Tag Archives: Being a Writer

File System Infobase Manager

I’ve posted a complete outline of my File System Based Info Manager. It’s the tool I use to manage all my writing, notes, reference material, bibliographies, and records. It’s based on Alex Payne’s architecture ideas, Noguchi Yukio’s organizational systems, and input from my pals over on the Scrivener Forums.

So far it is one of the most popular posts on dougist.com.

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Writing Timers, Wasting Timers

A great way to waste time not writing is to set up your system for managing writing time during the time when you should be writing.

I used to write non-stop, heads-down till my body collapsed, lost in the tunnel of creativity, absorbed with characters and stories. While exciting and vaguely mystical, this is not a long haul strategy for writing sucess. Eventually things (like, you) begin to break down.

Somewhere along the way, I think from the Scrivener boards, I learned of a system for working in periods of forty-eight minutes followed by breaks of twelve minutes. The idea was to train the subconscious to visit during the twelve to help the creative process along.

Easy to adopt, right? All you need is a great timer, because if it works you’re fully absorbed during the 48 and will/should/hope to lose track of time until the bell goes off.

So I had to go find the right timer. Don’t laugh, this is a big deal and it can take dozens of hours of frittering to try them all and get just the right one….

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Shifting Mediums

Of all the artists, we writers are uniquely beset with the chore of dealing with the piles of stuff we produce, and making sure it doesn’t get lost in some tornadoing swirl of trash papers, dog eared towers, or misnamed folders, never to be seen again.

This is not to disparage my friends who are visual artists, they too have vast quantities of stuff, paints, easels, those funny little wooden figures with articulated joints, but their problems are different. A thirteen foot canvas is not likely to just up and disappear overnight, while a 10,000 word story can fall into some crevasse of a hard drive and go missing for years.

I’m also not speaking ill of my friends the performing artists, who’s work is basically geographical. Their biggest organizational issue is making sure they show up at the right place, at the right time, on the right day, hopefully without forgetting their Strad, or Gibson in the cab on the way to the hall.

But we writers, our burden is the crap load of words we have to wrangle. Even if you only do the Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird 300 words a day minimum quota (or the 3,500 I seem to average) a writer can easily develop a whole attic of text, mounds of little stories, herds of ideas, notes, quips and quotes from observation or reading, and it’s easy for stuff to slip off on the wind, which is a shame because that cloud of pages heading over the hill has good stuff in it.

Ah, the trade offs of the different vocations…

When I flip through the files in my writing folders I invariably trip over a little gem, something I forgot, something valualble. The other day I found a wonderful description of a feeble old man stumbling off down a hall, he was fragile and vulnerable like he was made of spun candy, along the way he had to stop and remember where he was going. He was a perfect model for a director in my book.

The natural question is how to keep something like that from being lost…

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What comes next?

In response to a question on another site…

“Once you have written down the inspiration that comes to you, then what?”

…I replied…

Outline, reorder, revise, wrestle with syntax, realize that there is no message or point, start over….Get to same place, cry, make coffee, read someone else’s work, say “I can do better than that”, start over, fail again, make choice between Martini or scotch, check facebook, read emails, call a friend, fritter, decide to give it another run…Find original point is not that bad, re-outline, like the way it looks, fill in gaps, change “its” to “it’s”, check spelling, publish, collapse exhausted and get another Martini…

Or something like that.

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Notebooks

Just like Joan Didion, my notebooks start with an entry prompted by real life. I jot down a few observations, a description of something that passed by, a taste, a smell, a pretty girl. Often it’s a note about an event, because I tend to be a describer and an image painter. But soon the entry turns into something else, something moving on its own, moving swiftly. A wind picks up and the words begin to flow and before long a few hours have gone by and in the settling dust some trail of pure fiction has been created. My biggest job is just to keep up before it passes, the original real life idea left far behind.

After reading: Joan Didion – On Keeping a Notebook

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Writing tools – Journler

I use Journler, Mark Twain would have too…

Someone asked me the other day “how can you be so careful about your writing, and still make so many mistakes” and since the questioner was not an Obama supporter, I found it safe to assume she was talking about my grammar, not my content.

In a lighting quick reply I said “It’s not easy. You have to work at it”.

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