I went through the information related to the craft of writing, even some of that seemed dated after so many years. From what was left I read and highlighted the points I found important to keep. I also pulled my workshop and class notes from the random notebooks. I selected one pretty journal (we all have a stash of journals/notebooks!) and that is where I have been writing all those important bits of information and copying my workshop notes. This meets two goals: I have all the information in one place, and it helped me decide what’s really important because that’s a lot of writing and it has to be valuable information to make that kind of commitment! And because I’m lazy, I discovered I can also cut things out and glue them to the pages.
After several hours of sorting, and several more of re-writing, I now have a single notebook loaded with valuable and inspiring information. I can honestly say that—well, if I’m being honest, I’d have to say that I just wrote an entire blog post to show off my pretty journal.