Posted tagged ‘footers’

Blocking Writer’s Disorganization

January 26, 2010

As some of you know, I’ve written several posts on blocking writer’s block.  (Check out that category!)  But in the last couple of hours/days, I’ve been dealing with a different problem.  Writer’s disorganization.

Mine centers on one of the least-cited negative qualities of working on a computer – the  ability to save multiple, vaguely distinguished, drafts.

It sounds wonderful in principal.  The ability to “save as,” repeatedly, means that you never have to throw anything away.  You can experiment with all kinds of revisions.   Unlike a visual artist working on a single canvas, you rarely have to irrevocably choose what works best.

But combining (i) revision with (ii) indecisiveness can be disastrous over time.  Especially if you are cursed with (iii) an aging memory, and (iv) an ability to reel off pages.

Which is the best draft?  The final draft?  The one you want to send out?

The dates should provide a clue (if you save them by date!);  however, indecisive, moody, and interrupted, rewriting may mean that your very last draft is far from your best.   (If you started changes that you didn’t carry through, your last draft may not even be fully coherent!)

If you confine the drafts to your hard drive, some trees may at least be spared.   But some of us (whose names will not be mentioned here) have developed the concept of “print only” drafts (as opposed to “read only” files), meaning that certain drafts may be  printed,  even copied, but never actually perused.  (Why is it that once one gets used to reading on a screen, the printed page seems so naked, painful, exposed?)

I certainly have yet to solve this problem.  But here are a few suggestions which, like multiple drafts, sound good at least in principal:

1.  Slow down.  When you revise, read changes carefully, maybe even aloud.

2.  Take yourself seriously.   Put your bunches of drafts in separate computer files.   If you are working with a longer piece, you might even take the time to type some little commentary at the top of the draft.  (I’ll never do this, but it sounds good.)

3.  Consider actually destroying redundant drafts.

4.  When you do print, put little footers on the pages so you know which version it is.  Put the printed copies in a little notebook, rather than a plastic bag in the back of a closet.   Label them, show them, look at them.

5.  If this is all too difficult, maybe you should just blog.  If you do it daily, you won’t have time for multiple drafts.   (Aahhh.)