Organization is NOT my Middle Name

 

Scatter brain. That sums up my childhood. Procrastinator. Another descriptive word of my youth. Distracted. Impulsive. Both are accurate of my nature. I am certain my four brothers and four sisters could easily find more that apply. I won’t ask.

Organization is not a trait inbred in me. My room, my drawers, my closet shelves received little attention on any regular basis. Items got lost. Items crawled under the bed and remained lost until in desperation the entire room was searched, usually to no avail. I sat amidst the mess in a fury of angry tears, vowing to do better.

I did not have to be the mother of all nine of the children before I realized that such a disorganized way of life would be disastrous. Frantically searching a room or an entire house for three or more pairs of Sunday shoes when it was time leave for church was not how I wanted to spend my life. Tearing through cupboards and refrigerator as dinner approached and multiple sets of hungry eyes gazed at me expectantly was an uncomfortable position. I learned organization in self-defense. Decide on dinner a day ahead, remove the meat from the freezer to thaw in frig and check to make sure all ingredients are an hand. Find all church clothing Saturday before bedtime stories, line them up where they won’t become scattered. The searches were often still frantic, the laments still frequent, but time was not the issue.

“No wonder you have nine children, you can handle it.” “You are so organized.” Those often heard comments, while appreciated, also make me smile. If they only, really knew! I say ‘thank you’ and keep my mouth shut. Organization can be a learned behavior. At least enough of the skill can be acquired for survival.

Slow learner that I am, it took awhile to translate my learned behavior skills to writing. My computer skills were limited. The first book was nearing completion and I was chapters into the second. Chapter after chapter, file after individual file piled on the computer. Even before I began to research what was required for submitting manuscripts, I knew the chapter files would have to be transferred into one. Page numbers, word counts, slowly the realization confronted me. My lack of organization was again a liability. I would have to take a crash course in computer 101 before I could submit a manuscript with any confidence.

Copy, paste, copy, paste, no one could offer a faster process. Painfully I gathered the chapters into one file. My irregular page numbers would need to be changed and chapters separated, but after several days it was done. One book, one file, the mission was accomplished. Not so fast, a week or more later I discovered I had pasted one chapter twice and skipped another. Not to worry, I went back and found what was needed and re-did the work. This time I discovered the version in my file was not my revised version. The chapter’s re-writes while important, had not seemed important enough to forward to my lab rat. Somehow, somewhere I had deleted the file I wanted. I let my husband search under the bed in and tear through the shelves in the secret places of the computer’s hard drive. Too much time had elapsed and the chapter was gone. Mentally I sat on the floor in a fit of angry tears.

But only, momentarily, as a glimmer of hope beckoned in the form of a stack of scrap paper on my shelf. Perhaps I had printed it? I was certain I had, but it was not in my stack.

Maybe Gwen did have it. I asked and she sent back the last revision I had sent her way. I opened it hopefully, some revisions, not all. Comfort came from a tiny remembrance. I had printed it, and included it in the hard copy I had lent out for reading. I would eventually get it back. Until then, well, the un-revised chapter bothered me. I moped and finally told myself that I knew which parts I hadn’t liked, and if I had fixed them once who was to say I could not do it better a second time? I recalled the general idea of what I had done and why. I regarded it as a challenge and got to work. When the hard copy is returned I will compare the two versions, pick which I like the best or maybe combine them, using the best from each.

Lesson learned. Send each revised chapter to lab rat, Gwen, and print it when you do. Now I have the last versions printed and in binders with stacks of earlier versions in the guest bedroom closet. I need to put them in order and box them to be saved, just in case.

One step completed, one panic stilled, more to be learned. Besides Gwen, Eunice and Ann have read or are reading my manuscript. The hard copies I give to them contain a multitude of sticky notes, red marks and bits of insightful advice. These must be transferred to the computer copy. It only makes sense to make the changes on the completed, single file. Too late I realized the changes should have been made chapter by chapter and only when complete with the edits should they be copied to the entire book file.

I am confronted with another disorganized situation. How do I efficiently find my way through the massive book file? Enter my son, Nate, the computer geek. While he could not show me how to use the bookmark feature on Word Perfect, he did show me how to make a document map, essentially outline the book. (The ‘yes’ of success is uttered here.) Now I am able to choose the chapter I want without scrolling page by page through the entire manuscript. My husband took the time to realign the margins and remove the inconsistent numbering. Yes! With correct page numbers throughout, and the chapters neatly separated, I may continue onward.

Second book, same as the first, but THIS time I will accomplish the task in a decent and orderly fashion. I understand what to do. It is one less sniveling e-mail Carole will receive from the depths of the summer doldrums. Now if I can learn how the bookmark works! I’ve tried several times. There are tricks to be learned in every trade and someone knows this one. I’ll keep asking.

 

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