Weekend Writing Inspiration: Create Places for Your Writing Materials to Live
March 1, 2019
This week we’re continuing to discuss how you can corral your writing space and your writing materials to keep them more organized and conducive to writing. In last week’s article, we reviewed mindset shifts and strategies for getting your writing space cleared and ready to move forward.
Today, we’ll think about where you keep your writing materials and how you organize them.
Decide what goes where
Once you’ve cleared your writing space and you know what you want to keep, you’ll make decisions about what you want to keep where — in other words, where each item will “live.” You’ll be able to create and maintain order more easily when everything has a designated place. (Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll cover getting systems in place to help maintain organization once you establish it.)
Here’s a list of some core items to consider.
As a category, “paper” covers many things including: printouts of drafts, handwritten notes, research materials, and more. Each of them will need a place to reside in your writing space.
For paper drafts of your scripts, consider having a file folder for each screenplay, along with corresponding loose notes and research materials so you can pull them into one place with a label on it. Then, organize that into a filing cabinet or file box. You may instead want multiple file folders collected in one section of your filing area, depending on the quantity of materials per project and their type. Label each with the title of the screenplay and the type of materials it contains. Next, make a separate place for your current screenplay in the file cabinet or box that’s more accessible than prior projects.
You also may want a special spot on a bookshelf for your final draft printouts — it can be a powerful visual of the work you’ve accomplished as the evidence of your writing stacks up.
And remember your other paper: you’ll also want to have a place for things like bills, invoices, or other writing business related papers. These could go in their own separate filing area.
If you’re a notebook or journal user, you will want a special place for them to live — also labeled! — since they often don’t necessarily fit nicely into filing cabinets (though you could certainly use that method if you have the space). You may want to have a bookshelf for them, for example, or a special box to store them in.
If your notebooks are screenplay specific, you will want to label them with the screenplay title, as well as date them.
Writers have ideas coming in all the time, whether they’re story notes, new screenplay ideas, grocery lists, or other to dos. These are the kinds of notes we tend to scribble down on Post-its or other small scraps of paper and then often lose track of.
Ultimately, we’re best served by having a system for managing these types of notes (we’ll go over this next time) but to start, you’ll want to create a place to keep them, so they don’t get lost. You might use a jar, bowl, basket, vase, or other container, and you might even want more than one for different types of notes so they stay sorted. (You don’t really need your grocery lists mingling with your latest screenplay concept!)
In addition to having a place for physical paper and files, you’ll also want to designate places for digital files on your computer. So many writers have their digital materials scattered all over their drives, in different cloud storage areas and in different apps, that it can be hard to even know where to look when it’s time to reboot a screenplay or locate something they need for a draft. When I work with clients one-on-one, a task we often work on together is coming up with a location for all their work, so they can find it more easily.
In my case, I use a folder called “Jenna’s Writing Projects” in which I have nested sets of folders for different project types, labeled accordingly: Screenplays, Articles, E-books, Short Stories, etc. Inside each of these, are additional sub-folders labeled for each one of my projects.
Then, inside each project sub-folder, there’s another set of folders, including things like Agreements (for contracts), Drafts, Images, Outline, Research, Characters, and Invoices (if I’m writing on assignment vs. on spec). You don’t have to use this particular method, but you’ll want to think about where you’re keeping your digital files for easy access and to keep them organized as the project progresses.
Remember too, it’s okay to use a “from this day forward” approach with this kind of organization! You could spend hours and hours reorganizing your old projects, but I recommend you focus only on your current screenplay, and revisit the others only if you need to because you’re working on one again.
Supplies & equipment
You’ll want to have a place for your supplies and equipment. Besides the obvious — a place for the tools you write with — create a place for extra pens, paper, notebooks, printer cartridges, and other writing and office associated gear. Printer paper ideally will have a home near your printer.
For my supplies, I have a nifty collection of small planter boxes that fit into old architectural drawing cubbies built into my office. My various small office supplies (like pens and white out) live there. My printer cartridge refills are collected in a small box on my desk behind my printer so they’re always close at hand. I also have a set of built-in drawers in my office that contain stationery for writing thank you notes, envelopes for mailing bills and checks, a place for staples, tape, and a stapler, etc.
Where can you keep what you need to stay comfortable while you’re writing?
Keeping the small items you’re likely to want or need will keep you from wandering around, looking for fingernail clippers when you’re meant to be writing.
Think about the simple things you might want to keep in a drawer close by, so you can quickly and easily resolve any distractions and put the focus back on your work.
I like to have water in a large refillable bottle, hand lotion, tissue, hair ties, a nail file, and lip balm to help me stay at my desk writing.
“To go” writing gear
While you’re at it, you might also want to create a “grab-and-go” portable writing kit for when you’ll be writing outside your main writing space. Whether you’re heading to a café, writing on your lunch hour at your day job, or working in a different part of the house for the day, think about what needs to go with you that you can keep at the ready. You can create a bag with a pen or two (black and red, for example), a pad of paper, ear buds, and anything else you need to make writing on the go fast and easy.
Your Weekend Writer’s Assignment
This weekend make some decisions about your writing space. What kinds of items do you need in your writing space or to write on-the-go? What do you already have in your writing space that needs a designated place to live? Where can you locate them, so they are quickly and easily accessible AND easy to put away when you’re done with them? Then, write!
Got Questions You Want Answered?
After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write Founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting, trust yourself more as writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Jenna’s online form at https://calledtowrite.com/final-draft and she may choose your question to answer anonymously in a future article.
Written by: Jenna AveryJenna Avery is a screenwriter, columnist, and blogger who redesigned her life and career to support her calling to write. She specializes in sci-fi action and space fantasy, and her most recent project is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story for a Canadian producer. Jenna is also a writing coach and the founder of Called to Write, where she has helped hundreds of writers overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and resistance so they can get their writing onto the page and into the world where it belongs. Jenna writes about writing, creativity, and calling at calledtowrite.com, for ScriptMag, for Final Draft, and teaches for Screenwriter’s University. Download Jenna’s free guidebooks for writers when you join her mailing list at https://www.calledtowrite.com/mailing-list