writers’ bloc: Getting My Welcome Mats in a Row (i.e. How to Create a Writer’s Reference System)

By July 11, 2008 language No Comments

writers’ bloc features topics related to the writing craft and the writing life.

When you invite a reader to visit with your written ideas, it is hospitable to roll out the welcome mat and make sure all is engaging. In a writing sense, the welcome mat is that introductory anecdote or quote related to the topic that serves as the conversation starter. It helps you to smoothly transition from initial greeting to in-depth conversation.

As I’ve mentioned in previous wb posts, I have misplaced my welcome mats. I have bits of notes here and stacks of note cards there and inspirational quotes tucked into a multitude of journals . . . none of these forms can be searched nor are they organized, making it completely useless to me when I need just the right welcome mat to fit a particular topic.

Perhaps most writers have minds as orderly as a four-drawer cabinet, and therefore, they have no need for such an external system.

Or perhaps most writers are organizationally obsessed, complete with color coded folders and computer generated labels. (The endless file drawer from Bruce Almighty comes to mind.)

Well, neither of these fit me. I am not very orderly, and because I have such disdain for clutter, I tend to tuck things away quickly just to get it out of sight. Much has been misplaced for the sake of clean surfaces. And as much as I love the beauty of floral file folders with printed labels, that just isn’t going to happen.

What does suit me? Well, I made a list of the characteristics that were important to me in developing this system. (Yes, I agree, this is very orderly of me! I must have had a mental lapse.) A system that suits me must be:

1) quick to learn and implement
2) easy to add new information
3) search through content via a tag system
4) stored on my laptop

Nice list. But it didn’t really solve anything. I did that Internet search and found only a few writers discussing this dilemma. (Can’t imagine why that is the case!)

So I started with what I have and know: my beloved laptop.

Although I am rarely excited about Microsoft products, a bit of poking around in Word unearthed the option of the Notebook layout. This produces a document with tabbed sections that can be flipped in one click of the mouse. (The layout reminds me of a tabbed, multisheet Excel file, but this is for word processing.) I do believe this sort of file will do the trick!

Here’s a mock-up of my writer’s reference system. I love how the file can be divided in tabs and yet remain in one document and also how each entry can expand and collapse. Clean surfaces just make me happy.

So I’m giving it a whirl! After my trial period, I’ll give a report.

I sure hope it’s a winner! My welcome mats are in desperate need of corralling.

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