Monday, August 08, 2011

On Being Organized

I admire organization; I truly do. I see how it works for others ("a place for everything, and everything in its place"), and stand in awe. Open their dresser drawers, and you will find perfectly matched socks, neatly folded and aligned underwear. I have long ago given up trying to match my socks. I do laundry and find myself, when I go to put things away, with seventeen individual socks, not one of them bearing the slightest resemblance to the other sixteen. How can that happen? What became of the eighteenth sock?

And I do my best to be organized, but whereas other people's lives are as neatly and logically arranged as a jigsaw puzzle, with every single piece having its assigned place and all interconnecting perfectly with its neighbors, mine is about as organized and orderly as a bag full of marbles.

My friend Gary is a poster boy for organization. He makes lists and notes for every aspect of his life. Whenever I actually make a note of something (my attitude is usually "why make a note? I'll remember it." And I do; for perhaps twenty seconds or something--anything--comes along to distract me.) I will go to the grocery store for a gallon of milk, half-and-half, and coffee. That's it. No need for a note for something so simple. And I will go to the store and return with a box of donuts, six cans of cat food, a bag of potato chips, and...if I'm very, very lucky, a gallon of milk, which I can use instead of the half-and-half, except that I don't need it now that I don't have any coffee.

I really try, when I walk into my apartment, to put my cell phone on top of my dresser. And if I forget to put it there, it is invariably in my pants pocket...until it rings and I cannot find it. If it is in my pants pocket, I have always taken my pants off and therefore must frantically search through the wads of Kleenex in every pocket until I find it, by which time whoever it was who called has hung up. Two days ago I found it in the crevice between my sofa cushions, where I could hear it but not find it. And I do not remember having sat on the sofa for it to have fallen out of my pants pocket.

But today was the capper. I am going through each of the first ten books of the Dick Hardesty series, originally published by my first publisher who has recently gone out of business, to prepare them for being reissued by my current publisher. It's amazing, when going over something I've written but not read for awhile, how many little things I should have spotted and changed, but did not. I'm working on the third of the ten books at the moment, and have reduced the word count of each one by several thousand words, merely by cutting out totally unnecessary "he said"/"I asked"/"he replied"s.

I have each book in several formats... .odt, .rtf, .doc, and word. (I know, don't ask...even I am never sure which is which or why it matters), and I am often not clear on which format which publisher prefers. Were I organized, I would have a little metal box filled with three-by-five cards carefully laying out such information. But writing out all those three-by-five cards takes time, and I'd much rather be doing other things. (You may well observe--as Gary is constantly pointing out to me--that this is a classic case of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.) If I had those cards, I could readily check to see which format I should be working in. But I don't, and in the pathetic attempt to cover all my bases, I have to go through all four formats of each book to be sure I've made the same change in each version. But endlessly going back and forth between versions rapidly becomes both boring and frustrating and takes up one hell of a lot more time than it would have taken if I'd written out those damned three-by-five cards!

Not paying attention to which format I'm working on certainly helps. I'm very good at not paying attention, which is, not surprisingly, rather counterproductive to trying to be organized. So I am, say, working whichever format I have up at the moment, and make several changes. And, of course, I do not immediately pull up the other three formats and make the changes while I remember them. I inevitably allow myself to get distracted and move on to another project, thinking I'll naturally remember which format it was to which I'd made the changes.

I do not.

So rather than risk apoplexy trying to figure out which is which, I have decided to solve the problem by arbitrarily choosing one format to work on and pitch the other three--despite the fact that one or more of the versions I throw away may well contain some very important changes I took a lot of time and trouble to make.

Maybe I will go buy a little metal box and some three-by-five cards. And I will bring them home, full of hope and optimism for finally getting my act together, and I will promptly put them somewhere I will not be able to find them.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

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