No, no there’s my head. Never mind, I found it. I was wrong, I didn’t lose my head, but I have pretty much lost everything else that has ever crossed my path…keys, glasses (I don’t even wear them), mittens, and yes, paperwork. I happen to know that I am not alone in the writing world. I have a theory that it’s a curse in exchange for our creative minds.
It’s only recently that I have really become fully aware of how big a problem this is for me. I had spent several months trying to collect from a market that had owed me money for almost a year. After relentlessly nagging them I finally surrendered and sought help. What I discovered was, that though I had copies of their very few responses to me, I didn’t have copies of the emails I had sent them. In short, I couldn’t prove that I had tried to collect my payment through normal procedures.
Luckily for me my story turned out all right in the end. My help was big and powerful and got results despite the small amount of information I had to give them. The experience got me thinking though. Just how organized was my work? Could I find the information I needed to prove a contract or live up to my assignments quickly and efficiently? I’m sad to say the answer to these questions is an unequivocal NO.
Should an editor argue paying an agreed upon price I cannot guarantee that I can prove they are ripping me off. When I forget just how long this article is supposed to be I’ll be wasting valuable time digging up my query instead of fine-tuning the piece itself. All this made me realize, just how professional a writer can I be if I don’t know where anything is?
Is it that we are just generally optimistic and trusting? Or is it that we don’t take our work seriously enough? Whatever our reasons we seem to think that the strict record keeping methods used by other businesses do not apply to us. Let’s be honest. How many of you can say they have been in my place, that they know what it means to dig through a filing cabinet, paper piles, email folders, and computer files in search of one elusive piece of information? Has it occurred to you that your career is suffering because of this?
Never mind the eventuality that someone might try to rip you off. Never mind the many times we forget exactly what it was we said we’d sell to this market. Do you know exactly where you sent that multi-rejected query? Do you know which magazines have already rejected it, how long ago that was, and if the editor has changed since then? I’ve got at least one query sitting stagnantly because I didn’t take proper records and I can’t send it back out without risking making a fool of myself. And exactly how unprofessional do you think a magazine would find me if two years after I move I send a newly addressed SASE because I just realized that their response is probably lost in the mail? I’m still debating over whether I want the rejection badly enough to make a fool of myself.
I now know what needs to be done and I’m ready to do it. Once I update my current (read failing) filing system keeping on top of all my correspondences and documents will be quick and easy. All I have to do is overcome this other curse we call procrastination so that I can finally get organized.
Megan Potter is a prolific writer who has been published many times in such magazines as Pregnancy and Working Money. Megan makes her home in Canada where she runs Writing Corner (www.writingcorner.com). She is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild and works critiqueing and mentoring fellow writers in her spare time. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions.