I like the idea of being organized, with a place for everything and everything in its place. It seems as though it would be soothing and helpful and almost guarantee productivity.
The practice of being organized, however, is to me not merely a closed book, but a closed book trodden on a few times by drunken plow horses (still pulling their plows), dipped in cream of mushroom soup, left for the chickens to peck at, and the remains messily scattered by a tropical storm.
I collect potential character names and phrases that might work into story titles and interesting words that might be springboards to stories. I keep them in two or three squat spiral notebooks as well as in two or three or more files in my computer’s memory. I am not one to place all the eggs in a single basket; if I lose one notebook or computer file, I still have the others and perhaps my literary future will not founder upon the rocks and shoals of happenstance. Then, too, there are the numerous notes to myself on sticky pads and pieces of small, loose note paper.
And just so you know, the great mystery writer Agatha Christie are in agreement on this. Her notebooks make it appear, in comparison, that I have a pristine and rigorous method of tracking my thoughts and notions. So we learn from Christine Kenneally’s delightful article in Slate of a few months ago (published a mere eight days before BP committed a disorganization in the Gulf of Mexico that the vengeful, disaster-wielding God of the Old Testament would have looked upon with some envy. But I digress.)
Christie’s slapdash ways of working should give some comfort to the rest of us who don’t always know what we’re doing either.