Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Cleaning for Writers and Readers by Morgan Mandel

Spring, a time for new beginnings, is also when I and many others get into the mood for cleaning and clearing out clutter accumulated during the hibernating winter months. The inspiration for this blog  is my coupon keeper, in which I was surprised to find coupons with October, 2010 expiration dates.

This year I'd like to take my cleaning a bit further and analyze accumulations from more than the past months, and include clutter from many years of saving items I no longer need. I don't know how many of my suggestions I'll actually follow, but I'm going to try.

Ways to Clean Writer Clutter:

1. If you belong to a critique group lilke I do, and have been saving every written critique on paper from every person who has ever participated, consider keeping one complete copy of the work, then save only the pages with writing on them. If you want, jot down the person's name on the pages where they made suggestions. Better yet, if you're not a saver and have already considered and accepted or rejected the suggestions, you may even be so bold as to throw them all out.

2. What about those papers you've saved with all those helpful tips you printed from websites and emails because they were so important you felt you needed a printed reminder? I've got tons of those all over the place. Have you followed any of those suggestions? I've followed some, but there are so many it's hard to keep track. In the changing publishing market, do the suggestions still make sense? If not, pitch them. Also, if you have duplicates addressing the same topic, pick the ones that seem most sensible and discard the others. Consider organizing the ones you do keep into folders with tabbed labels.

3. Do you have boxes with programs in them which you've never installed on your computer? Are they obsolute now? Is there some other reason you never installed them? If you can't use them, donate them to the library or a charitable organization and get a writeoff for next year. Be careful not to include any program discs already used which may contain personal data.

4. Do you have scraps of paper with email addresses on them, perhaps from people who bought your book at a booksigning, or someone you met at a conference? Isn't it about time you added them onto your contact list online? You can put them in a separate category for easy finding.

5. What about all those business cards accumulated from possible venues to sell books, or other writers you've met, etc., they can also go onto your computer.

6. Do you have a printed copy of your work in progress? I do, as well as any book I've every written. If it makes you feel good looking at it, keep it. Just don't forget to keep updated copies online and email them to yourself for safekeeping.

7. With all my recommendations for online saving, here's something else to remember: If you don't have a backup program, consider purchasing one to protect all the valuable information you've cleared out of the house and onto the computer. I've got Dell Data Safe, plus, plus Flicker, for saving data, but don't update as often as I should. The automatic updates don't work for me, since my well known service provider chooses to time out at various times and interrupt the flow.

8. Do you have a website? If so, make sure it's up to date with your latest happenings.One of these days very soon I'll need to do that again. This pertains to blogs too, though those are easier to keep up since they're more frequently used. While you're on your blog, check out the blogroll. Do all the links work, or did some of those blogs move?

Readers and Writers Can Remove Clutter These Ways:

1. Have you saved books you thought you might read again, yet haven't in years? I have, but I'm getting better on that score, though I really wish now I'd kept those Nancy Drew books. Do you really want to read some of those books again, when there are so many new ones out there? If not, donate them to the library or a charity and get a deduction. I purged the house of four bags of books a few months ago, but am considering doing more.
2. What about those autographed books? I've saved every autographed book by every friend or acquaintance who has ever gotten published, plus autographed books from conferences and book signings. I plan on sorting through my collection and deciding which books are written by people who are my very best friends and which books are signed by people I barely know. Of course, I'll still keep books signed by Sidney Sheldon and anyone else who was or is very popular,because it makes me feel good to have even that small contact with someone who made it.

3. Another reason to discard print books - I now have a kindle, which means I hardly ever bring a print book when I go somewhere which requires a wait. On my last vacation, my kindle came with, but no print books. I suspect at the most I'll include one print book on the next vacation as well. Speaking of the kindle, Amazon can store books already read, so it's a good idea to remove the read ones off the kindle so it's easier to find the ones unread. I've got over 100 to still to read, but have also read many which are getting in the way of finding the unread ones.

4. If you use email, and who doesn't these days, delete messages as soon as you've read them, unless they're very important to save. Those you can red flag to find easier when you need them.

5. If you've fallen behind deleting messages, make it your goal to delete each day a certain amount of unread messages you thought you'd read, but are now months or years old. I'm too embarrassed to offer the total of my unread messages. I did that about a year or so ago on one of my blogs, but unfortunately the number has escalated since then.

Now you've gotten the hang of it, make you can think of other clutter removers, or maybe you'd like to agree or expand on one I've mentioned. Please do.

Morgan Mandel

Killer Career is now 99 cents
on Kindle and Smashwords


Connie Cox said...

Writerly Spring cleaning is just what I'm doing this week! I've discovered 's Bookswap. It's easier to let go of them when I know know that I'm sending my books to a good home.

LJ Roberts said...

Even better than GoodRead's Bookswap is I've never had a problem with PBS, where I have had with GR.

Morgan Mandel said...

I've never heard of either of those bookswaps. They're worth looking into.

Morgan Mandel

Heather Haven said...

OMG! I have been looking at the bookshelves that house all the work critiqued in classes and wondering how to condense it, already yet. #1 solved it for me! The rest is terrific, too. Saving all the info. Thanks so much!

Redameter said...

Paper clutter is my biggest problem in cleaing house. I recently moved and my daughters wanted to know why I always have so much paper.

But I had just shredded 16 garbage bags full of paper. I thought I was doing good.

Now I'm only down to about three boxes of paper. Going to try to narrow that too, since everything is done electronically now.

And talk about allergies, the dust flies when I get rid of paper.

Great article.

Love and blessings

Maryann Miller said...

Great tips and thanks for the reminder that I need to clear a lot of my clutter. I have started being more conscious of saving things in folders on my computer and not printing out every article I have found helpful. Also slowly getting rid of business cards and putting the contact information on my computer. Some day I may have a paper-free desk, although my husband doesn't stop laughing when I mention that.

StephB said...

Morgan, all great ideas. Thanks so much for sharing. You know what helps me? Have a calendar I can write on and visually see. Then I can just reference "the clutter" I need for that week.


Jacqueline Vick said...

I just got rid of an entire bookcase of books, but I still have three boxes that I couldn't part with. Next up in the dreaded "paper corner". I'm so glad I'm not the only one going through this!

Kim Smith said...

Excellent post Morgan! I am one of those "print" and keep people. I usually find those printed articles etc. a few years later and wonder why on earth I saved it!!

Kelly McClymer said...

Great tips. I had to laugh about the critique copies. Last year I consolidated some short story critiques from a workshop I attended *23* years ago. But I still didn't get rid of them all. I think, this year, I will!

I'm trying to figure out how to use my iPad to keep track of all this paperwork, but I haven't yet.


Mona Risk said...

Hi Morgan, I gave myself a pat on the shoulder after reading your suggestions as I'm already following most of them. Yeah!

Celtic Chick said...

Thanks for sharing your tips on getting rid of clutter. This is a huge thing with me. The Hoarders show is really helpful in this area. After watching an episode, I get into a cleaning frenzy because I am scared to death of being buried by my stuff.

When I am working on a current project, I will back up a copy by emailing the file to myself, but this can get out of hand because I have a lot of folders in Yahoo that could be cleaned out.